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FLG is Not Charging a 'Special $3 MJ Delivery Fee'

Sept. 15, 2010 -- According to, that righteous pillar of journalistic integrity, Forest Lawn Glendale has instituted a new $3 fee for people who want to leave flowers for Michael Jackson at the Great Mausoleum. TMZ described this as "a new gifting policy" and "a special $3 MJ delivery fee."

TMZ doesn't go into a lot of detail on their typically brief posting, apparently realizing that fans of the website probably can't read more than three or four paragraphs at a time without getting a headache. But this "news" has been picked up by bloggers and other websites around the world, usually accompanied by all the necessary shock, horror, disgust and indignation that the cemetery is trying to make even more money off Michael Jackson's corpse.

The TMZ story leaves the impression that there will be a Forest Lawn employee with a cash register posted at the door to the GM. Want to leave flowers for Michael Jackson? Fine, that'll be $3 please. And, no, you still can't get inside. Thank you, come again.

But TMZ is wrong. They didn't do even the basic research, and they won't let the facts stand in the way of a good story.

As much as I really hate to defend Forest Lawn, here are the facts, presented in a way that even the typical TMZ reader can understand them (and it took all of about two minutes on the Forest Lawn website to figure it out):

Forest Lawn has a flower shop. They sell flowers there. People can walk in and buy flowers. People can then walk out and place the flowers on someone's grave, like their Uncle Henry. Or their Aunt Louise. Or even some celebrity they've never met. That's a nice thing for people to do. And, once they buy the flowers, they can place them for free. That means they don't have to pay any extra money.

Sometimes, people can't visit the cemetery. Maybe they live far, far away. Maybe they just don't feel like it. So, for them, they can order flowers over the phone or online (that means they can do it on their computer). And Forest Lawn provides a service in which they will take the flowers out to the grave of Uncle Henry or Aunt Louise. Or some celebrity. Forest Lawn charges for this service. They charge $3. That's not really a lot of money, boys and girls. That's probably even less than you get for your allowance.

Look at the website for Forest Lawn's flower shop: "A $3.00 placement fee will be added to each flower placement purchase." That's not "a new gifting policy" or "a special $3 MJ delivery fee." That's a $3 charge to deliver flowers. And here's even more information. It's not a new fee. It's nothing special for Michael Jackson.

TMZ -- surprise, surprise! -- is wrong.

To further defend Forest Lawn, I think they've made every reasonable and possible accommodation for the Michael Jackson fans. The fans are allowed to congregate around the Holly Terrace door (even though, according to Forest Lawn's policy, "Loitering is prohibited"). If you hung around in a group like that anywhere else in the cemetery, you'd get kicked out. (Trust me on that.) Forest Lawn continues to allow them to gather, even after some fans scrawled graffiti on the outside walls of the mausoleum. Forest Lawn even built and paid for a miniature golf putting green/altar next to the entrance for fans to leave their cards, flowers, pictures, posters, candles, balloons and other items. They don't do that for anyone else in the GM, or for Humphrey Bogart, Mary Pickford, Sammy Davis Jr., Joan Blondell or anyone else who's buried in one of Forest Lawn's inaccessible-to-the-public areas.

If I called Forest Lawn and wanted to order flowers for Ben Turpin's crypt, which is also inside the GM, they'd charge me the $3 placement fee. And no one would call it "a special $3 Ben Turpin delivery fee." And if I wanted to order flowers to be placed on Uncle Henry's grave out on the lawn, and I wanted them to do the placing, they'd charge me the $3 placement fee. Not the "special $3 Uncle Henry delivery fee."

As I've said lots of times before, Forest Lawn is a private business, not a public park, and they can do whatever the heck they want to do, charge whatever the heck they want to charge, and set any policies they want. If you don't like it, that's fine. They don't care. And they don't have to care. Don't let the world's largest wrought iron gates hit you on the way out. Fans can't visit Michael Jackson's crypt to deliver their flowers themselves because the Jackson family decided to bury him inside the GM, knowing that fans won't have access. In fact, they buried him in there because fans won't have access. The Jackson family wants to keep the fans away, not Forest Lawn. Forest Lawn is just trying to run a business.

Forest Lawn isn't keeping fans away from Michael Jackson's crypt. The Jackson family already did that. And Forest Lawn isn't trying to make any extra money off Michael Jackson (not in this case, anyway). They're just following their previously instituted policies and procedures. If you're looking for someone to scream at, or some reason to be righteously indignant about "the rights of the fans," you're not going to find it here.

But if you want to point your anger at someone, look toward TMZ. They either ignored or didn't bother checking the facts, and posted that non-story, knowing that it would get the Michael Jackson fans all worked up into a frothy frenzy, and it would be picked up by bloggers and websites all over the place who also can't be bothered to check the facts, and a whole bunch of people would visit the TMZ website to read about it. Which, honestly, is the only thing TMZ really wants or cares about.

It's also interesting to note that, more than 12 hours after TMZ posted the story -- an eternity in the news business -- not one reputable news organization has picked it up. Not the Associated Press, not the LA Times, no one. A few bloggers repeated it, but some of them have since deleted it.

When it comes to "news," consider the source and don't believe everything you read. Especially on the Internet. It's not worth the paper it's printed on. Except here.

UPDATE: I tried to post a comment on one of the sites that picked up the story. Just a simple statement that the $3 delivery fee was nothing new, and not a special fee for Jackson. But they didn't post that comment. Instead, they posted a bunch of other comments about this being just another example of people "trying to make money off MJ." I guess controversy and righteous indignation make a better story. Don't let the truth get in the way.

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