Michael Jackson's birthday a thriller for devoted fans

Friday, August 22, 2003

— If you pay $30 to attend a birthday party, do you still have to bring a gift? And if so, what exactly would you give a fellow who lives in Neverland?

These are subplots at one of the most unusual Los Angeles events of the year: the Michael Jackson 45th birthday party on Aug. 30 at the Orpheum Theatre. The singer is scheduled to attend.

"He is very excited, and he's very touched by this special event," Jackson spokesman Stuart Backerman said Wednesday.

Tickets for the "Celebration of Love" event were still available Wednesday through Ticketmaster. The lead organizer is Deborah Dannelly, a legal assistant in Corpus Christi, Texas, and president of the singer's U.S. fan club. She says the three-hour program will include comedian Steve Harvey as emcee, a tap dance revue, a 13-year-old singer from Denmark who performs Jackson songs and Navi, a noted Jackson impersonator. Guitarist Slash, singer Usher and film director Brett Ratner are expected as guests, the fan club said.

A German-born artist will present Jackson with a wood sculpture of two lions, and visits to Jackson's Neverland ranch will be raffled for charity. The fan club Web site (www.mjfanclub.net) has more information.

Dannelly was polite but firm when asked about the chance that Jackson, well-known for late arrivals and schedule changes, might not attend.

"I don't know any other artist who cares as much for his fans," she said. "I have absolutely no doubt that he will be there."