Michael Jackson, Dead at 50

Michael Jackson, the erstwhile King of Pop who went from child star to the world’s biggest musical act before his career was derailed by legal problems and personal issues, died Thursday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood. He was 50.

Jackson was not breathing when paramedics responding to a 911 call arrived at his rented home in Bel-Air at about 12:25 p.m. They tried to resuscitate the singer for nearly 45 minutes before rushing him to the hospital, where he died at 2:26 p.m., according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.

No further details of his death were immediately available, and reps for Jackson could not be reached for comment.

“It is believed he suffered cardiac arrest in his home,” his brother Jermaine said. “However, the cause of his death is unknown until results of the autopsy are known.”

Los Angeles Police said in a late-afternoon news conference that because of Jackson’s high profile, its robbery/homicide division is investigating the case.

Large crowds began gathering near the hospital as the afternoon wore on, and Twitter crashed amid the deluge of posts.

In the wake of the singer’s death, the filmmakers behind “Bruno,” which had its Los Angeles premiere Thursday at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, made the quick decision to cut a reference to Jackson in the film. The sequence shows Sacha Baron Cohen’s title character encountering LaToya Jackson and begging for her brother’s phone number.

Before the screening, director Larry Charles said the reference to Jackson had been cut — at least for Thursday’s premiere. But he declined to specify whether the cut would be made for the film’s general release. “We will assess the situation later on,” he said.

The red carpet for the “Bruno” premiere covered Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, so to pay their respects many fans there gathered around the star of longtime Los Angeles talk-radio personality Michael Jackson.

Stunned reaction to the breaking news of his transport to the hospital began almost immediately, culminating hours later with statements from a number of celebrities, executives and associates with whom Jackson interacted over the years.

“Rarely has the world received a gift with the magnitude of artistry, talent and vision as Michael Jackson,” Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow said. “He was a true musical icon whose identifiable voice, innovative dance moves, stunning musical versatility and sheer star power carried him from childhood to worldwide acclaim. Michael’s career transcends musical and cultural genres, and his contributions will always keep him in our hearts and memories.”

Said BMI chief Del Bryant: “Michael Jackson was clearly one of the greatest entertainers of our era. … (But) often overlooked are his spectacular skills as a songwriter, composing both music and lyrics for his immense body of work.”

ASCAP released a statement saying, “Michael leaves behind a legacy of trend-setting innovation, not only musically but with dance, fashion and media as well.”

A rep for Elizabeth Taylor said Thursday that the actress “is too devastated by the passing of her dear friend Michael Jackson to issue a statement at this time.”

News of Jackson’s death came as the pop star was preparing for a major comeback after years of tabloid headlines, notably surrounding his 2005 trial and acquittal on child molestation charges in Santa Barbara. The singer had booked 50 sold-out concerts at London’s O2 arena that were set to begin July 16 and run through March. They were to be his first public performances in a dozen years.

Jackson had done a dress rehearsal at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday night and had the arena booked for rehearsal Thursday and today, along with Monday-Wednesday next week.