TORONTO — Canadian Michael Jackson fans, wannabe profiteers and would-be Good Samaritans who won tickets to the pop star’s memorial on Tuesday found themselves stymied by anti-scalper red tape and forced to change their plans for the star-studded service in Los Angeles.
More than 1.6 million fans registered online for a chance to attend the memorial for the deceased pop star — scheduled for Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET at the Staples Center — and only 8,750 names were chosen, with each winner receiving a pair of tickets.
Aside from giving fans the chance to pay their final respects to Jackson, the memorial service will also feature performances and appearances from stars including Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie, Kobe Bryant, Jennifer Hudson, Usher and Motown founder Berry Gordy.
Live coverage of the event is set to dominate the television dial with most of the major Canadian and American networks planning to extensively cover the memorial. The event is also expected to be streamed online and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are sure to hopping with live commentary from fans.
But for some of the Canadians who were lucky enough to win the memorial-ticket lottery, actually trying to use, sell or donate their tickets proved to be exceedingly difficult.
“When I first saw the email I was ecstatic — and when I saw the odds of winning I nearly dropped out of my chair,” Toronto winner Matthew Rajnauth wrote in an e-mail to The Canadian Press.
“I definitely didn’t anticipate that much red tape,” he said of all of the steps required to attend the event, “but I have to say I understand — an event like this definitely warrants it.”
Winners of the coveted tickets were informed on Sunday evening and then had a few hours to register their ticket code and some personal information online, which produced a voucher.
The voucher then had to be brought to Dodger Stadium on Monday along with a piece of photo ID in exchange for two wristbands for the memorial service, one of which would be non-transferable.
While Rajnauth said he would have loved to attend the service, he figured it was a longshot when he applied.
When the 24-year-old decided he realistically couldn’t go, he was hopeful that he could give the tickets to a family member or friend, but he found there just wasn’t enough time.
“Unfortunately, the ticket is going to have to be framed as a keepsake at this point,” the investment professional wrote.
“I don’t think I would sell them, I’d prefer to give them away to someone who could enjoy the show — I don’t think it would be right to profit off his death.”
Calgary-based winner Matt Schichter had no such ethical concerns when he found that he scored a pair of tickets.
The 26-year-old radio host said he never had any intention of actually attending the service when he applied for tickets, and upon winning, he immediately took to eBay in the hopes of “trying to make a buck.”
“It sounds horribly wrong because you’re cashing in on someone’s death but at the same time, it’s a tough economy right now and we could all use some money,” Schichter said over the telephone.
But eBay didn’t play along. He said his ads were removed by the Internet auction site, an action that Schichter said he actually respected in a way.
“They were trying to avoid people selling them, which was really smart on their part,” he said. “(It) was kinda cool … I’ve always been against scalpers, and I was kinda kicking myself for doing this myself.”
Schichter ultimately gave the tickets away for free to a stranger over the Internet, who planned on taking a red-eye flight to California.
On eBay, tickets were being bid up into the multi-thousand dollar range — though it’s impossible to verify the seriousness of those bids — before auctions were pulled. Craigslist also put a stop to attempts to scalp the tickets.