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Michael Jackson's Memorial Was Not Our Proudest Moment

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Everyone -- including the media and myriad opportunists -- sought to cash in on the death of the pop star, with scant mention of the scandals that tainted his legacy.

I got to Staples Center some time after the parade of Ringling Bros. elephants and just before a bikini-clad woman who held aloft a sign that said, “Go Vegetarian for the Man in the Mirror." I suppose it goes without saying that not all memorial services draw the same crowd.

Speaking of crowds, this one was way smaller than the city had planned for. There were hundreds of people on the street rather than hundreds of thousands, which means that a few million tax dollars were spent to have police officers stand around with their arms folded. At 11:30 a.m., at Ralphs on 9th Street, I saw two of the 3,200 deployed cops taking a coffee break. They said they'd been on duty since 2 a.m., all of it overtime. By my count, the vendors, the media and the men in blue far outnumbered fans.

So what was I doing there?

I was hoping to bump into the Rev. Al Sharpton to see if he's made any progress in getting Michael Jackson on a stamp. Sharpton, who was on the scene roughly 10 minutes after Jackson was rushed to the hospital June 25, has also criticized the “disgraceful" media for trying to “destroy the legacy" of Jackson, so I was hoping for a chance to ask him what in God's name he was talking about.

I can't remember the last time I saw so much media fluff, hype and hoopla. News organizations that have pulled out of Iraq arrived by the convoy to pay homage to the King of Pop.

Jackson had some great years as a groundbreaking and barrier-crashing, once-in-a-lifetime talent with a message of peace and harmony. But that was followed by a decade or two of extremely disturbing weirdness -- not that you'd know that from the recent news coverage.

You had to wade through acres of shallow water to find media references to Jackson's reported $20-million settlement of a case involving a boy he was accused of molesting. And then there were his comments about seeing nothing wrong with sharing his bed with children, which tells me that if the scheduled comeback hadn't panned out, Jackson could have had a second career as an Irish priest.

As an example of what I mean about the TV coverage, I'd like to share a “bulletin" sent out Tuesday by CNN:

“Michael Jackson's daughter Paris says he was the best father you could ever imagine."

Thanks for digging that up, CNN. But you should have also told me when I could tune in to watch a “news" anchor read e-mailed reactions from across the nation.

I must confess that despite my best efforts, I couldn't get anywhere near Sharpton on Tuesday morning to share my observations. All I had was a blue wristband, and that kept me across the street from Brooke Shields, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, the Kardashians, the Incredible Hulk and all the others who paid tribute to the man in the gilded casket, who presumably had no say in the family decision to turn his passing into a public spectacle in a sports arena.

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