This is an eyewitness report from the NowPublic member Karen Hatter who was on the scene.
We Gathered to Pay Tribute to the King of Pop at the Apollo
After arriving at Penn Station in New York, we took the 'A' train to Harlem. After climbing the subway steps to the street, we were swept up in the crowd.
As we walked, we moved along sidewalks with enthusiastic vendors hawking their wares, offering any and everything with Michael Jackson's image on it, from hats, key chains and buttons which offered the visage of both the young and older Michael, with an especially large selection of tee shirts available for sale.
The line of people that had formed to enter the Apollo Theater, and I use the term 'line' very loosely, stretched approximately three or four blocks, snaking down 125th Street and around the corner, by the time we had arrived shortly after noon. I'd heard the line stretched from 7th Avenue all the way past 5th Avenue.
We all were gathered, young and old, all nationalities and colors, sharing and discussing news stories surrounding the circumstances of Michael's death.
We talked of the very public, emotional battle Michael Jackson waged with his much speculated upon demons, that appeared to be borne out by his behavior and his transformative, altered appearance through the years.
We also shared reminiscences, with most of our stories highlighting personal memories that intertwined and connected with Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, the first African American 'boy' band.
When Jackie, Jermaine, Tito, Marlon and Michael, the Jackson 5, won the 1966 talent show hosted at the Apollo Theater, I was 12 years old, like Tito. My cousins Donald and Quentin were 11, like Jermaine and my sister, Parana, was 8, just like Michael.
Shortly after that, the Jackson 5 were signed by Berry Gordy of Motown and there began their launch toward stardom.
We, that is me, my sister and cousins, all danced and tried to imitate Michael and his brothers. My cousins and my sister were much better at performing their dance steps. I confined myself to trying to sing like them. Well, at least I was able to carry a tune!
Throughout our teen years, we went to the record store each week one of the Jackson 5's newest vinyl 45 singles came out to make sure we added it to our collection.
By the time Michael had struck out on his own, with his album Off the Wall in 1979 officially establishing his solo career at the age of 21, we were still buying his music.
My sister was pregnant with my nephew when we watched the premier of Michael Jackson's video horror classic, Thriller on MTV, in 1983.
In 1985, Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie collaborated on We are the World , a single record project that brought together many American singing artists and celebrities, eventually raised 44 million dollars for USA for Africa. Michael Jackson is listed in the Guinness Book of Records, being recognized for “Most Charities Supported by a Pop Star.”
By the time Michael's Bad album was released, which I bought of course, my first daughter had been born. I still had my Michael Jackson doll/figure displayed on his black stand in my bedroom. (My favorites on the Bad album are Smooth Criminal and Dirty Diana.)
My Michael Jackson doll came dressed in a red faux leather imitation Thriller costume, complete with a silver lame glove (Actually, it was a mitten since the doll had no true delineation for fingers!) and a microphone. He also wore silver socks.
All of us in line shared those sorts of stories as we slowly wormed our way up each block, inching along for several hours toward the Apollo Theater.
Someone associated with the theater used a bullhorn to explain to the crowd that we would be allowed into the theater, 600 at a time, a capacity crowd, for 45 minutes, to honor the memory of Michael, with the theater marquee proclaiming him to be, “a true Apollo legend”.
Just as the group I'd been standing with for four hours got within 20 to 30 feet of the entrance to the Apollo, it began to rain.
Some of us were prepared, pulling out umbrellas, others using cardboard, anything to try to keep semi dry, stubbornly refusing to let the sudden thunderstorm force us to leave after having gotten this close to the entrance. It was pretty much a losing battle, with the rain getting the upper hand.
We lost a few who'd stood in line, including Todd from the Bronx, who'd brought flowers and cards to leave on the Apollo stage in tribute. He told me he had been to the theater earlier with a friend to sign the wall and light candles.
When those of us who'd remained finally got inside the Apollo Theater, DJs from the radio stations KISS, Hot 97 and WBLS traded off spinning records by Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5.
A stool was positioned center stage with a black fedora and a sequined glove placed on it, the stool sitting beside a floor mike.
Still shots and videos of Michael and his brothers were displayed on a screen hung against the stage curtain, very much bringing to mind a family gathering to watch old slides and movies.
By the time my group had entered the Apollo, time constraints did not allow our group to remain the allotted 45 minutes promised each group for our celebration of the King of Pop.