Fate of fans' flowers, cards undecided

July 9, 2009 7:49:00 AM PDT
Since Michael Jackson died June 25, fans from around the world have expressed their grief in flowers, balloons, teddy bears, candles, pictures and handwritten notes left throughout the city - at his rented Holmby Hills mansion, at the Jackson family home in Encino, at his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and at his Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County.

Now that the King of Pop has been memorialized publicly and privately, some say it's time to start clearing the mementos away. The family has yet to decide what to do with the keepsakes, spokesman Ken Sunshine said Wednesday.

Just as the sun was rising, city workers began packing up flowers, cards and gifts left on Jackson's star on Hollywood Boulevard. By afternoon, they had filled five boxes, which they delivered to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for safe keeping.

Chamber spokeswoman Ana Martinez-Holler, who has overseen activities on the Walk of Fame for more than two decades, said she has never seen so many mementos left for a fallen star.

"This has never happened at this magnitude," she said. "We didn't want to throw things away. This was a tribute paid to Michael by his fans. We just want to know if the family wants them and we're hoping to hear back from them soon."

Fans continued to contribute to the makeshift memorials outside the family compound and Neverland Ranch on Wednesday.

Sandra Darvish, 42, was moved by Tuesday's televised memorial to pay respects in person at the family's home. As she left a bouquet of tulips, the official export from her homeland of Holland, Darvish said she wasn't always a Jackson fan.

"But after yesterday, I sort of understood the family," she said. "It was very touching."

While she and others added to the collection of flowers, balloons, posters and flags from around the world in front of the home, a groundskeeper piled up the mementos to give to the family. Dead flowers peeked out from one of eight black plastic trash bags sitting nearby.

Anjanette Butler, who went to Encino from Ventura, said she hoped the family would keep fans' cards and letters for Jackson's children.

"Maybe they can show it to the kids to show how much everyone loved Michael," the 32-year-old Butler said. "It was their father, not this whole icon."

Sisters Tanya and Yolanda Vasquez, who left a colorful bouquet of flowers, were sad to see the keepsakes being cleared.

"They're taking them down and it's kind of upsetting," said Tonya Vasquez, 23. "I think we should still be able to leave stuff."

Her 27-year-old sister suggested that the family might take the mementos to Neverland as part of a permanent display.

Scores of fans gathered Wednesday at Jackson's sprawling ranch north of Los Angeles, where hundreds of flower bouquets flanked the estate's front gates.

One woman left a velvet painting of Jackson. Others left flowers and stuffed toys. One note read, "Hawaii loves you, Michael." Another said, "Angels aren't supposed to live on Earth. Thank you for trying."

Fans decorated the outside walls with posters and hung toys and flags in the trees.

Owen Blicksilver, a spokesman for Colony Capital LLC, which owns the ranch with Jackson, said there are no plans to move any of the tributes.

"Out of respect to Michael and his family we will continue to be a steward for the tributes, flowers and mementos brought to Neverland by his extended family of loving and respectful fans from all parts of the globe," he said Wednesday.

Police said that representatives for the Jackson family also began packing up the photos and flowers left outside Jackson's rented home.

When Princess Diana of Wales died in 1997, fans left toys and nearly 15,000 tons of flowers outside her homes at St. James Palace, Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace. About five days after her funeral, Diana's family donated the stuffed toys and some of the flowers to local children's hospitals.

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