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June 30th, 2009
12:58 PM ET

My trip to Neverland, and the call from Michael Jackson I'll never forget

[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"]

Paul Theroux
The Telegraph

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.

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Filed under: Michael Jackson
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Terrah

    I am an African-American woman who was raised during the same era as Michael Jackson. In our culture, parents and teachers would discipline children with switches from a tree, extension cords, belts and paddles. That's just how it was back then. When Michael said that he was beaten by his father, I don't believe that it was more than a whipping or a spanking but because Michael was so tiny and sheltered that any physical discipline was harsh and called it a beating. No one ever reported Micheal having been bruised or battered at the hands of his father. Imagine this. Papa Joe getting all of the kids together for rehersal, at the same time, all ages with different personalities and Michael (age 5 ) playing with Ben (pet mouse) in the corner of his closet, while his father is looking all over the house for him. Finally finding him, blurting out "Boy, get yourself out of this closet and get downstairs to rehearse for tonite's show". Michael whaling and holding back as Joe tugs him out of the closet. A spanking on the butt he gets. He straightens up right away and gets himself into his performance mode. His perception is that he was beaten. He never forgave his father for what he thought was abuse. I don't think it was. Just our culture.

    June 30, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  2. Terrah

    I am an African-American woman who was raised during the same era as Michael Jackson. In our culture, parents and teachers would discipline children with switches from a tree, extension cords, belts and paddles. That's just how it was back then. When Michael said that he was. Beaten by his father,

    June 30, 2009 at 11:06 pm |
  3. Beverly Benedict

    I love Michael Jackson and the Jackson five it is so hard to hear that a doctor was with Michael when he died . Jackson should not have died when a doctor is there why did they waited so long to call 911. People have heart problem all the time so why did he died Love Bev

    June 30, 2009 at 10:40 pm |
  4. Vicki, Canada

    Things just don't add up...so many questions. This doctor sounds very suspicious to me

    June 30, 2009 at 10:09 pm |
  5. Linda Seaburg

    I just heard a tape of Anderson Cooper talking about when he went to Studio 54 when he was 10...with Michael Jackson. Now THAT explains a lot about lil' Andy!!

    June 30, 2009 at 8:17 pm |
  6. jaki

    Hi Anderson I am sick to death about the way Michael Jackson's death is being covered. We all know he had problems he lived it in front of the cameras for the whole world to see. And I really wish people would stop focusing so much on the Jackson Five, that was such a small part of his career he accomplished so much more on is own. I mean hundreds of awards worldwide, countless world records, collaborations with a wide array of artist, ground breaking videos and live shows like the pay per view event in Bucharest were he turns himself into a large cat while belting out Beat it. It was an amazing show. He truly was a showman like no other before him. And as for his father he his a heartless opportunist who goes on Tv at the BET awards to plug his new record label no tears, no emotion. It was disgusting. That in my opinion should have never aired on tv. And I would'nt be surprised if he does'nt already have plans for those sweet grandchildren of his. I just pray that he does'nt get the chance to ruin their lives the way he did his sons. thanks Jaki.

    June 30, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  7. Cookie

    We may never know all of the facts surrounding Michael's death, but some simple things really bother me. If Michael said he didn't feel good and asked the doctor to spend the night, what DID he do all night? Did he check him? Why wouldn't a "professional" know the address where he was spending the night? What are the conditions that would call for an inquest?

    June 30, 2009 at 4:11 pm |
  8. Maggi

    MICHAEL JACKSON is no more with us but he's truly a star, 1st shining on earth n now shining even brighter in sky.
    He's truly a LEGEND, an icon, King of POP- MICHAEL JACKSON.
    I don't know what else to say as i am really speechless in a sad way.
    He has always been surrounded by controversies, & it has continued after he's gone. But his Fans have never been affected by it. We have always Loved you & we'll keep on doin it till eternity.

    WE LOVE YOU MICHAEL JACKSON. ^^

    June 30, 2009 at 3:23 pm |