Michael Jackson’s Friends, Family Gather For Funeral

Macaulay Culkin, Stevie Wonder, Elizabeth Taylor, ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley and more are in attendance.

Hours before [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist] was to be laid to rest on Thursday evening (September 3) at Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, California, family members and close friends began to gather at the Jackson home in Encino.

Closer to the scheduled 7 p.m. PT start of the service, friends also began to arrive at the site, according to CNN, including Macaulay Culkin, Mila Kunis, Stevie Wonder, Lisa Marie Presley, Corey Feldman, Elizabeth Taylor and Al Sharpton in a white Rolls-Royce. TMZ reported that Barry Bonds and Chris Tucker were also in attendance and that Motown legend Gladys Knight would sing during the ceremony.

The Jackson family, however, did not leave for Forest Lawn until after 7:30 p.m., and the service had not begun as of press time.

On CNN, a live helicopter shot and cemetery-provided camera feeds set up on the ground showed the area in which the ceremony was set to take place. About 20 rows of white chairs had been set up, separated by a wide aisle, approximately 200 seats in total. Flowers and columns had been arranged on a dais in front of the chairs. The service was to take place next to the Great Mausoleum, where Jackson would be buried.

Outside the Encino compound, news media lined the streets hours in advance of the funeral. Private security guards and local police were posted in front of the house. The gate opened frequently to allow automobiles in and out, at least one accompanied by a police escort on a motorcycle. Dogs could be seen running around inside. Parking seemed to become an issue within the compound, as cars often had to pull out, back in and otherwise negotiate what appeared to be a tightening parking area. Michael’s father Joe emerged after 5:30 p.m. PT to confer with security guards.

According to TMZ, five Rolls-Royce Phantoms were scheduled to transport the family to Forest Lawn less than 20 miles away. Joe and Jackson’s mother Katherine were said to be set to ride in the lead vehicle.

TV crews converged on Forest Lawn as well, where security guards, undercover officers, dogs and helicopters patrolled the area. According to news reports, parking restrictions had been imposed on nearby streets and the Jackson family had obtained permits to control the grounds surrounding Forest Lawn. The Jackson family will reportedly reimburse the local police department for its security expenses, estimated to be as much as $150,000.