On Tuesday, September 1 DCPR learned that the burial reception for pop icon Michael Jackson would be located at Pasadena’s Villa SORRISO Restaurant. One of three restaurants owned by Jack Huang, Villa has long been considered a private retreat by the Jackson family. The implications of Villa hosting such an event, however, were mind boggling. Furthermore, the entire event was to be planned in complete secrecy. All in less than 72 hours.
An event of this caliber arrives once in a lifetime for both restaurant and PR firm. Clearly, the eyes of the entire world would be upon this event.
The city of Pasadena was notified, as well as all local law enforcement agencies. The logistics of the event were staggering. Two hundred-fifty guests, all arriving immediately following the service at nearby Forrest Lawn. Security would be foremost, with the actual planning of the event immediately leaping into over time.
As DCPR was bound to the privacy constraints of the estate, no press was to be contacted. Planning for the event consumed every minute of every day.
Approximately fifteen minutes following the contractual agreement between the estate of Mr. Jackson and Villa SORRISO – signed ONE DAY before the event – TMZ called the restaurant. Now released from all restrictions of privacy, the public relations aspect of the event laeped into overtime.
Of utmost importance to the owners of Villa SORRISO was that proper respect be shown to the occasion and to the Jackson family. No private details were to be released to the press. Only the time, location, and pictures of the space were to be offered, in addition to the following statement:
“Members of the Jackson family have been valued guests of Villa SORRISO and Bar Celona for many years. We are sincerely touched and flattered that they are entrusting us with such an important gathering of friends and family. In respecting the privacy of the Jackson family, however, employees and management of Villa SORRISO and Bar Celona will be offering no public comments whatsoever. The ‘Celebration of Life’ scheduled for Thursday, September 3 is by invitation only, and will be closed to all public access. Please direct all media inquires to DAN COX for public relations | 323.481.0983 | DAN@DANCOXPR.COM.”
Within a period of twenty four hours, however, that information had been released to hundreds upon hundreds of local, national and international press outlets. All business telephones were redirected to quiet offices, where a bank of operators could field calls from around the globe. The offices of DCPR granted tours to television crews from around the world prior to the event, with online and print articles arriving immediately at a rate of approximately one dozen per minute. That estimate is merely the alerts that were forwarded to our office, with actual press hits numbering into the thousands during that same period.
Thursday, September 3, 2009.
The burial of The King Of Pop, Michael Jackson.
The guests invitations, all created by hand, included a message at the bottom of the invite:
Reception to follow. Villa SORRISO Restaurant. Pasadena, California.
Approximately 750 photographers and journalists from around the world lined the streets just across Colorado Boulevard, representing every celebrity news agency in the United States, CNN, the AP and every LA based paparazzi agency. Although historically large and tragic fires raged within miles of the restaurant, the skies were suddenly cool, calm, and clear.
While awaiting our guests arrival, DCPR and the management of Villa SORRISO walked across the street and met many of the journalists that had waited patiently for hours and hours. Television trucks, antennas extended, lined the Boulevard for blocks. Photographers and paparazzi were corralled by local police behind retaining walls across the Boulevard. In addition, thousands of Michael Jackson fans lined the Boulevard in all directions.
Guests began arriving at approximately 10pm. This would clearly be a very late evening.
The event, “A Celebration of Life,” was a complete success. Guests arrived easily, unencumbered by traffic or photographers. The Jackson family was allowed to relax in complete privacy, amongst family and trusted friends and associates from the world of entertainment. A “Who’s Who” of the life of Michael Jackson arrived to pay respects to the family. Dinner was served. Guests were at ease. Memories were shared and cherished. The life and career of one of America’s most prolific and historic entertainers was remembered and celebrated, all the while maintaining the dignity of this solemn occasion.
It will take weeks, if not months for the entirety of the press to be assembled for Villa SORRISO. Print media, television, and radio the world over came together in historic Old Town Pasadena for a once in a lifetime event. Press mentions will likely extend into the tens of thousands. And through it all, the staff and management of Villa SORRISO provided long time valued customers the respect and privacy that such an event demands. That is, quite possibly, the greatest accomplishment of all.
Villa SORRISO is located at 168 West Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California | 626.793.2233 | www.SORRISOpasadena.com.
UPDATE: Today, the management and staff of Villa SORRISO remember fondly the integral role that they played in the remembrance of the artist, Michael Jackson. Dozens of scrapbooks have been assembled by artists, archivists, and professional clipping services, which will be enjoyed as the staff pauses together today to reflect and remember, along with family and friends of the Jacksons. The press clippings numbered into the hundreds of thousands, with internet, television, cable and radio coverage of the restaurant extending into untold millions. The whole world was watching.