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The BET Awards Pay Tribute to Michael Jackson; Billy Mays Found Dead This Morning; Trouble in Honduras

Aired June 28, 2009 - 18:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live in Los Angeles, at the '09 BET Awards. This is a big event, but even bigger this year, because of the late Michael Jackson. It's hard to say "the late Michael Jackson," not a thought I've never be saying that in my lifetime.

We're live here tonight at the Shrine Auditorium. You can see that the Shrine Auditorium has been home to the BET Awards for the past couple of years now since 2005, also home to the Emmys, the Grammys sometimes, and also, the Academy Awards.

There are people who have been lined up here all day in the Los Angeles heat just to get a glimpse of all the stars who are going to be performing tonight and who are going to be paying tribute to Michael Jackson.

This was a previously scheduled event, but when it was announced that Michael Jackson had died, they decided to turn this event pretty much into a tribute to Michael Jackson. A lot of folks are going to be performing tonight and we're still getting guest lists, additions to the guest lists, as we speak just before we went on the air.

Just a couple of people who are going to be here tonight: Jamie Foxx will be hosting tonight's award show, Queen Latifah is going to perform, Soulja Boy is going to perform, Mary Mary is going to perform, and on and on -- Ray J, Marlon Wayans.

And as I said, we're just getting some updates on the folks who are going to be here. I just want to read up a list. A surprise performance -- maybe it won't be a surprise after I announce it -- from Sierra. She's going to be doing a Michael Jackson tribute tonight.

Also, it is rumored that Beyonce is going to be here, doing a performance as well and a tribute with Neo, Jay-Z, possibly a surprise guest here tonight, and also -- as I said -- Lil Wayne, Queen Latifah, Soulja Boy, Tyrese and on and on and on.

You know, we've been hearing a lot about Michael Jackson and the circumstances surrounding his death and there is a lot to report tonight besides just this tribute. Our Ted Rowlands is standing by at Ground Central for us, which is where he is heading up the investigation at our bureau.

Also, our Susan Roesgen -- she is camping out at the house, the family's compound in Encino, watching family members come and go, and keeping us abreast of what's happening there. We've heard that Michael Jackson's mother left earlier today.

And then, also, our Dan Simon is right here. He is on the red carpet. As a matter of fact, he is just behind me there. He is going to be reporting on what's going on, talking to some fans, and talking to them about why they are here to pay tribute to Michael Jackson.

But first, we want to start with the investigation. Let's go to our Ted Rowlands.

Ted, what do you know?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, today, more action in terms of this investigation. Keep in mind -- this is a death investigation, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Most of the attention, of course, has been centered on the doctor that was with Michael Jackson at the time that he died, Dr. Conrad Murray. He met with LAPD detectives yesterday for three hours, according to his attorneys.

Now, after that meeting, he was told he was free to go. However, his attorneys tell me that he's going to stay in Los Angeles for the near future, probably until the toxicology result comes back, because he says he wants to support the LAPD investigation as much as he can.

Keep in mind, though, his vehicle which was impounded shortly after Michael Jackson was declared dead, from the home where Jackson was renting, (AUDIO BREAK) was, that vehicle still in the possession of the Los Angeles Police Department. Murray went to the LAPD voluntarily.

Because this is a death investigation, they have no subpoena power at all. So, if they want to collect any information about this, it has to be on a voluntary basis. And the legal team wants to point that out definitely.

Second autopsy reported by "The L.A. Times" was completed by the Jackson family. This autopsy -- according to experts in the field -- probably isn't going to give them any new information. What it might do, Don, is give them information more quickly, specifically the toxicology results. They could get the results, possibly, before the L.A. coroners because, of course, the chain of evidence issues won't be in play if it's a private autopsy.

Still no plans on a funeral -- reportedly, the family is working on that or a memorial service. The family has also reportedly brought in an Attorney Londell McMillan to help with the obvious mountain of legal and financial issues that they are confronted with in this time -- Don?

LEMON: Yes, there is a lot to go over here. And, Ted, if you could tell us a little more -- I know that you had an exclusive yesterday with the attorneys for this doctor. Is this -- do you have any more insight about what may have taken place at the meeting with these attorneys? I know you talked about the meeting with police. Any more information to offer us on that?

ROWLANDS: Well, one thing that we are hearing, "The Associated Press" was able to interview the doctor's lawyer just as he boarded a plane back to Houston. We haven't been able to confirm this, but we have confirmed that the interview took place. And they're saying that Dr. Murray told police that Michael Jackson was found in his bed with no pulse shortly before they began the treatment, the CPR, et cetera, et cetera. So, that's a little bit more information.

We had been led to believe by -- specifically, one of the family attorneys that he collapsed and there had been reports that he collapsed in front of family members. According to Dr. Murray, through his lawyer, Michael Jackson was in his bed. And that would explain, if you remember on that 911 call, they were giving CPR to Michael Jackson on the bed and the operator said, "Get him off the budget him on the floor." That would explain why Michael Jackson was on the bed.

LEMON: All right. Our Ted Rowlands -- Ted, we appreciate it.

Hey, before we head out to the family compound and our Susan Roesgen, I just want to show you guys some of the stars who are starting to arrive tonight. There are a lot of folks here who are -- who played with Michael Jackson or starred with him in videos and also in movies, and certainly, when he did guest appearances on television shows. So, some of the -- some of the artists, some of the performers are starting to arrive.

This is one young lady on who is on "The Steve Harvey Show." She played Steve Harvey's girlfriend and also, a friend of his on the show here.

So, the stars are starting to arrive. And as soon as they make their way over to us, we're going to get them on camera and start to interview them for you.

Meantime, there's more, again, as we said, in terms of the investigation, and what is happening with Michael Jackson and his family. I want to go now to our Susan Roesgen. She is standing by at the family compound in Encino, California.

I spoke with Reverend Sharpton last night. Reverend Al Sharpton, Susan, I understand, he is making his way out. He's going to have a meeting with the family. What are you seeing from the family compound?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, not a lot of movement from the family inside here behind the barricades and behind, Don, what started out as just a couple of balloons and handwritten signs is now really, basically, an informal shrine to Michael Jackson. We've seen some comings and goings. Katherine Jackson, Michael Jackson's mother left earlier.

But, really, no sign yet of Reverend Al Sharpton. He should be here in about an hour or so, should be landed in Los Angeles and then driving here to talk to the family about what kind of formal legacy they want for Michael Jackson, what sort of formal memorial they might be planning this week.

In the meantime, you see all these people who just gathered here -- and we talked to young girls, Don, who had driven more than an hour to get here just so that they could leave flowers for Michael Jackson, really adding to the growing garden here on the sidewalk.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We chose these daisies and sunflowers because they are bright and they represent like happiness and it's good to know that he was alive and he brings a lot of joy out of all of us.

ROESGEN: What would you say to one of his family members if they were come out today, with all of these flowers and everything? What would you want to tell them?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really sorry for their loss and they have an amazing -- and also, as I kiss mom or dad -- they had -- he had an amazing son and he inspired a lot of people. And like my dad told me, it's really amazing how one person touched so many lives and he did.


ROESGEN: And, Don, that's what we're hearing. You know, each generation remember as different Michael Jackson. Those young girls, just teenagers, in their early 20s, they remember "Thriller." That's what they associate Michael Jackson with. And then, older folks, Don, you and I, you know, we remember Rockin' Robin and going on back.

So, lots of people here, very mellow crowd just remembering the different ages and musical styles of an incredibly talented musical star.

LEMON: Yes, right on, Susan. You said older folks, Rockin' Robin, man, I'm dating myself, because I remember ABC and the first hit and we're about the same age.

ROESGEN: Thank you.

LEMON: So, I guess -- I guess, we're getting older. Yes, you know, I said that Michael Jackson was a soundtrack to my youth. Thank you very much for that, Susan Roesgen.

We're going to get back to Susan, especially when the Reverend Al Sharpton arrives and he has that meeting with family members. We're going to get the reverend to come on and talk about how the family members are feeling today, and if they're feeling any better about this investigation into what led to their son's death.

I just want to show you real quickly and we'll get to our Dan Simon. But, again, a lot of the stars are starting to arrive. The folks behind me are from -- some of the folks are from our TNT show, which is part of CNN, Turner, Time Warner, part of a television show here, "The House of Pain." So, these guys are arriving on the red carpet and we're waiting some of them to come over and talk to us.

But I want to get to our Dan Simon. Dan is standing by. He's in the crowd and he's talking to me who are here because they love Michael Jackson and they want to honor him.

They are not performing but here to support him, Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don, you know, you have to sort of remark it. Obviously, this is a decidedly upbeat occasion, as it should be. This is an award show. But you and I are both here for a somber occasion.

We've been talking to people here. Just let me set the stage of where I am. You can see all these people here who are in the stand, they are watching some live performances, and we've talked to a number of them as they came up the stairs and took their seats here. I'm just going to go ahead and tap Tabitha's shoulders here.

You are from Gary, Indiana.


SIMON: Obviously, everybody knows what the significance of Gary, Indiana. That's where the Jacksons are from. Tell us what is going through your mind today.

HOWARD: Well, it's so sad that he just passed away so suddenly. You know, no one was expecting it. But we're all going to miss him. But we just let the family mourn in private. Let them take this time and be amongst each other and celebrate his life. Now, we should do it right here at the awards.

SIMON: What would you like to see happen during the show tonight?

HOWARD: I just want to see everybody -- everybody contributing to Michael Jackson legacy. And he was good guy. He could -- you know, I mean, he was just there. He was just here and just, all of a sudden, gone.

SIMON: Tabitha, thanks a lot.

And obviously, Don, you know, that's the real big mystery tonight, how is this show going to unfold, how is it going to retool, if you will, we know that it's going to be significantly different, as it should be. So, these fans really hoping for a good show tonight. Obviously, BET's ratings are going to be through the roof. Everybody is going to be watching, Don.

LEMON: Oh, absolutely. Everybody is going to be watching, and as well they should.

It has been very interesting to see some of the feedback on the Michael Jackson coverage -- Dan, thank you very much -- on the Michael Jackson coverage. We have heard people saying, "You know, we cannot get enough," and then some people say, "We can't understand why so much coverage?"

This man is a cultural icon and really changed the world in many ways. He was a cultural ambassador, famous beyond belief, probably the most famous person in the world. And one person who can attest to that is Taraji P. Henson. If you saw "Benjamin Button," you know she was Brad Pitt's hot ...


LEMON: Hot mama. She's like not mama, just hot mama. We're going to talk to her coming up after the break.

We've got a lot of people to help guide us through this to talk about Michael Jackson's legacy and how he influenced a lot of artists who are going to be performing here tonight.

Michael Jackson, man, it's hard to say the late Michael Jackson, isn't it? I can't believe I'm saying it. More coverage live coming up.

And make sure you tune in, 8:00 p.m. tonight, "Michael Jackson: Man in the Mirror." That will be our special report tonight.

We're back in the moment, live from Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium.




LEMON: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. We're coming to you live here from the Shrine Auditorium. We're on the red carpet at the BET Awards -- usually a huge event, this year, even bigger because of the death of Michael Jackson. A lot of artists are coming out to pay tribute.

And one, I don't like just call them actors or actresses, I like to call them artists -- because that's what you guys really are. It's Taraji P. Henson.

You guys may recognize her from "Benjamin Button."

HENSON: Many things.

LEMON: Many things, but "Benjamin Button." I want to say, "The Fabulous Life of Benjamin Button."

HENSON: Well, you know, the BET family knows me from "Baby Boy."


HENSON: That's the first movie ever I did. It's some heavy rotation on BET. So, that's where it all began.

LEMON: Before we get into this, I'm just going to say, you look fantastic. Can you turn around and do the -- and show us -- don't worry about that. Don't worry about.


LEMON: Turn around and show them -- she looks incredible today. So, anyway, it's much like the red carpet. And we know we're here because Michael Jackson was a fun-loving guy. So, if he were here, he would be having fun and enjoying and talking to all of these people. He would want us to be having a good time and celebrating his life as well as our lives as well.

HENSON: I think that's exactly what's we're doing, celebrating his life, and that's what this night is about. I mean, he's the biggest star in America -- in the world. I feel like he parted the gap so that Obama could be the president.


HENSON: You know, that was his -- his rise to fame was a beginning of, "Oh, black people are OK."



HENSON: You know?

LEMON: Well, it's interesting because Michael Jackson has been around for so long. And he's really one of the -- like you said, one of the most famous people in world, before Oprah, before Obama, before anyone who's -- Janet, all these people.

HENSON: He paved the way.


HENSON: He paved the way. He let the world know that the black man is not a threat.



LEMON: Taraji, thank you. How are you going to be paying tribute to Michael tonight?

HENSON: You know, I am -- I have to do like a 20 to 30-second love letter, I guess, to him. He's always going to be here, you know? He just touched me in a way no other star has ever touched me. His music will live on forever. My 7-year-old daughter cried when she found out he was dead.


HENSON: I mean, that's generations and generations later.

LEMON: Right. And generations -- not just, he didn't just start in the '80s and the '90s, when you hear, you know, about "Thriller" and all those things. He went back to late '60s, all the way on through until today and stayed relevant.

Thank you very much.

HENSON: Thank you.

LEMON: We appreciate it. Have a great time in there and do Michael Jackson proud. And I'm sure you will.

HENSON: I will.

LEMON: Taraji P. Henson, everyone, joining us here on the red carpet. She's going to go inside now and pay tribute to Michael Jackson -- as are many stars and many people, just every day folk who are out here on the red carpet at the Shrine Auditorium.

I'm Don Lemon. CNN is live with more Michael Jackson coverage, the investigation as well as a tribute to his life at the '09 BET Awards. We're back in a moment.



KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's called the Aware Home, and in this case, home is where the smart is. The house is actually a cutting-edge lab for Georgia Tech researchers look at how we live now and how we might live in the future.

BRIAN JONES, AWARE HOME RESEARCH INSTITUTE: The overarching theme has really been health in the home. And that's really where the future is for health care and health care delivery.

PHILLIPS: Here, you'll find phones that help the deaf communicate with 911.

Computers that recommend a healthy meal based on what's in the fridge -- even hi-tech gloves that identify objects for the blind.

There are also motion sensors and cameras throughout the home. They record daily activity and send it to this digital picture frame connected to the Internet. Family members could use it to check in on the disable or elderly, remotely.

JONES: One of our areas of research has been in providing a device that can help older adults better communicate with their families.

PHILLIPS: No one lives in the Aware Home full time and most of the products won't be available to the public for a few more years. But it may be a glimpse of a new way to live.

Kyra Phillips, CNN, Atlanta.




LEMON: Boy, it is certainly a very busy day here at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. I'm Don Lemon. CNN is on the red carpet today because of this really historic event, the BET Awards, usually a big event, but this year, even bigger because of the death of Michael Jackson.

This previously scheduled awards show has now been transformed into a tribute to the late Michael Jackson. Yes, I say the late Michael Jackson. Those words really just don't roll off the tongue and it's very tough to say that. I never thought I'd be saying that in my lifetime -- Michael Jackson pretty close to my age.

Hey, we have seen the stars arriving. We have seen people arriving from all over the world here to come to the BET Awards, really to pay homage to Michael Jackson, who was an icon, a legend, a trailblazer -- any of those words, anything like that, you can -- it will fit for Michael Jackson.

Shrine Auditorium, of course, has been home to many, many award events, including the pinnacle of awards, the Academy Awards and also the Grammys, the Daytime Emmys, Primetime Emmys and has been home for the BET Awards for the past couple of years here.

We have seen stars arriving, a lot of them just getting here and they are coming up to CNN and we will have them throughout the evening here on CNN. We are live here at the awards show. But also live, we're going to have coverage of the investigation. Our Ted Rowlands is following that for us back at our headquarters here in Los Angeles.

Also, our Dan Simon is on out here. He is talking to regular folks, just behind me, people who came here just to catch a glimpse of the stars but also just to be near the people who are paying tribute to Michael Jackson.

Jamie Foxx is hosting. Queen Latifah is performing. And that's just to name a few. Some of the stars and some of the performers who are coming haven't even announced it because they want it to be a surprise. So, we don't know who is going to show up.

My colleague, Fredricka Whitfield, is back at CNN headquarters. There's more news to tell you about, new developments in Iran, including a coup in Honduras.

Fred, what do you have for us?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Don. Here's what's happening.

It started as a silent protest but turned noisy. Thousands rallied today at a mosque in Tehran, where the government allowed a demonstration for the first time in days. A witness says, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi made a brief appearance at the rally which was intended to honor a hero of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Of course, all this takes on new meaning following Iran's disputed presidential elections.

The protest in Iran is rippling to the United States. People turned out in Los Angeles today, protesting alleged human rights violations by the Iranian government. They chanted "Freedom for Iran."

And breaking news out of Central America today all center around Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya. Here he is in Costa Rica, pledging to stay in office despite an apparent military-civilian coup in his homeland. He says soldiers sent him into exile. The Honduran congress has already named a new president.

And you know his voice, his products and that famous beard.


BILLY MAYS, STAR PITCHMAN: You know, the best way to get your stains out in the wash? Well, America's leading washer brands ...


WHITFIELD: Infomercial pitch man Billy Mays has died at the age of 50. His wife found him unresponsive at their Florida home this morning. No word on the cause of death.

Mays was on this U.S. Airways flight that landed roughly yesterday in Tampa. Afterward, he told a TV station something hit him on the head. But still, no clarification as to whether there's a relationship between that airline and his death.

A final farewell this week for Farrah Fawcett. Her publicist says Fawcett's private funeral will be conducted Tuesday at a church on in downtown Los Angeles. Fawcett died Thursday at the age of 62, after battling cancer for three years.

Back to you, Don.

LEMON: All right. Fredricka, thank you very much.

And as I said, there are developments in Iran tonight. I want to go to Reza Sayah in our Iran desk with the latest on that.

Reza, what do you have?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, lots going on in Iran today. Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi taking to the streets in Tehran in big numbers once again, something we haven't seen in the past week because of the aggressive crackdown on the part of the government. But today, supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi is taking advantage of a gathering that was actually sanctioned by the government, the official purpose of the gathering was to honor a cleric who was assassinated back in 1991. But the supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi saw an opening, they said, we're going to show up, too.

Sources on the ground are telling CNN, an estimated 5,000 people marched from northern Tehran to southern Tehran. There were stretches when they were quiet. But they got loud as well and chanting, "Death to the dictator." Among the crowd is one of the opposition leaders and presidential candidates Mehdi Karoubi. "The Associated Press" reporting some clashes between police and protesters.

Also today, Jon Bon Jovi, he doesn't usually sing in Farsi, but now, he is. The legendary rock star is showing his support for the protesters in Tehran by singing a song in Farsi. The video posted on YouTube. Take a listen.


SAYAH: The rough translation, Jon Bon Jovi singing, "hand-in- hand, all with one voice, countrymen, your pain is mine," saying, "not to be undone." Folk singer Joan Baez, she's getting into the act, singing "We Shall Overcome" in Farsi on her Web site.

Of course, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already criticized U.S. President Barack Obama for meddling in Iran's affairs.

Don, will Jon Bon Jovi be next?

LEMON: Oh, boy, that is a good question. OK, Reza, thank you very much.

More international news to tell you about. We want to talk more about Honduras and White House reaction, and for that, we go to CNN's Elaine Quijano -- Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, a balancing act for President Obama. He is expressing concern about the military action in Honduras but also making clear his administration is keeping its distance.


QUIJANO (voice-over): In the wake of the coup in Honduras, President Obama called on all sides to respect the rule of law. In a written statement, the president said, "I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya. Any existing tension and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue, free from any outside interference."

The White House says the president and senior aides are being briefed this weekend by officials from various agencies.

Dan Restrepo is with the National Security Council.

DAN RESTREPO, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: There's been a fluid situation, obviously. We have been very consistent, privately and publicly, supporting the rule of law, constitutional order. We will remain sending that message as clearly as we possibly can.

QUIJANO: Privately, a senior State Department official called the coup unacceptable and a terrible move and told CNN, the U.S. sees it as a violation of the Honduran Constitution.

In Washington, outside an emergency meeting of the Organization of American States, the Honduran representative made clear the obvious tension over the military's action.

CARLOS SOSA COELLO, HONDURAN REP. TO OAS: We're a non-violent people. We believe strongly in non-violent means of political struggle, and we are going to regain our democracy with peaceful proceedings.

QUIJANO: Still, the growing tensions mean a potentially awkward situation for 550 U.S. troops at a military base in Honduras, where, officials say, they mainly carry out counter-narcotics operations.

RESTREPO: That mission is a contained mission, and the troops have been and remain on the base and will remain on the base. This has nothing to do with the U.S. military presence nor will it have anything to do with the U.S. military presence.


QUIJANO: Now, the situation is a catch 22 for the U.S. Officials privately recognize, the Honduran military exiled Zelaya because he was challenging his legal system. But because of the way he was forcibly removed from office, the U.S. has no choice but to stand by him -- Don?

LEMON: All right, Elaine Quijano at the White House. Elaine, we appreciate it.

There's plenty more news to come on CNN. We'll keep you abreast of the situation happening in Honduras and what's going on in Iran. You won't miss any of it.

Also we're here along with the people paying tribute to the life and legacy of Michael Jackson. Plus, the latest on the investigation coming from Los Angeles tonight. We're live at the Shrine Auditorium.


LEMON: All right. We're live at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. We're here for the '09, 2009 BET Awards which has now turned into a tribute to the late, great Michael Jackson. That sounds better than just saying the late Michael Jackson.

I want to introduce Gary Gray here, a director and a close friend of Michael Jackson for ten years. The first time I said late Michael Jackson, you know, it was like I can believe I'm saying that.

GARY GRAY, DIRECTOR & MICHAEL JACKSON FRIEND: I was shocked. I still can't believe it. I'm out to celebrate his life tonight.

LEMON: You're a director and you were friends with him ten years. Tell us about your movies so that people -- you know, people know actors but directors, it's like who are your?

GRAY: We stay behind the scenes. I directed "The Italian Job" and "Be Cool" and "The Negotiator." Sent it off Friday. And that's how I met Michael Jackson.

LEMON: That's enough. Now you're just showing off.


I was going ask you how did you meet Michael Jackson.

GRAY: He sent me a ticket to Paris, and ended up at Euro Disney and this big grand ballroom. And he came out and, for the first time in my life, I was at a loss for words. I was speechless. I realized that every major stage of my life has been mark by a Michael Jackson song. We had a great conversation. We talked about film. Alfred Hitchcock was one of his favorite directors and mine too. A week later, he sent me this gift.

LEMON: Show up that because it's signed.

GRAY: Yes, this is a rare book, which is the reconstruction of "Psycho." Michael sent it to me a week later and signed it, "To the great F. Gary Gray, Love Michael Jackson." I was floored. I'm going to put it in the safe tonight. But I wanted to share it because it's about really celebrating his life and that's why I'm out tonight.

LEMON: Thank you very much, F. Gary Gray. Thank you for sharing that with us. That is a jewel. That's a gem.

GRAY: I know.


LEMON: So thank you. We'll talk to you. Come back and tell me afterwards what goes on inside. We'll be very interested in hearing. Thank you so much. Thanks for joining us.

Listen, he was talking about Michael Jackson's legacy. And Michael Jackson every -- he said every period in his life was marked by a Michael Jackson song. I say his songs really were the sound track to my youth. I'm still young. Michael Jackson still has music.

I want to bring that -- thank you. I want to bring in my panel. The first one is David Wild. He's with "Rolling Stone" magazine. Danielle Smith, editor and chief of "Vibe" magazine, and Ronda Racha Penrice, author and hip-hop historian. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

I'm going to go to David real quick. David, I remember doing, sadly, the Luther Vandross obituary, when I work for another network. And Luther Vandross is one of those people who spanned many genres. And Michael Jackson was beyond that as far as the genres that he spanned and the different art forms.

DAVID WILD, "ROLLING STONE": Absolutely. At "Rolling Stone", we're pulling together a special issue, a tribute to Michael Jackson. And it takes an issue. It will take more than an issue to sum up this man and what he meant to some people.

LEMON: And, David -- Danielle, I should say, people are saying Michael Jackson, was he really that big? I'm like are you guys kidding me. From the 1960s, on up until now, and then everything he dealt with, this is really a cultural icon.

DANIELLE SMITH, EDITOR AND CHIEF, "VIBE": It's beyond cultural icon. He's the number one artist of all time. The man has sold 750 million albums plus. He's had 13 number-one singles, 13 Grammies. He's been inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame twice. Even more than that, it's the place he has in our hearts. It's too much to even talk about.

LEMON: Ronda, a lot of the artists who will be performing here tonight, a lot of hip-hop artists, they will tell you, even people like Usher and Jason Timberlake, Michael Jackson had a huge influence on them, especially the way they performed.

RONDA RACHA PENRICE, AUTHOR & HIP-HOP HISTORIAN: Oh, yes. Just as F. Gary Gray said, Michael Jackson had a way of reaching out and passing that legacy and continuing it on. So some of the younger people that you'll see, you Fernio (ph), can want to work with Michael Jackson, but you just don't call Michael Jackson up. Michael Jackson calls you up and taps you.

LEMON: David, it's very interesting to hear some of the responses to Michael Jackson's life. A lot of news organizations have been reporting on Michael Jackson, and people say don't focus on the negative, there's too much focus on the negative. Michael Jackson led a very tough life in many ways and lots of controversies. It was simply the life that he led.

WILD: I think part of what you're seeing is that he's been in a kind of exile and I have to say, in a sense, partly self imposed exile. But now with his passing, I think we can all reflect on the music. and to me that's what I sort of have been focusing on. I think back to the first time I ever heard him and from the beginning, he was one of the greatest singers I ever heard. I mean, for me, it's Sinatra, it's Michael Jackson, and not too many others in that realm.

LEMON: Yeah.

David Wild, Danielle Smith and Rhonda Racha Penrice, thank you so much for joining us. You guys going to stick with us throughout the hours here on CNN to help guide us through this, talking about some of the folks who are here and how Michael Jackson may have influenced them.

And these guys have the background on everyone so they will help me with this.

We really appreciate it.

We're here live at the Shrine Auditorium, live in Los Angeles, and on the red carpet and the stars and performers are all coming through. You know, the crowd got bigger. The people coming up, the average every day folk became bigger after this became a tribute to Michael Jackson. But even more artists are showing up and some are coming and were not on the list to come before. We don't know who all who will show up. But we're live and we'll bring them to you.


LEMON: We're live in Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium at the 2009 BET Awards live here on the red carpet.

And there is some news to report that I'm just getting in. I'll read it right off my Blackberry. "CNN has learned that BET Reporter April Sutton went into the Jackson family compound a short time ago." She came out 15 minutes later and said the family is doing well and they are holding up. She also said that one member, one member of the family would be here at the BET Awards tonight. Not exactly sure of who that's going to be. But one member of the Jackson family will be at the award show tonight. And we're hoping that CNN can get them over here to talk to them.

Again, a BET Reporter went inside the family compound, came out about 15 minutes, said the family is doing well, holding up. And a member of the Jackson family is going to be here at the BET Awards tonight.

That's where we are reporting from, the red carpet behind me and all the stars are lining up here. We'll interview them here on CNN.

In the meantime, we also want to talk about the arts. There are other things to report in the arts. If you have ever attended a symphony or a concert, there's probably more diversity in the audience than up on stage. But there's a program in Atlanta that's trying to change that, trying to get people out of their seats.

CNN, Soledad O'Brien who is reporting on "Black in America 2" has the story for you.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don. Less than 2 percent of Americans symphony orchestra musicians are African- American. There's a program in Atlanta that's trying to build a bridge between the black community and the symphony stage. Take a look.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): When 17-year-old Drew Forde plays his viola he says he's communicating his feelings.

DREW FORDE, MUSICIAN: It's magical. It's a magical effect that lifts all of your worries away. It's amazing.

O'BRIEN: What's amazing is Drew started playing the viola just six years ago, after some encouragement from his middle school teacher.

FORDE: When I first started out, it was rough. It was really rough. I really had to work at it.

O'BRIEN (on camera): The teacher said you had natural talent.

FORDE: I didn't feel I had natural talent.

O'BRIEN: You didn't?

FORDE: I just went home and practiced. Practiced every day.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): All that practice hasn't gotten him into Carnegie Hall yet, but it got him into the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's talent development program, which identifies and nurtures gifted young black and Latino musicians.


O'BRIEN: Azira Hill is a life-long music lover. She founded the program 15 years ago after first wondering why there were so few faces of color like hers in symphony audiences.

HILL: We found there were only a few musicians around the country in any symphony orchestra.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Who were black or Latino.

HILL: Who were black or Latino.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Through the program, Drew gets free lessons from master teachers, tuition at summer music camps, opportunities his single mother says she never could have provided herself.

KIM FORDE, DREW'S MOTHER: No. It would not have happened. It definitely wouldn't. Even if we did get a teacher, we wouldn't get one from the Atlanta symphony.

O'BRIEN: The president says the program creates a pipeline that will help orchestras become as diverse as the communities in which they play.

ALLISON VULGAMORE, PRESIDENT & CEO, ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: This isn't about community service. This is absolutely about changing the face of American orchestrates on stage.

O'BRIEN: Right now there aren't a lot of faces like Drew's on those stages. He says it only takes an opportunity, like the one he's been getting.

FORDE: It shows you minorities can do it too. And we're not -- we're not second rate. We can do anything.


O'BRIEN: How are they doing? Well, there are 25 students right now in the talent development program. 21 students have gone on to conservatories or major music schools. And there are two students who are playing with major symphony orchestras -- Don?

LEMON: All right, Soledad, thank you very much.

We're live here on the red carpet at the BET Awards. One man, check it out, you may recognize this face. We've been talking about breaking barriers. This way, Arsenio. The camera is right there. Arsenio Hall, breaking barriers.


Can you listen to anything Michael crested and not smile?

LEMON: And not dance.

Hang on, don't go anywhere. Arsenio Hall after the break.



LEMON: All right. We're live here at the BET Awards, the Shrine Auditorium. I'm letting Arsenio -- play that for them. Play that song for them.


HALL: Oh, that's Mike. I heard the intro keyboard part, I want you back, that run on the keyboard. (MAKING NOISES). You can't help not being happy.

LEMON: And dancing.

HALL: Yeah, he brought us so much joy. I hope we remember how he made us happy and not get too crazy. I think there will be some ugly things that will start soon too with the king of pop's life.

LEMON: Absolutely. I think you're right about that. And we have to remember what he added to the world and the difference that he made in the world.

Real quickly, you know, we're talking about breaking barriers. You had a talk show. Not many African-Americans had a talk show. Even to this day. He broke barriers as well. You also are a comedian. A lot of people make jokes about Michael Jackson. You said he's cool. HALL: Michael has a good sense of humor. He doesn't like mean stuff but good stories. Chris isn't here. I'm going to tell this story. Chris Tucker does a Michael Jackson move, in rush hour, where he kicks his legs up and slaps his thigh. Michael called him up and said, Chris, wrong leg, and hung up.


Michael gets it. Michael has a great sense of humor. The first person to call me when I left my talk show was Mike. He also has compassion. He wanted to make sure I was alright with my decision. And he wanted to make sure it was my decision. He cared.

LEMON: You said he picked up the phone, he called you. You picked up the phone, and what did he say

HALL: He said, Arsenio, and I hung up because I didn't realize it was Mike. I thought it was a kid playing with, because I thought it was a kid. I had weird calls from people. He called back and said, "Arsenio, it's Michael." I'm like, I'm an idiot. I'm such an idiot. Somebody told me that day Michael's going to call. I don't think you believe it.

LEMON: Tell us what tonight means real quick. We're up against a break, but tell what tonight means.

HALL: Tonight means a lot. And I'm really happy that the BET Awards is on the calendar at this time. We don't want to see Michael go away. That's horrible. But if there is a group of people that can honor him properly, it's everyone that's coming to the BET Awards. This is the night.

LEMON: Michael's not going anywhere. You know that. He's going to live on forever.

HALL: Don't you wish we had albums like "Thriller" so they can remember us forever? Because after a couple of years, we don't have a giant Landis vehicle they'll keep playing. And I watch you every day. But, you know?

LEMON: A week after, they'll be like, you remember that guy that was on?

HALL: Yeah, they'll say, the one that said "things that make you go hmm." But two weeks, over.

LEMON: Thank you so much, sir.

HALL: Thank you, man.

LEMON: God bless.

HALL: I'll see you at the desk Monday.

LEMON: Appreciate it. All right, thank you, sir. Hey, we're live here with folks like Arsenio Hall and many others at the Shrine Auditorium. CNN's coverage of the death of Michael Jackson and really the tribute to his life. Back in a moment.




LEMON: This is the moment. This is a moment where artists come together to tribute the late, great Michael Jackson in song, their voice, their dance moves and their performances, however they're going to do it. We're live here at the 2009 BET Awards on the red carpet. I'm Don Lemon.

Here with me, boy, oh, boy, the beautiful Keri Hillson, singer, songwriter, artist, four nominations. Who do you think you are?

KERI HILLSON, SINGER, SONGWRITER, ARTIST: I think I'm blessed is who I think I am. Of course, anything I could ever do will always pale in comparison to what Michael Jackson did for this industry, black entertainers specifically. He broke all boundaries. He's incredible. He's a legend.

LEMON: What are you going to do tonight in honor?

HILLSON: We did add a little piece of my record. There is a song that I have that mentions his name. We added a little dance break to it. I didn't have to do that much changing. My outfit was channeling James Dean, is channeling James Dean. Michael Jackson also channeled James Dean at times. I think it will translate that. I'm a black girl and people will get it.

LEMON: You said James Dean, Fred Astaire and many other artists he studied and he took from the best. And the artists here have taken from the best, which is him. A lot of people took from him. I asked, did you learn anything from him? You say, who didn't?

HILLSON: Who didn't? Everyone did, regardless of race or gender. Everyone was affected -- or age. He broke boundaries -- he bridged the gap generationally. Yeah, he bridged the gap between all of us. I remember in my family, my parents were fans, just as much of a fan as I was. He used to make it an event, pop popcorn, and any awards show Michael Jackson was performing on, we were sitting down to watch, tuning in. Incredible.

LEMON: When I was a kid, long before you, we would watch the Jacksons on the "Ed Sullivan Show." There was the "Jackson 5 Show." There was "Sonny and Cher," then "The Cher Show." They were all over. Then all of a sudden he became Michael Jackson with the music videos. We'd grab popcorn, Michael Jackson's video is premiering tonight.


LEMON: Do you remember that, "Thriller" and "Bad." It was an event?

HILLSON: I remember watching "Thriller" and "The Wiz" all summer long. I'd go to my friend's house. We would sit down and be attentive, thrilling ourselves.

LEMON: Here's the thing. People -- Arsenio Hall said this was -- the date of this couldn't be more appropriate because these people are the ones who can celebrate the life best, he feels, of Michael Jackson. But if Michael was here he'd want us to be happy and celebrating and continuing to live our lives.

HILLSON: I didn't know him personally, but I would absolutely agree. He was an incredible performer, and such a philanthropist, really. He was all about peace and all about bringing people together. So regardless of race or the fact that it's black entertainment television, we're all here. We're all here and celebrating his life. Absolutely.

LEMON: Well, CNN is here and we're all over the world. So we everybody is celebrating.

Keri Hillson, thank you so much. Can't wait to see your performance. I want to see what you're going to do with that James Dean. James Dean was never that good looking.

Anyway, thank you, Keri. We appreciate it.

Much more to come live on the red carpet at the 3rd BET Awards and we and the world pay tribute to Michael Jackson.