LOS ANGELES Michael Jacksons poignant final journey got under way on Thursday as around 200 family and close friends gathered for the music icons funeral at a star-studded Los Angeles cemetery.
Unpredictable to the last, Jackson was late for his own funeral, his gold-plated casket being brought before mourners more than 90 minutes after the service had been scheduled to start at 700 pm local time (0300 GMT).
Jacksons brothers - all dressed identically in black suits and each wearing a solitary white glove in tribute to the 'King on Pop' - were on hand to act as pallbearers as the coffin was removed from the hearse.
The singers children - Prince Michael 12, Paris, 11, and seven-year-old Prince Michael II, otherwise known as 'Blanket' - sat in the front row next to parents Katherine and Joe Jackson.
Jacksons children were reported to have left notes in their late fathers coffin reading 'Daddy we love you, we miss you.'A convoy of more than 30 vehicles headed by six Rolls Royce luxury limousines transported Jacksons family to the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale.
Other guests who had arrived earlier included Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor and actor Macaulay Culkin.
Jackson, who died aged 50 on June 25, will be entombed in an ornate mausoleum at the cemetery, where Hollywood icons such as Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart, Spencer Tracy and Walt Disney are buried.
Jackson was to be interred within Forest Lawns Great Mausoleum, an elaborate neo-classical building inspired by Genoas Campo Santo.
Forest Lawn, which opened in 1906, is also home to replicas of some of Michelangelos greatest works, including 'David,' 'La Pieta' and 'Moses.' Jacksons casket will be placed in a private area of the crypt that also houses Hollywood legends Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and Carole Lombard.
Thursdays service contrasted with the lavish public memorial held at Los Angeless Staples Center in July, which was attended by 20,000 fans and beamed live around the world to an estimated audience of one billion.
A pooled live television feed of Thursdays event showed an aerial shot of family and mourners gathering before being discontinued shortly after Jacksons coffin had been removed from the hearse at around 830 pm (0330 GMT).
Police had cordoned off the neighborhood surrounding the cemetery after earlier urging fans to stay away from the event.
Police helicopters, sniffer dogs and plain-clothes officers were patrolling the 300-acre (120-hectare) cemetery, on the lookout for any fans trying to gatecrash the service.
However the law enforcement presence did not deter pockets of fans who gathered at the police perimeter on Thursday, carrying posters of Jackson and playing the singers music on a stereo. 'Anything is worth it for Michael,' said one woman carrying a 'Thriller' poster.
Jacksons delayed funeral comes after months of speculation about the exact cause of his death and reports of divisions within the singers family about where he should be buried.
Jacksons elder brother Jermaine had said he wanted the star to be interred at his Neverland Ranch estate north of Los Angeles. Jackson fled the property in 2005 following his acquittal on child molestation charges.
Los Angeles coroners said last week that Jacksons death was being treated as a homicide and revealed that the star had six drugs in his body when he died, including propofol, a powerful anesthetic.
Propofol is used to induce unconsciousness in patients undergoing major surgery in hospital. Medical professionals say it should never be used by private individuals at home.
The coroners announcement fueled speculation that authorities may charge Jacksons personal physician, Conrad Murray, in connection with the death.
Jackson, one of the most influential figures in pop music history whose four-decade career included the highest-selling album of all-time --'Thriller'-- had been preparing for a July concert comeback at the time of his death.-AFP.