Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson and his pet chimp Bubbles

Michael Jackson and Bubbles photo
Michael Jackson & Bubbles, originally uploaded by Jonah Sparks.

Michael Jackson reportedly purchased the 3-year-old chimpanzee Bubbles for $17 million from a Texas cancer research clinic in 1985. In 1988 Bubbles moved into Jackson's Neverland Ranch, having initially lived at the Jackson family's Encino home.

Bubbles used to sit with Jackson in Neverland's cinema, eating candy. He also ate at the dining table. In 2003, the singer claimed that ‘Bubbles shared his toilet and cleaned his bedroom’.

Bubbles, along with Jackson’s pet snake, sat in for the recording sessions of the “Bad” album and escorted Jackson for the filming of the "Bad" music video.

During the Bad World Tour in September, 1987, Bubbles and the singer shared a two-bedroom hotel suite in Tokyo. At a party to celebrate and promote Bad, Bubbles reportedly "worked the room" and was "the life of the party".

Bubbles reportedly learned to copy some of Jackson’s signature dance moves, including the legendary moonwalk. The chimp had an agent and his own bodyguard.

When Elizabeth Taylor attended the opening of the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center, she was accompanied by Michael Jackson and Bubbles, wearing identical military-style uniforms. Taylor's eighth wedding to Larry Fortensky was held at Neverland Ranch. The media reported that Bubbles would be the ring bearer, but the story turned out to be false.

Jackson and Bubbles were photographed in 1986 by Kenny Rogers for his book, “Your Friends and Mine”, and the photograph was cited as one of the best taken of Michael Jackson. In the black and white photograph, Jackson is dressed casually in jeans and a simple shirt, and Bubbles in a long sleeved shirt and overalls.

In 1988 Jeff Koons made three identical porcelain statues of Bubbles and Michael Jackson, each sculpture worth $250,000. The statue shows Jackson and the chimp Bubbles wearing gold military-style suits. In 2001, one of the figures was auctioned, expecting between $3 million and $4 million. But the sculpture was sold to a bidder for $5.6 million, which was a record for a work by Jeff Koons.

In November 1986 Jackson launched “Michael's Pets”, a range of soft toys of the animals he owned, a frog, dog, rabbit, snake, ostrich, giraffe, llama and Bubbles. Jackson also appeared as a bear wearing sunglasses and a fedora. Bob Michaelson was responsible for developing the toys. Jackson, while approving the toys, stipulated that the manufacturers donate $1 per sale to a children's charity.

Many media sources mocked Jackson’s friendship with the chimpanzee and reported false stories. The public thought of Jackson as a bizarre, eccentric person, and he was subsequently dubbed "Wacko Jacko".

In the 2003 documentary, “Living with Michael Jackson”, the singer told journalist Martin Bashir that Bubbles had become overly aggressive. So, Bubbles was moved to an animal sanctuary over fears he might attack Jackson's newborn son, Prince Michael II.

In December 2003, it was reported that Bubbles had tried to commit suicide. The chimp was taken to a hospital in time and saved.

Michael Jackson said he regretted removing the chimp, as it can live up to 60 years. During the interview, Jackson also told Bashir of how he had planned to hold a "celebrity animal party" for Bubbles. Cheeta, the chimp from Tarzan, Benji and Lassie were to be invited. The idea garnered much laughter from the media.

“The public perception of what Michael is as a human being has been highly exaggerated. Those articles are hard for me to relate to. For instance, Bubbles is more fun than a lot of people I know. I saw Bubbles at a wedding in a tux. He has great table manners”, said Quincy Jones.

The 26-year-old ape Bubbles is now said to be fully recovered and living at a ranch in Sylmar, California. "Bubbles is an adult chimp and a wild animal," animal trainer Bob Dunn stated. "We don't let him out to play." Jackson and his children used to visit the chimp, and also play with the other animals. "He still acts like a kid around them," Dunn added.

“Bubbles and Michael were close friends and playmates. Their bond was unique,” said Dunn, and continued, “Bubbles missed him when they parted and will miss him now. Chimpanzees remember people and stuff. The last time Michael visited Bubbles recognized him.”

Trainer Dunn said, though the ape is now said to be juggling lucrative publicity offers in the wake of Jackson’s death, he would be “upset” never to see Jackson again.

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