MORGAN HOOVER, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
July 8, 2009 11:09 AM
In a half-filled Arlington Theatre, emotions ran high as fans watched the King of Pop's televised memorial service while crunching on popcorn as early as 9 a.m., proving that Michael Jackson is, even in death, an entertainer.
With every age group represented, the audience of approximately 200 applauded and cried together throughout the ceremony.
Brothers Andrew and Adrian Gutierrez of Santa Barbara sat together to watch the man of whom they were "huge fans" remembered by his family and fellow icons.
"As soon as I saw he was dead, I was super sad," said Andrew, 12. "I was just in shock."
Adrian, 20, said he too was shocked by the news of Mr. Jackson's death.
"He changed the music industry so much," he said. "It's the end of an era.'
Not attending the telecast was out of the question for these two.
"I saw that they were showing it here, and I said, 'Brother, we have to go!'" said Andrew.
Santa Barbara resident Lea Williams, 54, was on-hand to watch the ceremony at the Arlington along with other spectators.
"I remember first hearing his music in high school," she said. "It was 'ABC,' and we were all dancing to it in the locker room."
A former dancer, Ms. Williams said she is especially saddened by the loss of someone with an appreciation for the art.
"He understood rhythm incredibly," she said, shaking her head.
Her main motivation to watch the service from the theatre was curiosity, she admitted.
"I was curious who would find this compelling," she said. "And would it be emotional?"
Ms. Williams said that when she first heard Mr. Jackson was dead, she was certain that it was untrue.
"It just seemed impossible," she said. "I just kept hoping it was an Internet hoax."
Disbelief was the common thread in fan reactions to the tragic news.
Santa Barbaran Serena Razo, 37, said she thought it was a joke when her co-worker first broke the news to her.
"She asked me if I was sitting down," said Ms. Razo. "I got on TMZ, and I found out it was true."
Ms. Razo was the first to arrive at Arlington Theatre for the live screening of the service and the last to leave when it ended.
"I thought it was beautiful, very emotional," she said. "I've been a fan since I can remember, since I was two. His music has always been a part of my life."
Those in the theater watched the ceremony silently, save for an Emergency Alert System test that interrupted the broadcast's audio and drew boos and hisses from the attendees.
It seemed that Mr. Jackson's music touched everyone in a different way.
Andrew Gutierrez's favorite Michael Jackson song is "Who is it?" while his brother, Adrian, said that he loves "Wanna Be Starting Something."
Ms. Williams, a lover of anything to which she can dance, said that "Thriller" will always be her favorite, and Ms. Razo, who displayed her love of the King of Pop with a Michael Jackson T-shirt, said simply and with a note of sadness, "Billy Jean."