The media frenzy that has gripped California since the summer reached fresh peaks on Thursday as accusations of child molestation and murder against two world- famous celebrities swept state politics from the news headlines.
In an atmosphere reminiscent of the 1990s' OJ Simpson murder case, pop star Michael Jackson was led handcuffed into the Santa Barbara sheriff's office to be booked on charges of assaulting a young boy, and veteran record producer Phil Spector was charged with murder in Los Angeles.
The events stole the limelight for the first time in months from Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state's freshly-minted actor-governor, who took to the streets again, cheering his vehicle tax cuts at a car dealership in LA.
Carefully shielded from dozens of cameras hovering in helicopters and around the sheriff's headquarters, Mr Jackson, 45, was glimpsed slipping inside to surrender his $3m bail, his passport and his likeness for the obligatory mugshot.
Mark Garegos, his attorney, and a rising star among the state's celebrity defence lawyers, emerged briefly to denounce the "big lie". Jackson was "outraged," he said. "These charges are categorically untrue."
Jackson, who has spent almost all his life under the spotlight, now faces a trial that is certain to attract massive media attention in a case that has already roused a whirlwind of speculation.
His brother Jermaine appeared on national television to complain he was "sick and tired" of people who did not know Jackson appearing on television "saying these things about my family". The event was nothing less than a "modern-day lynching", he said.
Jackson, whose claim to be "the king of pop" has faded in the US, but who is still hugely popular in Europe and Japan, looked forward to answering the charges in court, according to Mr Garegos, whose clients include Winona Ryder, the actress who has been convicted of shoplifting.
"He looks forward to getting into a courtroom as opposed to any other forum and confronting these accusations head on," the attorney said.
Mr Garegos is currently representing Scott Peterson, awaiting trial for the alleged murder of Laci, his wife, and unborn child, in a case that has drawn massive media attention.
Spector, inventor of the "Wall of Sound" recording technique in the 1960s, is represented by Robert Shapiro, prominent in the OJ Simpson murder case.
He was formally charged with murder and faces up to life in jail, following an eight-month probe of the shooting death of Lana Clarkson, an actress and model, at his home last February.
Spector, free on $1 MEEEEELLION bail, has denied the charge and suggested in a magazine interview that she may have shot herself.