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FAMILY and close friends of Michael Jackson were set to bid a final farewell to the King of Pop yesterday in a private ceremony at a star-studded Los Angeles cemetery.
More than two months after Jackson's sudden death from a drug overdose on June 25, mourners were to gather for a sunset service at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, a cemetery that is home to a galaxy of celebrity graves.
The service was expected to be in stark contrast to the lavish public memorial held in Los Angeles in July, which was attended by 20000 fans and beamed live around the world to more than abillion viewers.
Los Angeles police on Wednesday urged Jackson devotees to stay away from the funeral.
"A special request would be to encourage fans to stay at home," they said. "The closure of the streets for the day will not give anyone the opportunity to get anywhere near the gates."
Police helicopters and search dogs were set to patrol the 300-acre cemetery, on the lookout for any fans trying to sneak into the service.
Jackson will be laid to rest in a gold-plated coffin at Forest Lawn's Great Mausoleum, an elaborate neo-classical building inspired by Genoa's famous Campo Santo.
Forest Lawn, which opened in 1906, is also home to replicas of Michelangelo's greatest works, including David, La Pieta and Moses. The cemetery also boasts a recreation of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper in stained glass.
Jackson's casket would be be placed in a private section that is also the final resting place of famous names such as Clark Gable and Jean Harlow.
Other entertainment icons buried at Forest Lawn include Nat King Cole, Walt Disney and Errol Flynn.
Though open to the public, the funeral home is renowned for strict privacy, and unlike many other Hollywood cemeteries does provide maps.
"The Great Mausoleum where he is going is like the Holy Grail of (famous grave) hunters," Scott Michaels, who runs a sightseeing tour of the macabre side of Hollywood, said.
"There are cameras throughout it, and if you are just about they will find you and kick you out."
Jackson's brother Marlon told a UK newspaper that the singer's children - Michael, 12, Paris, 11, and Prince Michael II, 7, - have left notes in their father's coffin.
Messages reading "Daddy we love you, we miss you," would be in the casket - alongside the pop icon's trademark single white glove, Marlon said.
Los Angeles' state pathologists said last week that Jackson's death would be treated as a homicide and revealed the star had six drugs in his system when he died, including propofol, a powerful anaesthetic. It is used to induce unconsciousness in patients during major surgery in hospital. Medical professionals say it should never be used by private individuals at home.
The pathologists' announcement fueled speculation that authorities would charge Jackson's personal physician, cardiologist Conrad Murray, in connection with the death.
Murray was the last person to see Jackson alive.