LOS ANGELES – Like a modern-day Willy Wonka tale, fans celebrated Sunday after beating the odds to win coveted tickets to Michael Jackson’s memorial service at Staples Center.
More than 1.6 million fans registered online for free in the random drawing of only 8,750 names. Each person selected will receive two tickets to Tuesday’s memorial. The odds of getting a ticket were about 1 in 183.
“I’m in shock that it has happened,” said Deka Motanya, 27, of San Francisco. “It’s surreal.” She received an e-mail message at 4:35 p.m. notifying her, “Congratulations, your application was successful.”
She immediately Twittered: “OMG OMG OMG OMG i got tickets to the michael jackson memorial service.
David Gobaud, 25, who studies computer science at Stanford University, said he didn’t believe his e-mail was real at first. “It’s Michael Jackson, one of the greatest musical stars of all time,” he said.
Another winner was Zach Moss, a 21-year-old Chicagoan working for the summer as a DJ in Las Vegas. He said clubgoers have responded strongly to Jackson’s music since his death.
“You can play two, three Michael Jackson songs back to back and people are going to have this huge jubilation celebration,” he said. “Everyone throws their drinks up and shouts, ‘MJ!’ It’s extremely powerful.”
The tickets will admit 11,000 people to the Staples Center plus 6,500 in the Nokia Theater overflow section next door. The streets around Staples Center will be closed to prevent those without tickets from trying to attend, police said Sunday.
Assistant Police Chief Jim McDonnell warned the ticketless to stay away: “You’ll be standing in the hot sun on a city street with a lot of other people … but not within eyeshot of Staples.”
The ceremony will not be shown on Staples’ giant outdoor TV screen and there will be no funeral procession through the city. No details were available about the actual memorial events.
Jackson’s family was planning a private ceremony at the Forest Lawn cemetery in the Hollywood Hills, McDonnell said. He did not provide further details.
At the Wilshire Grand Los Angeles hotel about a half mile from the Staples Center, more than 90 per cent of the hotel’s 1,000 rooms were booked for Monday and Tuesday night, up from about 60 per cent last week.
“There’s a lot of demand right now,” said spokesman Marc Loge. “We are going to sell out.”
Ticket winners said they received a unique code and instructions to pick up their tickets Monday at Dodger Stadium.
When they pick up their tickets, a wristband will be placed on each person’s wrist. Organizers will check IDs to make sure those picking up wristbands are the same people who originally applied online, said Staples Center spokesman Michael Roth.
Fans must have both the ticket and the wristband to enter Staples Center on Tuesday. Wristbands that have been ripped, taped or tampered with will be voided.
But winners were permitted to give anyone their second bracelet, so “theoretically, the second wrist band can be sold,” Roth said.
Organizers were considering how to distribute any unclaimed seats, but had not immediately decided on a plan, Roth said.
City officials are preparing for huge crowds. McDonnell would not say how many police would be on the job, but alluded to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and the recent championship celebration for the Los Angeles Lakers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Jackson died at age 50 on June 25 after going into cardiac arrest in the bedroom of his rented mansion. The cause of Jackson’s death has not been determined. Autopsy results are not expected for several weeks.
Also Sunday, a judge signed search warrants connected to the investigation of Jackson’s death, Los Angeles County Superior Court spokesman Allan Parachini said. The warrants were sealed and Parachini would not discuss any details.
Authorities are investigating allegations that Jackson had been consuming painkillers, sedatives and antidepressants. The powerful sedative Diprivan, which is usually administered by anesthesiologists in hospitals, was found in his home. It was not known what drugs, if any, Jackson obtained from doctors.
More than a week after his death, tributes and accolades keep coming. Madonna had a Jackson impersonator dance to “Wanna Be Starting Something” at her concert Saturday in the same London arena where he was to stage his comeback.
The Rev. Al Sharpton called for nationwide “love vigils” for Jackson, asking people to gather in schools, community centers and churches to watch the memorial service and talk about the pop star’s “message” instead of the “mess” surrounding his death.
The memorial service will be broadcast live on five television networks.
Associated Press Writers Jacob Adelman and Michael R. Blood contributed to this report.