LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than 31 million Americans watched Michael Jackson’s public memorial on television, but mystery surrounded the whereabouts of his body on Wednesday and plans for his burial.
A day after Jackson’s casket was taken to a Los Angeles basketball arena for an emotional memorial for fans, friends and his family, attention returned to how Jackson got his hands on powerful prescription drugs reportedly found in his rented mansion after his sudden death on June 25.
Sales of Jackson’s albums soared for a second week, with his solo albums jumping another 90 percent to 800,000 copies in the United States, tracking firm Nielsen SoundScan said.
Nielsen Media Research said 31.1 million Americans watched Tuesday’s Los Angeles memorial live on television. The figure is lower than the TV audience of some other recent events.
Some 49.5 million Americans tuned in for President Barack Obama’s first White House news conference in February, and 35 million watched former President Ronald Reagan’s 2004 burial live on TV.
The Nielsen figures do not include viewing on the Internet or other platforms, which has grown rapidly in the last few years.
The Jackson family spokesman did not return calls for comment on burial plans for the “Thriller” singer, who died of cardiac arrest at age 50.
California officials and those in Santa Barbara County said the family has not asked for the required special permission to bury Jackson at his abandoned Neverland Valley Ranch in central California.
Media reports said the Los Angeles coroner’s office was conducting neuropathology tests on part of Jackson’s brain, which could be behind the delay in the family’s burial plans.
One of Jackson’s doctors, Beverly Hills dermatologist Arnold Klein, on Wednesday denied he was one of the targets of a police investigation over drugs seized from Jackson’s home after his death.
“I was not one of the doctors who participated in giving him overdoses of drugs or too much of anything,” Klein told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview.
“I always was concerned about him. No matter what he wanted, someone would give it to him,” he said. Klein also denied media reports that he was the sperm donor of Jackson’s two children with his ex-wife Debbie Rowe.
A spokesman for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the elaborate memorial cost the cash-strapped city $1.4 million, “far less” than an initial estimate of $3.8 million.
City officials had braced for as many as 250,000 fans to show up at the Staples Center. The actual number was closer to 1,000. Donors chipped in $17,000 after the city set up a website asking for cash to cover the cost, he added.
Jackson’s music is enjoying the commercial success that eluded the “King of Pop” in recent years.
The singer’s “Number Ones” compilation was the top-selling album in the United States during the week ended July 5, and his 1982 blockbuster “Thriller” took second place.
Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Mohammad Zargham