Leaders, superstars, fans mourn King of Pop

By Gregory Katz

Associated Press

Published: Friday, June 26 2009 9:55 a.m. MDT

"Michael and the kids seemed to enjoy the show equally," he said. "My son sang happy birthday to Michael, who seemed genuinely touched by the attention. Michael rang me that night to thank me for the show. He said he hoped he'd be as happy at his work as I am at my age, and of course I'm 80."

In Paris, actress and singer Liza Minelli told France-Info radio she would sing her "dear, dear friend," a tribute during a concert Saturday, but would not disclose which song. "I will miss him until the day I go," she said.

"He changed history. He changed musical history and he changed performing," Minelli said, her voice strained.

Minelli, herself the daughter of screen star Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minelli, lamented Jackson's public childhood.

"Imagine, you grow up in public. From the time he could walk, they put him on stage. He had no childhood, none," she said.

Former British child star Mark Lester, who is godfather to Jackson's children, said he had visited with Jackson several weeks ago and believed the star was ready for the rigors of performing 50 live gigs.

"He was absolutely fine," said Lester. "I can't believe this, it's such a shock. I'll always remember him as being a very sweet, kind and loving man."

Rocker Lenny Kravitz recalled working with Jackson in the studio on an unreleased track and finding the man far different from the eccentric recluse often portrayed in the media.

"It was the most amazing experience I've had in the studio," Kravitz said. "He was funny. Very funny and we laughed the whole time. I also saw what a beautiful father he was. He was a beautiful human being. If not for him, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. He gave me joy as a child and showed me the way to go."

Jackson's death prompted broadcasters from Sydney to Seoul — where the news came early Friday — to interrupt morning programs, while fans remembered a "tortured genius" whose squeals and sliding moves captivated a generation and who sparked global trends in music, dance and fashion.

Several world leaders weighed in. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called it "lamentable news," though he criticized the media for giving it so much attention. Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who had met Jackson, said: "We lost a hero of the world."

"I don't think anyone can be indifferent to Michael Jackson, my husband included," French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy told RTL radio in France. "I will enormously miss his voice, his songs and his presence in our world," she said.

In Romania, where a tumultuous Jackson concert in 1992 helped mark the country's new freedoms after the fall of the Soviet bloc, singer Lucian Viziru said he was stunned by the tragedy.

"I feel like crying," he told the AP, rubbing his eyes. "I grew up with him, I learned his dances, his songs, everything. My first ever cassette was 'Thriller.'"

A condolence board went up in downtown Bucharest. Radio and TV stations played his music and broadcast clips from the concert.

"My heart is heavy because my idol died," said Byron Garcia, security consultant at a Philippine prison who organized the famous video of 1,500 inmates doing a synchronized dance to "Thriller." The video has had 23.4 million hits on YouTube.

Garcia said the inmates in Cebu will hold a tribute for Jackson on Saturday with their "Thriller" dance and a minute of prayer.

The flamboyant former Philippine first lady, Imelda Marcos, who cheered Jackson's acquittal on child molestation charges in 2005, said she cried on hearing the news.

"Michael Jackson enriched our lives, made us happy," she said. "The accusations, the persecution caused him so much financial and mental anguish. He was vindicated in court, but the battle took his life. There is probably a lesson here for all of us."

In Bogota, Colombia, a 24-year-old tattoo artist named Michael Tarquino said his parents named him after Jackson. He recalled growing up with electricity rationing for hours at a time and waiting for the power to return.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere