Major Michael Jackson Tribute Planned For Vienna


The King of Pop will get a royal send-off in Vienna.

Events promoter World Awards Media GmbH confirmed Monday that members of Michael Jackson's family and a "high-profile lineup of international stars" are planning a tribute concert to be held early next month in the Austrian capital.

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Organizers said they'll announce the date soon, but the venue is set: the sculpted and sprawling grounds of Vienna's former imperial Schoenbrunn Palace, where an outdoor stage shaped like a crown will be built.

Jackson's brother Jermaine said recently that Vienna was a special place for Michael, who "loved castles."

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Tickets will go on sale Aug. 20, World Awards Media said on its Web site.

"For one incredible night Michael Jackson's unforgettable music will be brought to life again," it said. "Some of the world's leading artists will perform Michael's greatest hits live in Vienna in front of one of the most fascinating historical sites in Europe and celebrate the life of the 'King of Pop."'

Organizers said Jermaine Jackson and other family members "will lead a high-profile lineup of international stars on stage to celebrate the life of his brother and perform some of Michael's unforgettable songs."

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They would not confirm Austrian media reports that the outdoor tribute may include U2, Madonna, Lionel Richie and Whitney Houston.

Originally there was talk of staging the tribute Aug. 29, which would have been Jackson's 51st birthday. But World Awards Media chief Georg Kindel ruled that out Monday.

"That would have been an extreme logistical challenge," and the organizers opted instead for the first part of September, he said.

Jackson died June 25 in Los Angeles.

The choice of venue came as something of a surprise. Many had expected the tribute to be held in London, where the pop star was booked to perform a series of concerts, or in a larger European capital such as Berlin, Paris or Rome.

But in a Friday evening appearance on "Larry King Live," Jermaine Jackson said the Austrian capital was "a very dear place for Michael."

"And he loved castles. And we're going to have this huge celebration in front of a castle," Jermaine Jackson said.

Michael Jackson visited Vienna at least four times starting in 1988, on three occasions to perform and once — in 1998 — just to sightsee and shop.

In 2003, he canceled plans to give a concert and promote a charity project for children in the alpine ski resort town of Ischgl, citing security risks.

Two years later, he caused a stir in Austria when he was seen wearing the Order of Vienna medal — a gold star with an eagle — during a televised court appearance in California. Jackson had never been awarded the honor, and Austrian media reported at the time that one of his aides had purchased the medal at a Vienna antiques shop.

Schoenbrunn, one of Vienna's biggest tourist attractions, has enough standing room to accommodate about 85,000 people. World Awards Media said grandstands would be set up for 5,000 VIP guests, and that a special stage would be constructed in the shape of a crown, with the majestic yellow edifice in the background.

Kindel said he hoped to secure official permission within the next eight days to hold the concert at Schoenbrunn. He said Jermaine Jackson was planning to hold press conferences soon in Paris, London and Vienna to unveil more details.

The daily Oesterreich said giant screens would be set up in parks around Vienna to handle the huge overflow crowds expected for the event.

Strictly speaking, stately Schoenbrunn is more of a palace than a castle.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, it dates to the 14th century, but it's best known for more recent occupants: members of the royal Habsburg dynasty, which ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Open-air concerts — usually featuring opera and classical music — are often held on its grounds.

Austria already has played host to a Jackson tribute: Last month, Jermaine Jackson performed some of his brother's hits on a stage erected outside a mothballed nuclear power plant west of Vienna, where Michael was posthumously honored with a Save the World Award for his humanitarian work. That event was also organized by World Awards Media.

"Austria is so beautiful and the Save the World Awards were produced so professionally that I asked their executive producers, Georg Kindel and Christian Baha, if they would like to stage the global tribute for Michael," Jermaine Jackson was quoted as saying in a statement posted Monday on the World Awards Media site.

He said the concert was conceived as an annual event "to keep not only his unique music alive, but his spirit as well."

Monday's announcement drew an angry reaction from an organization calling itself Resistance for Peace Vienna.

The group, citing Jackson's legal entanglements over allegations of child molestation, sent Vienna City Hall and Schoenbrunn's supervisory board a letter urging authorities not to approve the plan "for ethical reasons."

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