Jackson’s death was shocking. His life was so much messier than we knew. There was the debt that led to foreclosure on his Neverland ranch
, the prosthetic nose
, the questions around who would control his estate as his family squabbled. This person who had become ubiquitous in our lives, been a hero to many and a musical icon to a generation was suddenly gone. His memorial service, held on July 7, 2009
at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, was a three-hour event that attracted thousands of fans who wanted to say goodbye in person — some 17,000 tickets were given away to members of the public. It was broadcast live on multiple networks, an event reserved for heads of state, and was a ratings juggernaut with over 31 million people
watching. When Heath Ledger died unexpectedly from an overdose in 2008, the world was shocked. When Anna Nicole Smith died, also from an overdose, in 2007, the world was titillated by the details of her life and demise. But when Jackson died, it was like we got both the shock and the titillation, and it was about one of the most famous, most secretive people in the world. It changed everything about how the public mourned celebrities and how the news covered their deaths.