Thousands of fans packed the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday – and millions tuned in worldwide – to watch a bevy of superstars pay tribute to the late Michael Jackson.
But among a lineup of perennial celebrities, it was 11-year-old Paris Katherine Jackson who stole the show with an emotional message for her father.
And as it turns out, the speech by Michael’s daughter was entirely unplanned.
“We had said to the family that we would like to have them come up at the end and thank people for coming and say something about Michael,” memorial producer Ken Ehrlich told Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush following the show. “But I thought it was just going to be the brothers and sisters – I had no idea they were going bring the kids up.”
But when Prince Michael, Paris and Prince Michael II took the stage with the family — where Paris delivered her heartfelt words, fighting back tears to tell everyone watching that “Ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. And I just want to say that I love him so much” — Ehrlich said he knew something very powerful was about to take place.
“Having worked with Michael, those kids have a presence that is just remarkable when you’re around them,” he continued. “So as soon as I saw [the kids on stage], I knew something special was going to happen. But I had no idea we were all going to get our hearts torn apart the way we did.”
And while Paris’ speech wasn’t planned, Ehrilich and his fellow producers didn’t have time to assemble the rest of the show – planned or not.
“Five days ago, we were sitting in an office saying to each other, ‘What are we going to do?’” Ehrlich added. “What I asked everybody working on the show was to never forget that we were doing a memorial service. That what we had was one of the greatest entertainers in history and we need to do him proud.”
When it was all over, Ehrlich said he hoped the messages from Michael’s loved ones – especially Paris – helped everyone see past any of the wild headlines that surrounded the singer’s career for so long.
“Everybody up there in one way or another kind of touched on this frailty… you know, they masked it in his specialness and his uniqueness and how unusual he was in his eccentricities, but with all of that, the overwhelming feeling was let’s accept the man because he was human like we all are,” Ehrlich concluded. “But let’s also celebrate the incredible talent that went along with that eccentricity and I think that’s what came through for me most of all.”