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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 17:54 GMT
Jackson tops US news pops
BBC News Online's Rachel Clarke
By Rachel Clarke
BBC News Online in Washington

The US president was on a rare state visit to Britain, dozens were killed in horrific bombings in Turkey, troops remained under attack in Iraq but US TV networks were consumed by another story - the arrest of Michael Jackson.

Police mug shot of Michael Jackson
Jackson's mug shot is on almost every front page and TV broadcast
The tension had been building for days, with first the news that Mr Jackson's Neverland ranch was being searched and then the confirmation that there was an arrest warrant for the singer himself.

So when it became apparent that Mr Jackson would present himself to the Santa Barbara sheriff's department in California, TV stations went into overdrive.

A pack of camera crews from around the US and around the world swarmed up to a sheriff's spokesman when he emerged from the police station.

News networks broke in to coverage to broadcast the press conference live - until they discovered it was an "administrative briefing", essentially asking the media teams to move their cars.

Plane pandemonium

And then there was the mystery of the two private jets.

Reports from Las Vegas where Mr Jackson had been working said he had boarded a jet, presumably to return to California where he is accused of molesting a boy.

Helicopters and correspondents were scrambled to Santa Barbara County Airport to await the arrival.

Media scrum around Jackson lawyer Mark Geragos
Media crews scrambled for any information
Again, news networks starting running live coverage of the runway, though the pictures were hazy and often broke up.

Finally a small plane was spotted on its final approach to the airport. Cameras zoomed in and tracked the landing and taxi to its parking place.

The steps came down, a minivan approached, but only uniformed crew members came out.

Reporters tried to identify the plane's registration number on its tail to compare it to the number of the aircraft which had left Las Vegas.

Confirmations came and went as news anchors discussed how long it would take a plane to fly from the Nevada gambling resort to Santa Barbara - could the first plane have been a decoy? Could Mr Jackson's plane have stopped off somewhere else? Was he driving to throw the media off?

Helicopters and handcuffs

As the anchors struggled for something concrete to say, another private jet came in to land.

This time the tail number matched that of a plane which had left Las Vegas, but there was still no proof Mr Jackson was on board.

Michael Jackson's hands in cuffs
The money shot - Jackson in handcuffs
The signs were good, however when it edged in to a hangar to allow its occupants to disembark away from the view of cameras and then a police statement confirmed Mr Jackson was in custody.

Helicopters tracked the cavalcade of vehicles on the short journey to the sheriff's office, all the time sending out live pictures to the networks.

And then came the "money shot" as the "King of Pop" was escorted into the building in handcuffs - which he seemed to show off for the assembled media.

The shot lasted a few seconds but replays of it with close-ups and highlights of the handcuffs were enough to fill broadcasts until Mr Jackson emerged after the booking procedure, making a peace or V for Victory sign, as well as giving a thumbs-up and blowing a kiss.

It was another fleeting view, to be replayed again and again, in slow motion.

Ready for round two

Camera crews shadowed Mr Jackson's journey away from the sheriff's department, when traffic was so bad that adoring fans had the chance to approach the star's stationary vehicle and get a wave and a handshake.

Back at the sheriff's department, officials handed out another picture that everyone wanted - the mug shot for booking number 621785.

By the time the morning newspapers were being printed, some of the frenzy had begun to abate and the horror in Turkey and Mr Bush's visit to the UK were chosen as the top headlines.

But what the New York Post described as the "eye-popping mug shot" appeared on almost every front page of newspapers from Anchorage in Alaska to Portland in Maine and Miami in Florida.

There is now some time to catch a breath - but the day for the circus to come back into town is already set, on 9 January next year when Mr Jackson has his first day in court.


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