Elvis Presley memorial/New York Times photo, August 17, 1977, Caption: A policeman standing on brick wall at gate of Elvis Presley's mansion in Memphis implores crowd to stay away from gate so emergency vehicles can pass.
The Jackson family just announced that a Michael Jackson tribute will be held at Staples Center on Tuesday, with 11,000 tickets handed out, according to the Los Angeles Times. This news follows as fans, who'd hoped Neverland would hold the event, have to turn around from Santa Barbara and head home. Meanwhile, there have been small, fragmented Jackson celebrations around the city, which raises an important question about LA's public gathering places. When the downtown civic park is built, will that space act as a place for tributes, marches, and rallies? And looking back over the New York Times coverage at the time of some of the tributes to both Elvis Presley and John Lennon (following Lennon's death, about 600 people gathered in Griffith Park), one can see many parallels to what's been going on following Jackson's death. Celebration, some chaos. But tree injuries? Perhaps not in downtown LA. Those ficus are hard to get into.
NYT: 18 August 1977: Presley Fans Mourn in Memphis: Download pdf of story here
The story recounts fans going to Graceland to view Presley's body. "Elvis Presley's fans came to Memphis today by the thousands and thousands to get a last glimpse of their idol. They stood for hours, first in a light rain, later in the hot sun, waiting to see the plump corpse of the great rock and roll singer, neatly laid out in a cream-colored suit."
Doris Grant drove 400 miles from Dalton, Georgia, but was turned away weeping when the gates were shut and police began pushing the crowd back. Local television stations had erroneously announced that the viewing would go on into the night and mourners who had flown in from Chattanooga or driven all night from other points were bitterly disappointed.
Responding to repeated questions about whether an autopsy had revealed any signs of drug abuse, a coroner said Tuesday that the only drugs he had detected were those that had been prescribed for Mr. Persely's personal physician for hypertension and a blockage of the colon, for which he had been hospitalized twice in 1975."
NYT, 15 December 1980, Silent tribute to Lennon's Memory is Observed Throughout the World. Download the PDF here.
"By far, the largest vigil took place in New York's Central Park, not far from the Dakota apartment building where Mr. Lennon was slain. At least 100,000 people, some of them waiting since Saturday, stretched across the concrete walks and grassy slopes near the band shell and mall at 72nd Street--a gathering that for many evoked memories of antiwar demonstrations held at the same spot in the 1960s.
Some, of course, also were there just to be seen, or to drink beer and wine, or to smoke marijuana. Others were out to make a dollar, and John Lennon buttons and T-shirts were selling quickly."
Whatever impelled people to the park, they listened for an hour to music booked from giant speakers straddling the bandshell stage. There, Mr. Lennon stood in portrait, arms folded, wearing a T-shirt that said, "New York City." Mostly they heard Beatles songs, including a few that had been rallying calls a decade ago. When the crowd realized that a number called "All You Need is Love" was beginning, it surged with a charge almost electric in its intensity.
About 25 paramedics from the city's Emergency Medical Service were on hand, but they, too, were not kept busy. One man reportedly was bitten by a dog, two people suffered possible drug overdoses, several people fainted from not eating, and a few hurt themselves falling out of trees, including a 10-year-old boy who fractured his ankle."