Overseas fans still in mourning for Michael Jackson, saying his talent outshone scandals

By Mari Yamaguchi, AP
Monday, June 29, 2009

Fans overseas still mourning for Michael Jackson

TOKYO — Mourning Michael Jackson fans around the world awaited word Monday on the possibility of a global memorial to the King of Pop.

Jackson died Thursday in Los Angeles, where his supporters discussed the possibility of holding such a memorial, but nothing had been decided as of Monday. Fans around Asia continued to mark the singer’s death, while in Japan, a scholar reflected on the King of Pop’s historic significance.

“Which was the bigger step for mankind — Apollo 11 or Michael’s moonwalk?” asked Yoshiaki Sato, who studies American fiction and music, in an opinion piece in Monday’s editions of the Yomiuri nationwide newspaper.

In China, thousands of fans in cities held vigils for Jackson over the weekend. In Malaysia, hundreds of fans gathered at a Kuala Lumpur shopping complex Sunday to sing along to Jackson songs and sign a banner with condolence messages, while Jackson impersonators performed. About 200 fans gathered for a candlelight vigil in a Tokyo park.

“There is bound to be some kind of (global) event soon,” Tower Records official Yasuo Toba said in Tokyo, adding that his company would definitely be interested in taking part. “He is one of the most influential artists of his time.”

About 30 Japanese fans were making plans to fly to Los Angeles even though they did not yet know when, where or if a memorial would take place, according to one fan, who asked to be identified as T. Arita because of his worries about privacy.

Beijing Television was planning to broadcast a Jackson special on Thursday, and one member of the Michael Jackson fan club in China’s central Sichuan province urged fans to organize an event on Aug. 29, Jackson’s birthday. Another fan posted details of a tentative Jackson vigil to take place Friday in Inner Mongolia.

Sato said that in life, Jackson had a truly global impact.

The U.S. won the Cold War not through military might but through the charm of artists like Jackson, he said, with his sound winning over people in the former Soviet states, the Middle East and China to the greatness of American culture.

“His death, like Presley’s, may not have been fitting of a hero. But his life will shine on in world history,” he said.

Television specials about Jackson dominated Japanese programming through the weekend. Special programming Monday showed him eating sushi in Japan and blowing kisses to the crowd. The Japanese were some of his most loyal fans, and screaming crowds followed him when he visited Tokyo Disneyland and visited electronics stores.

“I called up my mom yesterday and we cried together,” said Kaori Osawa, 27, who had gone to Jackson’s 1987 Tokyo Dome concert with her mother, who is now 54.

Some Tokyo record stores had already sold out of certain Jackson recordings and were awaiting shipments.

In Turkey, the Association for Dialogue between Religions, Languages and Civilizations held Islamic prayers and handed out traditional sweets Sunday for Jackson in Mercimekli, a southeastern village, the HaberTurk daily reported Monday.

“Michael Jackson was a living legend not only in America and the Christian world but the Islamic world too,” Mehmet Ali Aslan, the head of the association, said after the prayers.

Broadcasters in predominantly Muslim Malaysia and Indonesia said they would be interested in taking part in a global Jackson tribute.

“He’s a legend, even here in Indonesia,” said John Kaune, executive producer on a music show for the RCTI network.

In the Philippines, detainees who shot to global fame with a YouTube video recreating the “Thriller” dance routine in a prison courtyard said they would also like to take part. Their “Thriller” video has attracted 26.5 million views since it was posted two years ago.

“If it’s the Jackson family organizing, we will join,” said Byron Garcia, head of the central Philippine prison.

In Taiwan, 31-year-old Jackson impersonator Wang Chih-wei said any global tribute should be a celebration of the pop star’s life.

“I hope we can have a live concert instead of a memorial to play his videos and records,” said Wang.

Chieko Fukuda, a 57-year-old housewife, laid pink lillies at the gates of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

“His death has left me with a big hole in my heart,” said Fukuda, who had bought a ticket for one of Jackson’s London concerts in July. “There is no replacement for Michael. No one even comes close.”

Associated Press writers Julia Zappei in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Scott McDonald in Beijing, Annie Huang in Taipei, Taiwan, Zakki Hakim in Jakarta, Indonesia, Teresa Cerojano in Manila, Philippines, and Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara, Turkey contributed to this report.

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