Michael Jackson Funeral To Take Place Tonight

After several delays, Jackson will be buried in a private ceremony at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

More than two months after [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist]'s death, the singer will finally be buried on Thursday (September 3) at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. But unlike the star-studded public memorial held in July, the final goodbye to the 50-year-old pop icon will be a private affair for friends and family only.

Jackson will be interred in the Great Mausoleum on the grounds of Forest Lawn, the final resting place for a number of Hollywood legends, including George Burns, Clark Gable, Nat King Cole, John Wayne and Walt Disney. Police promise a heavy presence during the event — including canine units and air support — and have encouraged gawkers to stay away. CNN reported that Gladys Knight, a longtime friend of Jackson's, will perform an undisclosed song at the service. No media will be allowed at the funeral and the family has not announced anything about the program.

In addition to replicas of Michelangelo's "David" and "Moses" sculptures, the mausoleum where Jackson will be buried features an ornate stained glass rendition of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper," making it a fitting resting place for the singer, who once commissioned for his bedroom a "Last Supper" portrait in which he appeared as Jesus among disciples that include Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Elvis and Walt Disney. The huge mausoleum is normally open to tourists but was closed on Wednesday in preparation for the funeral.

It is unclear where the golden casket that took center stage at the July celebration at the Staples Center in Los Angeles has been since that event, though it is rumored that it has been kept in the Forest Lawn crypt of Motown founder Berry Gordy.

As with most things relating to the singer, there has been controversy around the funeral, with some balking at initial reports that the city would pick up the costs of security for Thursday's event. A Glendale police official told the Los Angeles Times that the funeral could cost upwards of $150,000, but unlike the $1.4 million it cost the city of Los Angeles to provide security and traffic services for the Staples Center event, the Jackson family has said that the late singer's estate would pick up the tab for the funeral.

Another controversial aspect of the funeral centered on the reported divide in the family over where Jackson should be buried. Brother Jermaine Jackson has said he wanted to see Michael buried at the singer's Neverland Valley Ranch estate, a home Jackson vowed never to return to after a raid on the compound led to charges of child molestation for which Jackson was acquitted in 2005. Neighbors of the rural Santa Barbara County, California, ranch had balked at the idea and feared a potential onslaught of fan traffic to their bucolic neighborhood. Other members of the family also rejected the idea because of Jackson's expressed desire not to live there again.

Jackson, whose death is still under investigation by police, was originally set to be buried on what would have been his 51st birthday on August 29. But after those plans were announced by the late singer's father and later confirmed by his spokesperson, the funeral was pushed back without explanation.

Police have ruled Jackson's death a homicide, and the pop star's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, has reportedly become the focus of the criminal investigation. The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office — which has concluded its investigation but withheld the final autopsy report in order to allow police to conclude their investigation — has determined the cause of death as "acute propofol intoxication," a reference to the surgical anesthetic Murray has reportedly told investigators he administered to Jackson several times in the hours before the singer's death on June 25. Murray has not been charged with any crime in the case.