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Michael Jackson fans file past mausoleum on anniversary of his death [Updated]

June 25, 2010 |  8:48 am

About 30 fans lined up early Friday morning outside Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale to visit Michael Jackson's grave site on the one-year anniversary of his death.

Some had been there since 3 a.m., even though the cemetery does not open until 8 a.m. So they waited patiently outside the gates on Glendale Avenue. Across the street, police officers and news media also waited.

[Updated at 11:05 a.m.: Jackson family members and friends were arriving at the cemetery for a memorial service to be held inside the mausoleum where Jackson is interred.]

[Updated at 9:13 a.m.: After the gates opened, fans were granted limited access at the mausoleum where Jackson is buried. Forest Lawn erected a series of iron gates through which the fans walked.

As they passed, they were permitted to hand flowers and cards to cemetery personnel. Once they passed that point, they were asked to move along. Some said they were disappointed at the level of access.

"This is it?" fan Kathe Sowisdral asked an attendant. "This is terrible."

Sowisdral said she has traveled to the cemetery six times from her home in Atlanta. As she walked through the line, she said Jackson was actually on the opposite side of the mausoleum.

"I was hoping we would get to go in and see Michael," she said.

Bay Area resident Irene Childs, another Jackson fan, said she was unhappy with the security personnel at the cemetery.

"They were too pushy," Childs said. "There should have been more viewing time."]

One fan, Eboni Butler of Los Angeles, arrived at 3:45 a.m. She said she wanted to be there to celebrate Jackson's life.

"Ever since I first saw him, I was obsessed," Butler said. "He let out energy that was only comparable to the sun."

Tallora Digirolami, 31, traveled from Adelaide, Australia, just to pay tribute to the pop singer. She brought an Australian flag signed by Jackson fans from her hometown.

"I couldn't be here last year, so I had to be here this year," Digirolami said.

Those waiting in line were greeted by a Jackson impersonator who bore an eerily striking resemblance to the musical icon.

"His makeup is flawless," said Kevin Alperte, one of the fans. "He did a great job with every detail," said Tameka Jack, another fan.

Others posed for pictures with the look-alike, Carlo Riley, a 27-year-old software developer from Denver.

Riley said he has his own website and has traveled all over the world for Jackson tribute events. A self-described "crazy Michael Jackson fan," Riley said his impersonating began when he dressed up as the pop singer several years ago for Halloween.

"I don't look anything like this without my makeup," Riley said. "No one would ever notice me."

Riley said people are normally happy to see him, but sometimes the demand to be exactly like the entertainer becomes a burden.

"I'm not Michael and I never will be," he said.

Jackson's death last year shocked the world and prompted a media frenzy. Thousands of fans swarmed his memorial service at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Weeks later, the 50-year-old entertainer was laid to rest at the Glendale cemetery.

He died while putting the finishing touches on his comeback tour. Those preparations became a documentary that was released in movie theaters shortly after his June 25, 2009, death.

Law enforcement officials spent months focusing on how Jackson died. They removed prescription drugs and medical evidence from the rented Holmby Hills home where he died. The entertainer had a history of drug addiction -- and an early focus was that drugs played a role in his death.

The L.A. County Coroner's office found that Jackson had high levels of a propofol, a strong anesthetic used during surgery, in his body when he died.

L.A. prosecutors charged his doctor, Conrad Murray, with giving him the drugs. Murray has denied any wrongdoing.

Jackson's children are now living with the pop star's mother, Katherine, at the family's Encino estate.

Earlier this month, officials said there had been a security breach of Jackson's medical records when he was rushed to Ronald Reagan-UCLA Medical Center.

-- Sam Allen in Glendale

Photo: Brie Smith of Oceanside cheers as she walks toward the front gate of Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale. She was among a group of fans who came to pay their respects to Michael Jackson at his resting place on the one-year anniversary his death. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times


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