L.A. officials scramble to accommodate horde of Michael Jackson fans

City officials are scrambling over the holiday weekend to try to figure out how to accommodate a public memorial service for Michael Jackson at a venue that can hold no more than 20,000 people.

Fan of the late pop star Michael Jackson

LOS ANGELES — City officials are scrambling over the holiday weekend to try to figure out how to accommodate a public memorial service for Michael Jackson at a venue that can hold no more than 20,000 people.

The event has been set for 10 a.m. PDT Tuesday at the downtown Staples Center, according to a statement from the Jackson family’s publicist. Eleven thousand tickets will be distributed, the statement said. The service is expected to draw tens of thousands of spectators wanting to pay their respects to the King of Pop, who died June 25. How city officials will handle the massive crowd remains to be settled.

Randy Phillips, chief executive of AEG Live, which owns the Staples Center and was Jackson’s promoter, said tickets would be free. He was not sure how they would be distributed.

Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine said plans for the memorial are clearly moving forward, but he wished there had been more time to work out the logistics.

“If you can imagine 100,000 people show up and you have 20,000 capacity, there is not sufficient room. Now you have a crowd-control problem,” he said. With the July Fourth holiday weekend “it’s the worst time . . . to work something out.” He also said he’s concerned about the cost of police overtime for the cash-strapped city.

Jackson’s brother Jermaine told CNN’s Larry King that there will be a private ceremony for family and some special guests before the public memorial. He added the family wants to have other memorials around the United States.

Meanwhile, the future of Michael Jackson’s children was thrown into question Thursday when his ex-wife emerged and won a delay in a custody hearing while she decides whether she wants to raise her two offspring.

It was the first legal move from Deborah Rowe since the entertainer’s death. Jackson’s will asks for his 79-year-old mother, Katherine, to get permanent custody of his three.

Rowe, who met Jackson as a receptionist in the office of his dermatologist, has characterized their relationship as strictly for the purpose of giving birth to Jackson’s children. She is the mother of his two oldest children and received $8.5 million in their divorce, according to court records. His youngest child, seven-year-old Prince Michael II, was conceived with an unidentified surrogate.

Rowe has spent little time with her son Michael Joseph Jr., known as Prince Michael, 12; and daughter Paris Michael Katherine, 11. But Rowe also has opposed the idea of Katherine Jackson getting custody of her children when it came up in the past.

Rowe’s attorney, Eric M. George, said his client had not decided whether to seek custody.

A guardianship hearing was set for July 13 at the request of attorneys for Rowe and for Katherine Jackson, who has temporary guardianship of her son’s children.

In other developments:

— A 30-second snippet of Jackson rehearsing for a series of comeback concerts in London two days before his death was released Thursday. The rehearsal footage, shot in high definition, includes Jackson performing his hits “Thriller” and “Beat It.” His voice is strong and he appears in perfect health. Other footage shows production meetings and auditions.

— A court hearing was scheduled for Monday to deal with who will take temporary control of Jackson’s estate. He left all his assets to the Michael Jackson Family Trust. A person familiar with the details of the trust said it would be shared between his mother, who gets 40 per cent, his three children, who together get 40 per cent, and charities for children, which would receive 20 per cent. The charities will be determined later by the trust. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

— Authorities were investigating allegations that the 50-year-old Jackson had been consuming painkillers, sedatives and antidepressants. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration and California Attorney General Jerry Brown both were helping Los Angeles police investigate the possible involvement of prescription drugs in Jackson’s death.

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— With files from Michael R. Blood and Beth Harris in Los Angeles and Michele Salcedo in Washington.

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