A private ceremony for Michael Jackson was held on Tuesday morning at a cemetery in the Hollywood Hills, while fans began swarming the Staples Center in downtown in anticipation of a global spectacle.
A motorcade left the home of Jackson's parents shortly after 8 am (1500 GMT), and authorities shut down parts of two major Los Angeles arteries as it passed on its way to Forest Lawn Memorial Park Hollywood Hills cemetery.
Jackson's family members and dozens of friends, led by his parents, Joe and Katherine, were seen walking into a hall at the cemetery, where a small viewing was apparently held the night before. News reports estimated as many as 20 helicopters circled overhead.
The cemetery is the final resting place for such stars as Bette Davis, Andy Gibb, Freddie Prinze, Liberace and recently deceased David Carradine and Ed McMahon.
Police said that after the private ceremony, Jackson's body would be taken to the singer's public memorial at the Staples Center, which was to be televised live around the world. Among the celebrities expected to attend the memorial were Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Usher, Lionel Richie, Kobe Bryant, Jennifer Hudson, John Mayer and Martin Luther King III.
Police blocked off roads and warned those without tickets to stay away because they would not be able to get near the downtown venue. Inside the Staples Center, a stage was bathed in blue light and a spray of yellow and orange flowers was placed in front of a podium. The backdrop featured a photo of Jackson and the words: "In Loving Memory."
Outside the arena, video billboards showed a montage of pictures from Jackson's life, including those of the singer as a child, with celebrities such as Luciano Pavarotti and Marcel Marceau, and with members of his family.
Some fans were allowed past street barriers into the immediate area around the Staples Center early on Tuesday. Dozens of street vendors sold T-shirts, photos, buttons and other Jackson memorabilia.
More than 1.6 million people registered for the lottery for free tickets to Jackson's memorial. A total of 8,750 were chosen to receive two tickets each.
Los Angeles was the epicenter of Jackson-mania, but the outpouring of emotion was worldwide. Belgium's two national public broadcasters planned to broadcast the memorial live, and several hundred Jackson fans gathered at a Hong Kong mall late on Tuesday. Holding white candles, Hong Kong singer William Chan and Taiwanese pop star Judy Chou led the audience in observing a 30-second silence. Many of the fans clutched red roses and wore black; some donned Jackson's trademark fedora hats. In America, about 50 movie theaters across the country, from Los Angeles to Topeka, Kansas, and Washington DC, planned to show the memorial live, for free. Jackson died at age 50 on June 25. "There are certain people in our popular culture that just capture people's imaginations. And in death, they become even larger," President Barack Obama told CBS while in Moscow. "Now, I have to admit that it's also fed by a 24/7 media that is insatiable."