LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Michael Jackson fans worldwide paid tribute to the late King of Pop on Friday, the first anniversary of his death, by remembering him in song and dance even as his father sued the doctor accused of sending the superstar to his grave.
In Tokyo, the “Thriller” singer’s followers spent the night among his possessions at a Michael Jackson exhibition, at New York’s famed Apollo theater they danced to his music, and along Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, they laid flowers by his star.
Jackson’s sister Janet and brother Jermaine were among family members visiting a mausoleum at the Forest Lawn cemetery near Los Angeles, where the singer’s body was laid to rest, and his mother, matriarch Katherine, appeared at the unveiling of a monument outside the family’s first home in Gary, Indiana.
“I’m sure my son would be very pleased and very honored,” Katherine Jackson said This last year has been a very hard time for us,” she said of her family.
About 500 people gathered outside the home where Jackson and his brothers — members of the Jackson 5 singing group — got their start in the 1960s on their way to hits like “ABC.” The stone monument featured a picture of him dancing with the words “Never Can Say Goodbye” chiseled beneath it.
Fans laid cards and flowers along a fence outside the home and listened to speeches from politicians and celebrities, but Jackson’s children — Prince Michael, Paris and Blanket — did not make an appearance despite being said to be in Gary with Katherine, who is their guardian.
In New York, people mimicked the legendary singer’s moonwalk dance moves outside Harlem’s Apollo Theater, where Jackson’s trademark black hat and sequined glove were placed beside a plaque bearing his name.
“As a child. he had a dream. They made a star and then they ruined him at the end...I thought he was immortal,” fan Caren Menardy told Reuters outside the Apollo.
But memorials for the singer, whose hits include “Beat It” and “Billie Jean,” were not confined to the United States.
Fans in Hanoi, Vietnam, held a night of performances of Jackson’s songs while 50 Japanese admirers — one for each year of his life — were picked from 10,000 people to spend a night at Tokyo Tower among the singer’s possessions in the Neverland Collection, the only official Michael Jackson exhibition.
“The idea may sound a bit odd to Western cultures, but in Japan the tradition of being with the remains and possessions of passed loved ones on the anniversary of their passing is an important ritual,” said Hiroyuki Takamura of the Tokyo Tower.
Jackson died of cardiac arrest, age 50, on June 25 last year at his rented mansion in Los Angeles, as he was rehearsing for a series of London concerts aimed at reviving a career shattered by bizarre events as an adult and acquittal on charges of molesting a 13-year-old boy.
One year later, Jackson has seen a resurgence in his popularity and the debts that his “This Is It” concerts were meant to help erase are well on their way to being paid off.
Hollywood trade paper Billboard estimated revenues to Jackson’s estate in the past year have hit $1 billion, including album sales generating about $383 million and ticket sales from the documentary film “This Is It,” which had a global box office of more than $260 million.
The Official Charts Company, which compiles record sales in Britain, said Jackson sold more records than any other artist in the last 12 months, and U.S.- based Soundscan has said his record sales topped 9 million units this past year.
But in death, as in life, controversy has continued to follow the star. His doctor awaits trial on a criminal charge of involuntary manslaughter and is accused of causing his death by giving him the powerful anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid.
Joe Jackson, the singer’s father, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Houston-based Dr. Conrad Murray on Friday, the final day of a one-year deadline to file such a claim.
Jackson, 80, claims Murray should never have given his son the propofol and was too slow to call for medical help when Jackson stopped breathing. The suit, which had been expected, also states that Murray failed to inform paramedics that the singer had been given propofol, among other claims.
The singer’s sister LaToya has said Jackson was murdered for his catalog of music, and his mother Katherine has said Jackson told her he feared for his life as it neared its end.
Executors of the singer’s estate are taking issue with a documentary, “King of Pop,” set to debut in Japan, saying the film’s promotion misled Michael Jackson’s fans by making it appear as if this was an authorized film.
Still, none of that stopped his fans from remembering the man who, some say, inspired them through his music.
“I still can’t believe Michael Jackson is dead,” said Juanita Woods, 48, of Gary, Indiana.
Additional reporting by Belinda Goldsmith in Australia, Mike Collett-White in London, Christine Kearney and Sharon Reich in New York, Emily Stephenson in Gary, Indiana and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; editing by Paul Casciato