[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/06/30/michael.jackson/art.last.rehearsal.02.gi.jpg caption="Michael Jackson, shown at one of his last rehearsals, June 23rd"]
I heard the news today, oh boy, that Michael Jackson had a heart attack – and died of cardiac arrest, at the age of 50, in Los Angeles. I am reminded of a long conversation I had with him at four o'clock one morning, and of my visit to Neverland. The visit came first, the conversation a few weeks later, on the phone.
Neverland, a toytown wilderness of carnival rides and doll houses and zoo animals and pleasure gardens, lay inside a magnificent gateway on a side road in a rural area beyond Santa Barbara. Nosing around, I saw pinned to the wall of the sentry post an array of strange faces, some of them mugshots, all of them undesirables, with names and captions such as "Believes she is married to Mr Jackson" and "Might be armed" and "Has been loitering near gate".
And sprawling over many acres, the Jackson zoo of bad-tempered animals. The giraffes were understandably skittish. In another enclosure, rocking on its thick legs, was Gypsy, a moody five-ton elephant, which Elizabeth Taylor had given as a present to Michael. The elephant seemed to be afflicted with the rage of heightened musth. "Don't go anywhere near him," the keeper warned me.
Filed under: Michael Jackson
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