Are We Losing The Heart of Michael? The Selling Off Of Neverland And What It Means For Us

"I Will Never, Ever Sell Neverland....It Represents The Totality Of Who I Am."
“I Will Never, Ever Sell Neverland….It Represents The Totality Of Who I Am.”

I will resume my series on Michael’s work in relation to Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” soon, but for now, circumstances have once again intervened and required a detour. Late Wednesday, shock waves were sent throughout the fan community by a statement from the Michael Jackson estate. It is with a heavy heart that I begin this post today.  First of all, here is the official statement that came late Wednesday night:

You will soon be reading news reports stating that Colony Capital has decided to sell Neverland. As the property manager, they have the right to do this. The Estate has issued the following statement in response to a media request for comment:

We are saddened at the prospect of the sale of Neverland which, under the agreement negotiated during Michael’s lifetime, Colony has the right to sell. The Estate will maintain Michael’s family home in Encino, including its iconic recording studio there. We continue to build upon Michael’s legacy as an artistic genius and humanitarian through his music and new projects such as the Michael Jackson ONE show in Las Vegas. We hope and trust that any new owners of Neverland will respect the historical importance and special nature of this wonderful property. Michael’s memory lives on in the hearts of his fans worldwide.

It is also important to the Estate that Michael’s fans understand that although the Estate has no right to stop or obstruct the sale, The Estate did explore a number of potential options for Neverland with Colony but zoning, financial and land use restrictions limited the alternatives and ultimately Colony made the decision to sell.

MJOnline
The Official Online Team of The Michael Jackson Estate™

In an apparent attempt to assuage concerns and accusations that the estate had not “done enough” to preserve its stake in Neverland, another statement was released on Thursday:

MJ Estate Additional Info- Last night, we sent you a message from the Estate regarding Colony Capital’s decision to sell Neverland. Many of you have inquired about the Estate purchasing Neverland. As you know, the Estate does not disclose the details of its business dealings but last night’s statement to the fans (not included in the comment to press) states “the Estate did explore a number of potential options for Neverland with Colony” but for the reasons stated none of those options were feasible. This sentence was included specifically for your benefit to let you know that the Estate tried to find a way to keep the sale from happening but for a variety of reasons, it was not possible. Zack O’Malley Greenburg broke the news in Forbes shortly after we sent you the Estate’s statement: http://www.forbes.com/…/michael-jacksons-neverland-is…/. He offers some further insight you might find helpful in understanding the situation. Like you, the Estate is sad and disappointed by Colony’s decision. Michael’s legacy is in his music, in his humanitarian efforts, and in his spirit. The Estate hopes that whomever the new owners may turn out to be, that they will continue to appreciate the property not only for its beauty but for its historical and cultural legacy as well. MJOnline The Official Online Team of The Michael Jackson Estate™

No sooner had the news broke, then the heated battles were waging on social media between the usual factions of estate haters vs.supporters. It all comes down to a few key questions: Just how much interest DOES the estate really have in Neverland, and are they being forthright in their claims that every feasible avenue was indeed exhausted-or is it, as some are claiming, a case of unburdening a troublesome asset that has little financial incentive or priority for them? OR is it all a big bluff? These questions are ones that are being raised everywhere at the moment, and the answers are as varied and complex as every aspect of Michael Jackson’s life. The full details of Michael’s 2008 deal with Colony Capital, which prevented foreclosure of Neverland and allowed him to maintain a stake in the property-but with the understanding that Colony Capital would maintain the full right to sell-may be best left to those with more legal expertise to unravel. For the layperson, Zach O’Malley Greenburg’s article, linked to in the above statement, may be a good place to start but it still leaves many questions as to whose interests are being best served. And perhaps it is a legal web I will best leave for those who have, as I said, more expertise with which to unravel it. What is known with certainty is that Michael Jackson, contrary to popular myth, never “gave up” Neverland. True, he never had a desire to live there again after the 2003 raids and the trial, although it has been said that he was also acting on the advice of his attorney Tom Mesereau who had warned him that he would never be able to live there again even if he wanted to; that Sneddon and company would continue their mission to drive him out.

neverland2But the truth is that even though Michael Jackson never again physically lived at Neverland after 2005, he never gave it up, either. Rather, he fought valiantly to keep it-or at least, to maintain some measure of control over it on paper-just as he fought throughout the last years of his life to maintain all of his valuable assets.  He could have easily sold the property in 2008, or earlier, and perhaps alleviated at least some of his financial headaches. But apparently, maintaining Neverland, and keeping it in his name, was important to him. Important enough to fight for it. What were his eventual plans for the property? We may never know for certain. It doesn’t seem likely that he ever intended on living there again. In fact, he had already set his heart-and his sights-on a luscious property in Las Vegas that he intended to purchase from the profits of This Is It and transform into his new vision-Wonderland.

Michael’s new “dream home” was said to be this Las Vegas property. He intended to purchase it from the proceeds of “This Is It”:

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0MV7-pfqT8[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQbKYZWtpNQ[/tube]

But Neverland had been too hard won, and as he had told us, represented the totality of who he was. Having put his whole heart and soul into Neverland, it was not something he could easily just walk away from. Perhaps it represented too much for him to be able to just give it up. The big question is: Did Michael, in his efforts to hang onto the property, get suckered into a bad deal? I have seen a lot of talk to that effect. Basically, the terms of the agreement that Michael signed to in 2008 would be what passed into the hands of the estate after his death. As much as we might fault Michael (or shoddy advice from Tohme) about signing an agreement that gave Colony Capital the right to sell at their discretion, there are still a number of factors to keep in mind. My understanding is that Michael maintained an 87.5% interest in Neverland (with Colony Capital maintaining a smaller 12. 5% interest) which, upon his passing, would have reverted to his estate. If true, this would mean that any decision to sell would have to be a mutual decision of both parties. The key, however, may be in a 2003 decision to  initiate a non-renewal option on the Williamson Act, which until then had protected Neverland-just as it protects all agricultural California landowners-from massive tax liability, provided the land remains used for agricultural purposes. Under this agreement, the contract would have expired around 2013. Well, this is 2014. So maybe this IS an important piece of the puzzle that makes good sense. You can read more about Neverland and the Williamson Act here:

http://mjandjustice4some.blogspot.com/2012/11/neverland-protected-by-williamson-act.html

The irony is that when the above blog post was written, in 2012, there was much optimism that the estate would reapply for the Williamson Act when it expired. Apparently, however, upon the contract’s expiration, the decision was made not to reapply. If we go back to why Michael ever agreed to tie this asset up with Colony Capital in the first place-especially under the terms that he did-we have to remember that dying and leaving it all behind for others to unravel probably wasn’t exactly in his plan. Tom Barrack supposedly said to him when the idea was proposed, “Don’t have me do this…unless you’re really interested in building a program going forward to create some revenue for yourself.”

Message Of Welcome Carved By Michael
Message Of Welcome Carved By Michael

Michael obviously had high hopes-right up to the very last-that he could generate the revenue again to somehow make everything turn out all right. At the very least, he probably looked at Neverland as an asset that would benefit his children one day. But it is also possible that he was thinking about the potential revenue he could generate for himself, in his own lifetime, by maintaining control of this asset. Even if Michael never set foot on the property again, he could still generate a sizeable yearly income just from leasing it-a practice he had actually been doing, under the radar, for years. Here is a video clip where he discusses (besides Marc Schaffel) the leasing of Neverland property to local cattle farmers:

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0qfBB0Rnjg[/tube]

There are some reports claiming that Michael understood, from the get go, that the intent was to ultimately sell, but that with an estimated $70 to $80 million to be gleaned from such a sale after renovations and increased property values, it would have been quite a financial windfall for him-and his children. I don’t know if there is any truth to those reports, and I tend to believe Michael’s words that he would never sell Neverland. Whatever the case, Michael’s untimely death changed the game plan considerably. But what about Tom Barrack, the man who agreed to “bail” Michael out in 2008? Back in 2010, I did an in-depth post on Barrack and Neverland when an article ran in “New York” about Barrack’s partnership with Rob Lowe and the business of investing in “distressed celebrities.” Unfortunately, just as with everything I wrote prior to 2011, that post is currently inaccessible, but the “New York” article on which I based it is still available. While the article did a good job of humanizing Barrack and letting us get to know the man beneath the “gleaming” bald dome, it also left no doubt that, for Barrack, this was all part of a successful business model built on the idea of investing in “artificially depressed” celebrities and properties.  The following passage is excerpted from Benjamin Wallace’s “New York” article:

Over the past two years, Barrack has been lining up deals that target celebrities and entertainment properties whose value he believes to be artificially depressed. In some cases, that’s because they haven’t yet figured out a way to monetize their assets. But mostly it’s because the investment is, in the classic sense, distressed—individuals like Jackson or Annie Leibovitz whose financial mismanagement has obscured their future revenue potential, or properties like the Miramax film library, which Disney is unloading at a time when no one can agree on what a studio archive is worth. This summer, Barrack created a new $500 million media-and-entertainment investment fund, working with his friend Rob Lowe, who is a partner in the fund. Together they have been on something of a shopping spree—and generating a little tabloid coverage while they’re at it. In one TMZ appearance, a paparazzo’s telephoto captured Lowe and Barrack, shirtless, checking their BlackBerrys on a yacht in the Mediterranean. In a second, the two men were video-ambushed as they entered the Mayfair restaurant C London for dinner with owner Giuseppe Cipriani and Formula One’s Flavio Briatore. Barrack has explained the timing of his new direction by musing publicly that some of the investment sectors in which he amassed his wealth can no longer generate extraordinary returns. The world right now is “an environment that has very little visibility, and whatever you guess will surely be wrong the next day,” he says, glancing at his BlackBerry. “Everybody has been abjectly wrong if they’re trying to make macro bets.” The only thing to do is position yourself for opportunities—stand in the stream and wait for fish to swim between your legs. That’s how the Neverland—(At this point in the conversation, Barrack was interrupted by the arrival of his partner Rob Lowe).

You can read more of the article here:

http://nymag.com/news/business/69782/

I suppose there are two ways one could look at Barrack’s practice. Some might call it savvy business dealing (and after all, isn’t taking advantage of opportunity part of every successful business model?). However, it could also be viewed another way as well-that is, simply taking advantage. And taking advantage of someone who has fallen onto hardship-however temporarily–is certainly not the most ethical practice in the world. In Wallace’s piece, it isn’t exactly made secret that Barrack’s modus operandi is to take advantage of distressed situations with an eye towards the profit they will eventually turn. It doesn’t make Barrack a crook, necessarily, but the point is that just because something is legal doesn’t make it ethical. The tragedy is that Michael-and Neverland-was ever put into such a vulnerable position to begin with, and for that, the real blame must go all the way back to Tom Sneddon. Today, the property for which Barrack initially invested $23. 5 million is guaranteed to fetch him anywhere from $50 million on the lower end of the spectrum, to $70-$80 million on its highest end. That should be good for at least an additional yacht or two to sail on the Mediterranian. The upside of the situation is that a sale on the higher end will probably guarantee Michael’s kids at least a $20 to $30 million windfall, once Colony Capital takes their end. But as some sources have reported, a sale on the lower end could possibly mean they end up with nothing. However, this is not really an issue of what will line the children’s pockets. Michael’s children are already wealthy. It’s an issue of losing something that may be far more valuable to them than money-their link to their childhood and that magical, wonderful kingdom he created. But there is another reason why Neverland may hold special sentimental value for them. It was much more than just their childhood home. It was the only permanent home they ever shared with their father. It was the last place they could ever truly call “home.” The tragedy for the fans in the loss of Neverland is nothing compared to the tragedy this must be for them. Perhaps, again, not so much for what it is-or was-as for what it represents. Had Michael lived, they might have been content to move on, because any home they eventually made with him-whether it be “Wonderland” or elsewhere-would have been “home.” But as it stands, Neverland has probably loomed large in their imaginations as a connection to a time and place when life was much more innocent, fun, and happier-and, of course, magical. But the subtitle of this post is: What does this mean for us? And that is where I would truly like to focus. Several months ago, someone kindly sent me two leaves from Neverland.  I assume they must have come from a tree on the property. I sat for quite some time before beginning this piece, inhaling their woodsy fragrance and hoping to draw from their essence the inspiration on how to even begin to assess how I feel about this news. I try to look at it from all angles; to keep my balance in perspective, but I cannot overcome the empty sadness.

 

neverland4Even though we know that “Neverland,” as such, really died in 2003, and has stood mostly as an empty, abandoned shell since 2005, there was still the comfort of knowing it was “there”; that it was still a part of Michael, still in his name, and that any time one felt up to making the pilgrimage to the gates, they would still be there (for me, this has been on my “bucket list” for over five years). As long as the property remained in limbo, there was always the hope that something good might come of it. There had been talk of many proposed projects and ideas-a museum, a Graceland-like mecca for fans, a state park, an art school for teens, even a children’s hospital (though I don’t know how seriously the latter was ever really proposed). In the end, as we have been told over and over, none of these ideas have proven “feasible” given the reality of Neverland’s zoning and geographic location. “Los Olivas isn’t exactly Memphis,” Zach O’Malley Greenburg has stated, and he’s right. Graceland is situated in a wonderfully convenient location adjacent to the interstate, just a few miles south of downtown Memphis. It is a location that can easily accomodate the many thousands of visitors Graceland receives per year. That being said, however, there are many such rurally located tourist attractions that manage to do quite well. The D.H. Lawrence ranch in Taos, New Mexico comes to mind (and it, too, requires a trek up some very treacherous mountain roads) but I don’t think we can even begin to compare the number of average visitors to a place like the D.H. Lawrence ranch to that which would descend upon Neverland, should those gates become open to the public. But I honestly do not think most Michael Jackson fans are really concerned that the place become some huge commercial asset-in fact, most would probably prefer that it remain exactly what it is at present, even if going there must feel a bit like visiting a ghost place. That is, a quiet and tranquil place where Michael’s spiritual aura can still be felt. For most of us, that is enough. But apparently, the estate can only see the viability of hanging onto Neverland if it is generating a profit. This is what I really read between the lines of their statement. In saying every option had been exhausted, it seems what they are really saying is that every feasible option to turn Neverland into something viably commercial and profitable had been exhausted. So, in the end, I suppose, it must have come down to a choice: Either to hang onto something of great sentimental and historical value to the estate, at the cost of draining the estate’s resources, or to let it go. Apparently, they made their decision but I think it is a huge mistake. Understand that even though I’m not an estate hater, I am also not one who blindly accepts their every decision without question, and I believe those questions do need to be raised, especially when we look at the implications of what is potentially going to be lost IF this sale goes through.

neverland3

They like to to tell us that the business of an estate is to generate money and to protect its assets for the heirs. It is true that an estate must make money. But they also have a responsibility for protecting and preserving the historical legacy, especially when we are talking the estate of one of the most culturally iconic performers of our time. To be sure, having Neverland sold might not exactly be the end of the world as we know it. As some have said, it may all depend, ultimately, on who buys it. Yes, it “could” end up in the hands of some very benevolent benefactor who will fully understand and respect its legacy and importance to fans-or, at least, its importance to his kids, which is really what should be our utmost concern. It would be wonderful to think that someone might buy the place who would actually consider opening it up to fans, or giving us that museum (though, no shocker, that would probably end in a lawsuit with the estate!). I even heard one very ingenious idea of turning it into a bed and breakfast establishment. I’m sure that would be a windfall for anyone, with guaranteed bookings up to ten years in advance! (And, heck, there ought to be enough guest cottages on the property to make it a perfectly feasible idea! And imagine…for an extra fee, getting Michael’s master bedroom!).

neverland8Over time, there have been rumors of many celebrities, from Justin Bieber to Lady Gaga, who have reportedly been interested in purchasing Neverland. I can’t really imagine Justin Bieber, after all of his antics, being a viable candidate (I am sure the neighbors of Los Olivas would probably be none too thrilled!) but Lady Gaga, I am sure, would at least respect the property’s connection to Michael. But while it would be wonderful to envision such a “best case” scenario, the simple truth is that we have no such guarantees. The new owners might be people who would care about and respect the property’s legacy.

But then again, they might not. What if Neverland falls into the hands of someone who could care less about Michael Jackson or his fans, and in fact, would do everything in their power to strip and dismantle all reminders of Sycamore Valley Ranch as the infamous Neverland? I am sure that, for many of us, that is our worst nightmare scenario-the idea of Neverland being taken over by some indifferent or cold hearted individual who would strip away all physical reminders and ties to “Neverland.” Even if Barrack has worked hard to restore Neverland to its “former glory” and has respected Michael’s vision, as he claims, that is no guarantee that any new owner will feel an obligation to do likewise. Imagine the beautiful flower gardens gone; the clocks taken down; the Giving Tree perhaps chopped down, and cattle grazing where the Ferris wheel once stood. Imagine those magical gates being torn down to make room for something else-a new, much colder, and more imposing barrier that says nothing. The scary thing is that we simply don’t know. The above scenario is certainly the worst case scenario, but it could happen, and there are no guarantees that it won’t. But even if Neverland is lucky and does fall into the hands of an owner who respects and values it as Michael Jackson’s home, it doesn’t change the fact that Neverland will no longer be in Michael Jackson’s name. It will no longer be under the control and protection of his estate; it will no longer belong to the family. And that, for me, is the saddest part of all. Neverland-if for nothing else, its historical value-should remain in the control of the estate. For me, it simply isn’t good enough to “hope and trust” that the new owners will respect and honor the property’s legacy. Does anyone think that Elvis Presley’s estate would simply “hope and trust” that someone would come along to take care of Graceland? Recently, a petition has begun circulating on Change.org to save Neverland. Although I am somewhat skeptical about the success of petitions, I signed it in the spirit that no turn should be left unturned. This is what I commented:

It is important that Neverland be kept within the control of the estate and of Michael’s heirs. It is much too important a part of his legacy to be turned over to other hands. Even if the future owner(s) were to honor the home’s legacy, there are no guarantees once it is passed on to the hands of others. It could end up going through countless owners, who no doubt over time will chip away until there is nothing of Michael left. The Neverland property has just as much historical value as Hayvenhurst, if not more. Michael composed many of his biggest hits on its spiritual grounds, in his beloved Given Tree. And yes, it became tainted over time but even that sad history, too, is part of the historical legacy of NL and vital for future generations to understand not only Michael’s great vision for healing children, but what he had to sacrifice and endure as well. Nothing represents the full breadth and scope of Michael’s magic, endurance, trials and tribulations like the 2700 acres of NL. Those acres are the heart of Michael; to sell it is like ripping the heart from him, more surely than the coroner’s scalpel. Consider: Michael went from a 3-room house in Gary to Neverland. There is nothing else-no other home or landmark-that physically commemorates this achievement Hayvenhurst, after all, belonged to all the Jacksons. Neverland was not only Michael’s one and only permanent home, it was his own creation.

To sign the petition to save Neverland:

http://www.change.org/petitions/the-estate-of-michael-jackson-don-t-sell-neverland?recruiter=1776996&utm_campaign=signature_receipt&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition

There have been many similar “Save Neverland” campaigns and petitions started in the past. I found a few such petitions on Google, all from several years back, many with as few as a little over a hundred signatures. But now it seems there is a new sense of urgency; a sense that “this is it.” The reality is looming that Neverland could indeed really be gone forever now. This petition alone has garnered over FOUR THOUSAND  signatures and counting, not to mention that many others have started up as well.

neverland gates
There Is A Sense Of Urgency This Time, A Sense That Neverland May Indeed Be Gone Forever

To expand further on my comment,  Neverland not only stands to this day as the only permanent home that Michael Jackson ever owned, it is also the only truly physical testament to what he accomplished in going from that tiny, three room house in Gary, Indiana to a 2700 acre estate. It is, in fact, an insult to both Michael’s memory and to his accomplishments to even insinuate that Hayvenhurst is more worthy of preservation than Neverland. They should both be maintained, but again, it is Neverland that represents the “totality” of who Michael was. Over the past two days I have heard many arguments and reasons as to how we should view the potential sale and loss of Neverland. All of them have validity to some degree. Some feel that Michael set the example when he walked away from Neverland and (presumably) never looked back. And there is something to be said for the ability to just “let go.” The reality is that Neverland has sat as an abandoned shell for over six years. But although I have not been to Neverland personally, I have been told that its energy can still be felt. And I believe this very strongly, as it is part of my own Cherokee belief and my knowledge that Neverland is indeed sacred ground. It was sacred ground for thousands of years before Michael ever sat foot on it, as it was a place that Chumash Indians used for ceremonial grounds. But Michael definitely left the stamp of his own energy and presence there. Part of my personal Cherokee belief is that spirits never completely disconnect from earth or from their physical embodiment. Spirits will always maintain a connection to the places where they were happiest. If the property is taken over by someone else, it won’t take away the fact that Michael’s energy and presence is there. But over time, that energy will become diluted and dispersed, especially if it senses it is no longer welcome there. As so many have sadly noted for the past five years, one of the most tragic aspects of being a Michael Jackson fan is the fact that we have no real “center” where we can come together to feel his presence. Forest Lawn is where his body lies, but it’s not where his spirit dwells.

Where does Michael’s spirit reside, really? It is an impossible question to answer. If you are Christian, you may say he is in Heaven, or whatever is your spiritual equivalent. For most of us, we can say that he exists in our hearts, and that Neverland as a concept is something that no one can put up for sale.  So if Neverland as an idea-as a place that lives in our hearts-cannot be taken away, is it worth it to fight for an empty house and a couple thousand acres of land that even Michael himself had not set foot on for years?
Neverland2019

That may depend on personal view. I have been in a few of the same places that Michael has been. I can say I have been inside the same hotel room that he once stayed in. I sat on a bed he slept in, but other than the bragging rights of being able to say I sat on Michael Jackson’s bed, I can say it pretty much felt just like any ordinary bed. There was no “magic dust” that rolled off the sheets; no fairy dust under the pillows. I have even ridden his Ferris wheel from Neverland, and presumably sat in his favorite seat (No. 13)-at least so they told me. It was exciting, but again, having my rump on the same spot where Michael’s rump once sat still did not impart anything extraordinary or magical. It felt like any, ordinary Ferris wheel seat.

I try now to apply this same common sense logic to Neverland. It was just a house he lived in; the grounds were just grounds he once walked on. But we all know, Neverland was so much more than that. Neverland was Michael.

The analogy I used-likening it to the moment when his heart was removed by the autopsy scalpel-may be unpleasantly graphic for some, but I stand by it. For me, that is an apt analogy as the sale of Neverland is exactly just that.

I can’t say I am totally shocked by this turn of events. I think a lot of us had seen it coming for years, but like everyone, I held out hope that eventually Neverland might be used for some good purpose that, of course, would honor Michael’s vision for it. As crass as it sounds, I always loved the idea of making it into a “Graceland” so that it would become accessible to everyone who wished to visit. But I would have been equally happy to see it become an art school or something equally productive-again, as long as it was within keeping with Michael’s original vision for the place. That could encompass a wide range, from recreational fun to spiritual healing.

I suppose the worst thing it could do would be to sit, abandoned. But there are some who say even that is not a bad thing. In the quiet stillness of its abandonment, one can still go there and find it a peaceful place to meditate, and to connect with Michael’s spirit.

neverland9
Not everything can have a dollar price. I feel the estate has dropped the ball on this one.  But I also have to admit that if I were pressed to ask what else should they have done-and how to offer up realistic solutions for this dilemma-I am not sure I would have those answers, either. Not without a lot of thought. I see and hear all of the well intentioned fan initiatives to “buy back Neverland.” I know such initiatives are well intentioned, but the reality is that unless a fan just happens to be a multi millionaire, it is doomed to fail. However,  I just feel that selling it shouldn’t have to be that answer. And I am not consoled by reminders of saving Hayvenhurst, or the success of Michael Jackson One. New albums and Cirque du Soleil shows will come and go. They are exciting in their way. But all pale when compared to the immanence of Neverland, and what it represents. Those artificial gates in the One and Immortal shows will never compensate for the loss of the real thing.

Yes, it is possible that something good may come out of this. But it will not be the same. It is what Shakespeare meant by a “sea change.” Neverland will be transformed. In the best case scenario, we will still recognize it, and let’s hope that is the case. But the reality is that it could become something completely unrecognizable. I am reminded again of the climactic scene from Ghosts where Michael slowly disintegrates into nothingness. His legacy is not going to die, but it sometimes seems, just as with his physical remains, that much of what he left is slowly turning to dust.
[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEk6-Z1yqiw[/tube]

Some will say it should not matter, as long as the music survives, and maybe the short films. But that is still only a part of Michael Jackson’s legacy, and maybe not even the most important part. The real essence of who Michael was-the father, the humanitarian, the man with a grand vision for himself, for the world, and its possibilities-is embodied by the grounds of Neverland.

It’s not to say we will lose the spirit and essence of Michael without Neverland. But it may be important to note that what we will lose is the closest physical representation of it that we have.

That is something worth thinking about. And yes, it should matter to all of us who care about him. No exceptions.
ETA (08/04/14): I saw this shared on Twitter last night, and found it so sickening that I wanted to also share it here (not that I enjoy sharing sickening things, that is, but sometimes they are necessary). It’s no secret that Barrack and Colony Capital have been leasing Neverland’s grounds for some time, usually for short term events such as meetings and weddings. I have not found anything that states that they are not within their legal rights to do so, as per the terms of the agreement but, if nothing else, this hits home the reality of what is happening-and will continue to happen, especially as the property goes on the market. Neverland is being invaded by people who have NO RESPECT for anything it stands for, as evidenced by the snarky comment below from a Miss Lauren Roxborough. “Happy Easter from the creepiest place on earth!” she mockingly and proudly tweeted, after being allowed privileged access onto those sacred grounds (and not just sacred because Michael lived there-Neverland has been sacred ground for thousands of years to the indigenous people of Santa Ynez Valley). It sickens me to think of disrespectful trespassers like this woman being allowed to walk the grounds of Neverland. But this may be only a hint of what the future holds for Neverland once it is gone, and no longer in the control of people who care about its legacy. I am not posting this here to stir bad feelings, or to rub salt in the wound, but rather, to show the reality of Neverland’s present and the possible reality of its future. I would rather see the gates closed permanently and the house razed to the ground than to have people like this in it.

53 thoughts on “Are We Losing The Heart of Michael? The Selling Off Of Neverland And What It Means For Us”

  1. I have been sick in my heart at the thought of this property being sold to anyone besides Michael’s children. As always, Raven, you have been able to dissect and explain this fist of emotion. You are wise and poetic in your thinking and writing. From your mouth/this post to the Estate’s ears. Thank you.

    1. I made the small edit for you, Kris.

      Thanks. It is my sincere hope that my words might make a difference to someone willing to listen, who can make that difference. Either way, sometimes it just feels good to get things off one’s chest. Neverland is far too important to just let it go without a fight.

  2. Ultimately, it is the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department that is responsible for driving Michael Jackson’s family out of their own home, costing them millions in expenses and lost income. Let them buy out Colony Capital and return the home to it’s rightful owners, the Jackson children. Amazing how Chumash history is repeating here, whites who feel entitled to do and take whatever they want with not a care in the world for the human destruction they leave behind.

  3. I have been absolutely heartsick since the news of Neverland’s sale broke 2 days ago. I broke into tears; felt gutted. I haven’t dreamt about Michael in a long time but I have the last 2 nights. In both dreams I was trying to reach him but I couldn’t. Neverland is where we all go (my visit was in 2012)to “be” with him, feel him, talk to him, celebrate him, mourn him, support him and, as in 2005, encourage him. It is our Mecca. It is our touchstone. There is no place on earth that embodies Michael like Neverland. I grieve for its loss and I grieve for the children. It was the last truly happy and stable home they knew and that, I think, is the reason Michael never wanted to let it go. Though it was too painful for him to return to, I think he wanted someday for the children to be able to return there, host charitable events, share with the community, even live there and raise his grandchildren there if they wanted. He knew their hearts were there. They adored him and they adored their life with him there.

    For the record, Michael first lived on Monte Cristo Way in LV when he returned to the US in December 2006. He didn’t like the home but stayed there for 6 mos until he left for a 6 month run in Virginia, Ireland and a stay with the Cascios in late 2007. At the beginning of 2008, he moved into the Palomino house in LV where he stayed until he left for the Bel Air (approx Nov/Dec) and then Carolwood in the run up to TII. The Wonderland house was not the Palomino house. It was a massive estate on Durango in LV in the Spanish Trails Country Club. It was his “dream house” that he wanted to buy after returning from London. I have been to Monte Cristo and Palomino and Tomiyasu (another large home he was interested in LV) and tried to find the Durango estate but it is in a gated community and behind massive walls. In the last two homes, I believe Michael was trying to recreate Neverland but I’m sure he knew there could never be another Neverland. It was his heart; his creation; his soul was on every inch of it. I grieve for what he lost at Sneddon’s vicious, hateful hand. I grieve for the children. I grieve for all of us…

  4. There’s been an understandable outpouring of grief and sentiment over the loss of Neverland, but I believe the fan base is being manipulated. People are crying about the loss of the house and a few carnival rides, when we should be outraged over the Jackson children being rooked out of nearly 3000 acres of some of the most valuable land in California.

    Very few black families in this country own this much land. Owning land is one of the most vital aspects of generational wealth. Yet on many fan sites, fans are buying into the ludicrous idea that Neverland is a drag on the estate because it can’t be turned into a Graceland-type attraction, that it makes no sense to hold onto this fantastic asset because “nobody lives there”. Meanwhile the executors spent $10,000,000 on that McMansion in Calabasas that Paris Jackson doesn’t like at all.

    Because of their negligence, the executors have allowed MJ’s share to dwindle down to nothing. They just handed this incredible asset to Tom Barrack basically for free. Unbelievable!

    1. I agree. I find the whole situation very distressing, and though I try to keep a balanced perspective (largely because I am only an outsider here speaking of what I see) I just think the estate has really screwed up this one.

      Throughout history, land has always been cited as the most valuable asset of all. It makes me sick to think of this property going into other hands.

    2. Very good point, Simba. It’s not just some of the most valuable land in CA, but in the US. It would be a good investment even if nothing commercial was ever done with it.

  5. First of all I find the announcement by the MJ online team very peculiar. Refering to a Forbes article instead of properly adressing the issue is amateurish and suspicious. Its the same as hiding behind Roger Friedman(of all people)and CNN instead of properly responding to false accusations in the media. I dont like these manipulative tactics.

    Michael never went back to Neverland yet he choose not to sell and did everything in his power to save it. He even stopped the auctioning of his belongings last minute. Was it out of shame and pride ,or because in his mind he could not leave it behind yet or did he have plans for it?
    He decided to go along with a businessplan that included going back on stage, something Im sure he was not considering as a serious option anymore after living like a vagabond for 3 years. He had told intimi that he didnt feel good about doing the shows, yet he went along with the plan and he died trying. Michael always talked about how artists who work their butt off end up broke and torn and he was afraid to end up like that. That alone is a reason to think twice about selling.
    I can imagine that investing in a property like that is a high risk. At the time Branca had advised Michael against buying the property(the irony!) yet Michael did because it was his dream.
    I don’t think a high maintenance property with alot of limitations as to commercial use can be made profitably. Barrack is too much of an entrepeneur not to have seen opportunities if they existed.
    That said,a place that has such a history belongs to the cultural heritage of a nation and should not only be evaluated as a means to make a profit. That is cultural barbarism. Most historical/cultural buildings are not profitable and are heavily subsidized, adopted or funded. Why not Neverland.

    We dont know enough to make a fair judement if buying is an option for the estate. What really is the solvability of the estate right now, considering the tax dispute and other pending legal battles?
    The executors may not have a right to stop CC from selling but can they really not afford to buy and maintain it which will take the larger chunk of the burden. Do they have court permission to make these kind of investments as they are still in probate ?
    Maybe the executors are only allowed to buy property for personal use and not for commercial purposes, which in the case of Neverland would be gambling with the beneficiaries money.
    What is Mrs Jacksons stance. She is not only the majority shareholder of Michaels estate but also shareholder for the minors, and legally the only beneficiary who may have a say. Same as Michael would be if he were alive. And what do the children want.Prince seems wise enough to have a founded opinion. Maybe Michael left notes or confided to someone what should happen to Neverland.
    I dont count out that Neverland is already sold and the windfall is used to buy the Calabasas mansion. Which the Forbes article is more or less hinting at, not surprisingly as they are a mouthpiece for the executors.

    If the MJE cannot buy the property I hope someone with a connection to Michael familywise and or artistically can and will buy it.Hopefully Janet who actually helped Michael out before and who spent time at Neverland. Then at least it stays in the family if Michaels children decide to keep it.
    Please not someone as insignificant as lady Gaga who has no relation what soever to Michael Jackson and never ever met him. That would be an insult to Michaels legacy.
    Can you see Graceland Mansion falling in the hands of someone other than a Presley?

    1. Though its the executors duty, not the fans to preserve Michaels physical legacy, maybe crowdfunding with the possibility for donators to become shareholder/co-owner of Neverland could help out.

    2. About Lady Gaga…I’m not thrilled with the idea, either, but I guess my point is that it would still be preferable to some old fuddy-duddy MJ hater moving in. The lesser of two evils, I suppose. But trying to get my hands around any of it right now is just too much; it still feels too surreal right now to imagine ANYONE else living there.

      As far as the Jacksons, I would not hold out too much hope other than maybe Michael’s kids when they come of age. I don’t think KJ really cares that much about Neverland. She did not want Michael buried there, and has been on record stating emphatically that she knew how Michael felt about the place and that he never wanted to live there again. I don’t think she would be a strong advocate for keeping it, based on the comments she has made. Someone I know made the comment recently, “If the Jacksons don’t care about Neverland, why should anyone else?” That may be a good point but a lot of people also do not realize just how little control the family has over these matters, especially in issues concerning the estate and its decisions.

      Janet would probably be the only sibling with the means to do it (and having a billionaire husband, besides) but again, I don’t know. The family seems to have very mixed feelings about Neverland and, obviously, they would not have the kind of emotional investment in it that Michael had, or his kids. I know that Jermaine has a lot of sentimental attachment to it (he was the one who pushed so hard for Michael to be buried there) but he has his own financial woes and, anyway, could you imagine the outcry that would be raised from here to Timbuktu if Jermaine bought Neverland? (Lol, I am being only half facetious).

      It would certainly be wonderful IF the Jacksons and the fans could work together on an initiative of some sort.

    3. “I don’t count out that Neverland is already sold and the windfall is used to buy the Calabasas mansion. Which the Forbes article is more or less hinting at.”

      Oh, God. What a terribly chilling thought.

  6. all very sad, but mostly I feel for Prince, Paris and Blanket. I also hoped that one day they would be able to buy it and go live there and keep the memories for themselves, as it seems almost impossible to make it into a museum for fans, as much as we all would want that. Would be lovely to think that they and their families and ultimately children could go on enjoying the property.

    1. When Prince, Paris and Blanket come of age-provided the property is available (that’s the key!)-I am sure they will be able to do what they want, but it will be a lot more difficult with the property out of their hands. Prince will be eighteen next year, but I don’t believe he comes into his REAL money until his thirties (someone feel free to correct if I am wrong). Neverland may go through many owners if this sale goes through, which is also one of my worst fears-the more hands it goes through, the more footprints are going to be left on it. It would be wonderful if the property ends up with no takers and could stand idle until Prince or Paris come of age. Not likely to happen, but…I do believe in miracles. Who knows, they might luck out one day and catch it “between buyers.” That would be awesome!

  7. Somebody help me out on this! How is it an Estate with an estimated worth of $1-3 billion dollars is not able to afford a property worth somewhere between $50-100 million? Even assuming a debt to Sony for $300 million? Even taking into account CC screwed MJ and he now owes them $50 million? Even knowing the children need several million a year for bodyguards and schooling and that NL requires millions a year in upkeep? I don’t see what the problem is, giving the kind of unearned income those assets SHOULD be generating. (and if they are not – why?)

    1. My guess is that they see it as more liability to them than asset. I suppose this is the hope behind the many petition drives, that somehow they might be convinced to see they are wrong. But, truthfully, I don’t think the estate needs educating on what Neverland meant to Michael or to his fans, or its historical significance. They know that already. I just think it’s a coldly calculated business move that doesn’t care about sentimental or historical value. In all likelihood, they have spent the last several years looking into those “feasible” options of how to make Neverland generate money for them, found none of them to be practical, and have made the decision to rid themselves of a drain on resources. They probably don’t see the idea of maintaining a property that costs millions a year in upkeep, just for fans to have a mecca where they can come stand at the gates, as practical. They probably HAVE weighed all of the options to make it into something commercial that would generate profit for the estate, and may be honest in stating they have exhausted all of those options. I would not doubt it, based on Neverland’s zoning and location.

      I don’t believe it is a question of being able to afford the property. I think it is an issue of, “What is this worth for us?” And apparently they have made that decision. Although I have to say…I do find it interesting that most of the media stories only stress that CC is “considering” putting it up for sale. I believe such reports are probably spawning a lot of false hopes-“all is not lost yet”-but at the same time, it has led me to wonder if someone isn’t simply calling a bluff; putting out the bait to see if the other one bites.

      I do know, however, that Barrack has stated that he does not want to see the property commercialized. I am gathering he would prefer to see a private owner take it over and maintain its quiet solitude and dignity (but, of course, while affording him another yacht in the process, lol; let’s be honest!). Perhaps in the end, this may have been the very thing that CC and the estate butted heads over.

      1. No way does Neverland cost “millions” per year to maintain. It cost that much when Michael had all the rides, the animals, and 275 employees. Now there are fewer than a dozen employees.

        Oprah owns about six different homes in the US and Europe, Tom Cruise owns several, including a spectacular mountain estate, and they’re just pikers compared to any number of CEOs, politicians, and Silicon Valley billionaires. Nobody worries that those properties don’t “generate income”, or that the owners only spend a few weeks a year in each of them, if that. During his recent child support hearings, the singer Mark Anthony failed to list a $700,000 farm in upstate New York, because he has so much other property he forgot he owned it. I don’t think he is richer than Michael’s estate.

        The executors can’t make their usual enormous fees by putting out any effort to preserve Neverland, so they don’t care what happens to it. Meanwhile Ivy at MJJC argues that the estate ‘only’ has a few million dollars at its disposal, despite the fact that MJ has earned nearly a billion dollars these past few years. The executors’ management of the estate bears examining. Something is seriously amiss.

        1. I basically have no quarrel with the principle of what you’re saying, though. I agree that the only reason they don’t want to hold onto Neverland is because, for them, it isn’t worth holding onto. When I say they may consider it a “drain” on their resources, that may depend on how one interprets the idea of “draining.” If it means less pocket change for them at the end of the day, that could be as good an “excuse” as any. But as I always say, I do try to withhold judgment when I do not know the whole story of what is going on. I try to keep a balanced perspective, but I do have my opinions like everyone else and would be the first to agree that something doesn’t quite add up.

          Edit: Most sources quote Barrack’s claim that Neverland has cost $5 million a year to maintain for the past six years. That is still a multi million dollar figure, even with all of the attractions gone and the staff reduced to a skeleton crew. But nevertheless, that should be chump change for the estate.

  8. Raven, like you, I don’t agree with all the estate’s decisions. Here’s a link to the estate’s suit against Tohme for fraud and mismanagement relating to unconscionable contracts MJ signed including the agreement with CC for Neverland. The case was filed nearly 2 1/2 years ago and seems to be moving through the system at a glacial pace. Seeing as documents are filed under seal it’s not easy to stay up to date.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/michael-jackson-estate-sues-ex-manager-unconsionable-contracts-article-1.1024609

    From what I’ve read, Michael did not have independent counsel in either the Neverland agreement or his contract with AEG, Tohme’s attorney acting for both Michael and Tohme. Seeing as the contracts provide for Tohme’s million dollars “finder’s fees”, how is that not a conflict of interest?

    So what would be the effect if the estate prevailed on all or even a part of its ation against Tohme? As the NYDN article says, the suit “seeks to unwind the self-serving and unconscionable agreements” Tohme convinced Michael to sign. So could the Neverland deal be unwound? Is Colony looking to sell before the case is decided which could lead to such an “unwinding”? Is the estate, as the plaintiff, not aggressively pushing the case to give CC a chance to sell before the agreement is possibly considered void? I agree that “something doesn’t quite add up.” Why wouldn’t the estate file an injunction against a possible sale until the “Tohme” case is resolved? Or has the estate simply given up in its attempts to unwind the agreement for the sale of Neverland? I surely hope not as in my opinion Tohme bears significant responsibility for all damage done to Michael Jackson in his last vulnerable years.

    1. You raise a very interesting question, June. I really need to go back and look more closely at these details regarding the case against Tohme. I sincerely believe that this man coming into Michael’s life was probably the single worst thing that happened to him-yes, worse than Murray.

      ETA: This is no laughing matter, but Tohme really seems like the real life equivalent of “Better Call Saul!” (If you ever watched Breaking Bad, you’ll know to whom I’m referring-and why).

      1. Raven, I do believe most MJ supporters would appreciate your views on the Estate v. Tohme case. I think most of us know that Jermaine Jackson brought Tohme into Michael’s life in 2007 as JJ himself so states in his book released in 2011, seemingly proud of himself for bringing this fixer onto the scene to save Neverland and turn Michael’s financial affairs around. Ironically, when the book came out in 2011, suspicions and eventual accusations concerning Tohme’s mismanagement were not yet fully vetted, the estate’s case not having been filed until 2012. So I wonder today how proud JJ is of his attempts to fix Michael’s life.

        Not wanting to take this discussion too far afield, I won’t say more except that I agree with you that Tohme coming into Michael’s life was probably the single worst thing that happened to him (at least post 2005) and for that we can thank the brother who has so unsuccessfully stepped into Michael’s shoes as the lead singer of The Jacksons.

        1. I believe intuitively that Tohme had something to do with Michael’s death. I will always believe that, even if I can’t prove it. My dream showed me that Tohme and Murray were the last two people Michael saw in his room. I will always believe he was there that night.

          1. I’ve been a lifelong fan of Michael Jackson, but I really became intrigued by the blatant lies and inconsistencies surrounding his death, and the fact that so many people seem blind to the obvious. Some fans consider it in bad taste question the ‘official’ version of things, which is as mysterious to me as the deep and irrational hatred of Katherine and the other Jacksons. Tohme threatened Michael’s life. I don’t understand why he hasn’t been investigated. For instance, why was he at the hospital with Jermaine, calling himself “Dr. Tohme”? Who is he, really?

  9. Thanks for this heartfelt and informative post, Raven–I didn’t know about the Williamson Act. There sure are a lot of unanswered questions. I was thinking maybe the State of Ca might be a partner somehow in preserving a historical site of great importance–I mean is there a Historical Society that might want to preserve NL in terms of its history and cultural significance world-wide. Many artists have their houses preserved. If the zoning is agricultural, is it also residential? Must be. I guess all this can be verified. I wonder if Judge Beckloff the Probate Judge can get involved in that it is depriving the kids of their asset and home!!

    It might be a good idea for the fans or a fan rep to contact the Estate and get some answers, if they are willing to do and Q and A or an interview or something like that. Maybe the Estate would be willing to partner with fans who can crowd source a percentage of the asking price. Someone said if 1 million fans contribute $60 that would equal $60M. I am terrible at the #s with so many zeros, but if that is right, it should be possible to raise some serious funds. MJ had 7 million FB friends. Will you be there? he asked us and I hope we will be there b/c I agree that we cannot lose NL–MJ did put his heart in it and it needs to be preserved and just as important to me, its reputation can be cleansed of the BS charges and restored as a place of beauty and healing .

    I was wondering too if it could be linked to MJ’s humanitarian endeavors, perhaps used to generate income for the charities he designated in his will, for ex. as a place for fundraisers or as a headquarters, as well as a place where the ill and disadvantaged children could still visit periodically.

    I agree with you, Raven that preserving Hayvenhurst and not NL just does NOT make sense. MJ did enormous creative work at NL–as you said. Everything after Bad was done there.

    1. “It might be a good idea for the fans or a fan rep to contact the Estate and get some answers, if they are willing to do and Q and A or an interview or something like that. Maybe the Estate would be willing to partner with fans who can crowd source a percentage of the asking price. Someone said if 1 million fans contribute $60 that would equal $60M. I am terrible at the #s with so many zeros, but if that is right, it should be possible to raise some serious funds. MJ had 7 million FB friends. Will you be there? he asked us and I hope we will be there b/c I agree that we cannot lose NL–MJ did put his heart in it and it needs to be preserved and just as important to me, its reputation can be cleansed of the BS charges and restored as a place of beauty and healing .”

      You are assuming that the executors are acting in good faith. There is little evidence that they are. After the hundreds of millions earned since 2009, there should more than enough money to disencumber Neverland. Remember, the estate was declared solvent a few days after Michael’s death. Securing Neverland should have been their first move. The executors have made millions. The fans should not have to rescue the estate from those charged with keeping it safe.

    2. “I was wondering too if it could be linked to MJ’s humanitarian endeavors, perhaps used to generate income for the charities he designated in his will, for ex. as a place for fundraisers or as a headquarters, as well as a place where the ill and disadvantaged children could still visit periodically.”

      That, indeed, would be the best of all worlds. Even though there is a selfish side of me as a fan that would love the “Graceland-like attraction” idea, I believe that, ultimately, Michael would prefer to see NL used for the good of humanity.

  10. I don’t have enough information to point fingers today. We just don’t know what options were explored, what the asking price is, what reasonable upkeep would be or what probate might consider detrimental to what the Estate is charged with…securing the heirs financial future. They are still working through numerous claims, IRS issue is looming as well as potential trial(s). I can look back and agree that Sneddon is responsible for Michael leaving in the first place and Thome is still to have his day in court. We don’t know if the heirs were asked about it and the decision was made, in agreement, to purchase the Calabassas home. And we’ll never know if Michael would set foot on that property again. We do know he turned his eyes to that Estate in Vegas and that he was very excited about it. The historical and cultural significance of the place is what we have left and, of course, the only physical place fans can visit to connect with Michael. I hope that if this sale happens, the Estate can retrieve irreplaceable items such as Michael’s dance floor in his studio. The whole thing is just unbelieveable and sad.

    1. I agree, there are a lot of judgments passing around when the truth is that none of us are really privy to what has taken place behind the scenes. But the way the agreement was set up, it is almost certain that both parties would have had to agree to sell. Many are questioning why, with an 87% stake and all of the millions the estate has generated over the last five years, the sale of Neverland had to happen.

      The thought of dismantling pieces of Neverland is even more sad, although that process really began long ago. The animals have long since been scattered to wildlife preserves across the country (some meeting very tragic ends); the amusement rides are likewise scattered all over the country. Most likely bits and pieces of Neverland WILL survive, but like everything else, they will end up scattered to the winds, and probably mostly in the hands of private collectors. Won’t be at all surprised if there is an auction down the road-the dance floor included.

      The most we may ever get-if we’re lucky-is a future replica of Neverland. Who knows, if they could salvage enough of the original, most iconic items from the property (and recreate the rest) that might happen one day. But I don’t think any artificial recreation of Neverland will do it justice. Like so many things associated with Michael, the grandeur and magic of Neverland will be reduced to a caricature.

      If given a choice, I think I would prefer to see any items salvaged from Neverland given to Michael’s kids, or placed in a museum where they can be appreciated by all and viewed respectfully, perhaps, but I hope there is never any cheesy attempt to recreate Neverland. That, to me, would be the ultimate insult.

  11. The petition now has almost 5k signatures and some of the comments are very sweet. Here are some I liked:

    Deniz Ar URMIA, IRAN, ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF 
about 1 hour ago Like 0 

Neverland is a reminder of the greatest music star in the world. The place has to be saved as the home of the King of Pop to be displayed to the next generations who will continue to love his great music and humanitarian efforts.



    Krisztina Bencze SZéKESFEHéRVáR, HUNGARY 
about 2 hours ago Like 0 

NEVERLAND was created by Michael’s inner child (child within an adult, you didn’t have to be a kid to enjoy it.)Neverland=Michael’s inner child=soul=spirit So Neverland is a place with inspiration and holiness for those who truly love him.

    Westley Gustafson NEPTUNE BEACH, FL 
about 3 hours ago Like 0 

Neverland is a special place where a special person lived it needs to be prezerved and memorialized



    Emone Tsang HONG KONG, HONG KONG 
about 4 hours ago Like 0 

Neverland is the life dream and blood of Michael Jackson, who is one of most respected person in ever.

    another comment from a fan (Reibish) in another forum:

    “Neverland is so magical. When I went there, I only expected to see a grotesque spectacle and feel sadness (I first went when the “plan” was to have a wake at the ranch). Instead, it’s a very uplifting place. There is an energy around it and I sound crazy but I feel that’s where his spirit and positive energy are. I can’t describe it really. I get shivers, good ones, when I’m there. There’s something about it. It really took me by surprise, and it was the only place during that summer where I felt like things would eventually be okay.

    Love is so much more powerful than any of the evil that tried to take it away. Michael put so much love into that place and he revered it. It’s so evident when you approach the gates, even if we can’t see the developed grounds (well, not easily ). It was damaged, yes, but not ruined. You can’t ruin something that strong and powerful, you just can’t. Neverland is a physical representation of Michael’s compassion and desire for peace. It is so peaceful there.”

    1. They are all really lovely. I, too, have been reading through the comments and it is absolutely overwhelming. They truly run the gamut, from the eloquently long to the most succint ones that, nevertheless, say all that needs to be said. Many of them are not even written in English. There are comments representing every language across the globe.

      1. There is a link in the post. You can also find the link in the “Friends of AFLB” menu, underneath the “Save Neverland Petition” heading.

  12. It saddens me that Neverland might be up for sale. It represents Michael, his happy and sad moments too (yes, the 2005 trial ultimately drove away Michael from NL, but that, I believe is not a reason for some fans to accept ‘letting go’ of NL. I hate the fact that it caused MJ a lot of pain, being accused of false allegations, but it reminds us of the resilience, faith and the belief he embodied, that all he ever wanted, was to bring happiness to everyone that set foot there). It’s been my deepest desire to visit Neverland… I wouldn’t want to go (if I get the opportunity) and meet someone as cold as that Lauren at the front gate.

    You’ve raised points that I wouldn’t have noticed. Glad to have read this. I just pray that a miracle happens (I hope) that Neverland stays: where Michael’s energy is most felt.

    1. That is my worst fear right now. We don’t really know WHO will end up there.

      And Wade is starting up HIS crap again-as well as Safechuck-which unfortunately only reinforces the idea of Neverland as a “creepy” place where nefarious things took place. Neverland was so very much the exact opposite of that.

      But I agree. Even the accusations-as horrendous as they are-are still part of Michael’s history. The “tragedy,” if you will, that his life became after that is part of his legacy, also. It’s not a happy one, but it is part of the reality. We cannot truly preserve Michael’s history without also acknowledging his trials and tribulations, for these things, too, shaped who he became. The fight to hold onto The Dream; to rise above it all, to come back again; all of this is represented by NL.

      I don’t think that either Hayvenhurst or the house in Gary will ever be a mecca in quite the same way that NL is. Michael lived in those two places, but they don’t “represent” him. I have been to the house in Gary a number of times. The energy around it feels very sad to me. I have been told that the energy one feels at NL is completely different; it is a very positive energy, for all of the bad things that happened there (that is, the things that were done TO Neverland).

      1. Neverland will always be THE Mecca for fans because of Michaels history there, the grandeur and magic and the scenery itself. But is was also a place of extremes where he had his highest highs and lowest lows to even call it evil (if we believe what the bodyguards say). But that doent take away its historical value. Each of Michaels homes belong to his history, Gary no less than Neverland.
        But the good thing is that most of Michaels homes and his resting place are in California. If you travel all the way from the other side of the world its easy to visit them all, each has something special.
        Hayvenhurst he remodelled after his own phantasy and it was a try out for what Neverland would become .That is where he made his best selling album, became a megastar and walked his lama’s in the neihbourhood. It was still a relatively innocent time. I went to Hayvenhurst when his mother and chldren were living there. Rebie was just visiting and we bought flowers for KJ at the supermarket across the street where Michael was said to have helped pack the groceries. It will never become a Mecca or allow gathering of fans like Neverland but for fans whose interest does not stop at Neverland it is certainly worth visiting.
        Though he never owned Carolwood, that is where I felt his spirit strongest.
        But I would only make the trip again if Neverland is still Michaels and opened for (limited)visits.

        I hope it will never come to a replica of Neverland ,that will be tacky and unworthy of Michaels legacy. Why an imitation if you can have the real thing.
        Weve had our share of imitations with 3 make believe Michael songs on an album and an impersonator hologram, while authentic footage of the Vogue and Ebony photoshoot is shut down.
        Michael never took NO for an answer and didnt care if his ideas were ‘realistic’. That is how he arrived where he was. Im sure there are creative talents who think out of the box who can come up with a solid businessplan. Neverland does not have to be a moneymaker as long as it breaks even and is self sustaining. I wish Barrack and the executors could agree to that.

        1. I agree with you about Hayvenhurst and I don’t mean to sell it short. Of course it is important, too. They all are, each in their own way for what they represent, and all deserve preservation.

          It’s interesting you should say you felt his presence strongest at Carolwood. Maybe it is lingering energy from his death there? I suppose in some ways every visitor also “projects” something of their own feelings onto these places when they visit, as well. For some reason, I felt overwhelmed with sadness at the Gary house, which is strange considering that should be the place where he was MOST innocent and happiest. But it is difficult to rationalize these things, and I don’t think we are always supposed to be able to make logical sense out of them.

          On the down side, while I support the earnest efforts of fans who are petitioning and exploring valid options, I am very disturbed by the fact that I have already seen dozens of shoddy fund raising schemes starting up. Some of them look very suspect to me. It is easy for sharks and hustlers to take advantage of the vulnerability of fans’ emotions right now. They know there are people who will do most anything; donate most anything if there is a hope of hanging onto Neverland. I would urge fans to be very cautious about who/what they choose to donate to.

          Also, even if well intentioned, it doesn’t do much good for dozens of separate campaigns to be going on, instead of everyone pooling together as one. Before you know it, egos will be clashing; this group or individual will be pitted against that one. It’s the same old story which we’ve seen play out a million times in the fan community. I do have hope that something good can come from this and I do believe in miracles. I just hope the fight to save Neverland doesn’t lead us down the road to even more diviseveness.

          1. Re Carolwood it could be projection ofcourse knowing that is where Michaels life ended. Standing there in the dark was overwhelming and I was cold to the bone and shaking while it was a very warm night. But there was also another agonizing feeling that unlike the cold and shivers ,was gone the minute we left the area. Who knows.

            As for ‘saving Neverland’,I am vehemently against wild campaigns and I hope fans will not fall for it. There are enough examples of scams in the fan comunity.
            Fan groups or individuals who think they can raise funds and manage a project like Neverland just by putting up an online campaign are out of their mind.
            Not that I do not believe in crowdsourcing, you have to start somewhere and there are plenty examples, but not on this scale. They should leave it up to a professionals who have the experience and resources to kickstart a project like that.
            Its sad that Michaels name is abused by opportunists to take advantage of well meaning fans. People shoud use their common sense and report scammers to the authorities.

          2. Well, I would say feeling cold and shivering is definitely a sign of a negative energy. I don’t doubt that Michael may have left a lot of negative energy at Carolwood. He wasn’t happy there. His entire residence in that dwelling was one of constant fear, anxiety, stress and intimidation. There is absolutely nothing positive to be said about his time spent there. And, to boot, he ends up dying tragically there.

            Surprisingly, for all he endured at Neverland, people who have been there say it is an overwhelmingly gentle, welcoming presence.

            At the Gary house, I felt so sad that I was crying, and it was not from being emotional at seeing the house-I can am quite able to distinguish that emotion from what I felt that day. This was something I was picking up-an energy left in that house. It may or may not have been Michael’s energy, necessarily. After all, a lot of people have lived in that house-at least ten more besides Michael. KJ stayed there for an entire month after Michael died. That, alone, could have created the energy I felt, as I’m sure she was intensely grieving during that time. Then, add to that all of the mass numbers of people who were on the property after Michael died, and it could be even more understandable how negative energy could be left there.

            But what I picked up acutely felt like a child’s energy, and all I can say is that it was overwhelmingly very, very sad.

            As I’ve said before, this may sound crazy to some, but the ability I have to pick up on the energy of places comes from my Cherokee ancestors and it is a very embedded belief in our culture.

            As far as the scammers, the unfortunate thing is that there is really no way to tell if someone has honorable intentions, or naive but good intentions, and those who are truly just looking to take advantage of this situation. The only advice I can give anyone is to be careful, use good judgment, and common sense.

  13. “Irresponsible” is the word that keeps coming to mind, when thinking of the decision to sell Neverland. Those with decision-making power have a not only a fiduciary duty to Michael Jackson’s heirs, they have a duty to consider the children’s overall well being and Jackson’s artistic and cultural legacy as well. If for no other reason, because it will ultimately impact their financial future.

    Neverland is historically important for many reasons – NOT THE LEAST of which is that in 2003, the government essentially robbed Michael Jackson’s family of this beautiful oasis that he had poured his heart, soul and hard-earned millions into. Future generations need to think long and hard about what Neverland was and what really happened here.

    As far as the children’s well being, I honestly can’t think of anything more cruel than taking this home away from these kids, if in fact, the reports are true that they would like to keep it. The cruelty to Michael Jackson’s grieving mother is unforgivable as well. The decision to sell belongs to Katherine and the three children alone. Period. End of discussion as far as I’m concerned.

    What would be financially wrong with buying out Colony Capital for $50 million, paying the upkeep on the house for the next 5 years (another $25 million), then turning around and selling it themselves in 5 years, if that is what they want to do? According to these reports we see, there hasn’t been a terrific amount of unearned income on Jackson’s assets anyway.

  14. When I think of NL I also started thinking of Camelot–a place which was another experiment in creating a kind of utopia, in the case of Camelot, the just kingdom of King Arthur. In the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan, on Broadway and later shown in a live performance on TV to an audience of 65 M, she sings to the Darling cjhoildren: “There is a place where dreams are born, and time is never panned/ It’s nopt on any chart, you can find it in your heart, Never-never land.”

    MJ also said, “Peter Pan to me represents something that’s very special in my heart. You know, he represents youth, childhood, never growing up, magic, flying, everything I think that children and wonderment and magic what it’s all about. And to me I just have never ever grown out of loving that and thinking it was very special. I’m Peter Pan in my heart.”

    And this wonderment and magic and imagination and love is what MJ put into creating NL and that is what we see in it–a beautiful home he created for himself and his children where humanitarian giving took place. Even during the trial, he stopped his car at the gates to hug a fan who had cancer–that hug is on film and it is so moving. People need to know what Neverland was really all about.

    1. The analogy to Camelot is a good one. One special trait that all of these mythical places have in common is that they transcend all geographic and terrestrial barriers, and truly do become, as some say, “a state of mind” or “a place in your heart.” The beauty of Neverland is that it will ALWAYS be that, no matter what happens to the actual property. The spirit of NL cannot die, and cannot be taken away.

      What we are grieving right now is the loss-or potential loss-of the physical representation. Just like we grieve when someone we love physically dies, and the body must be buried or disposed of according to the rites of the culture we belong to. It is painful to know we will not see them again in that form, but the spirit doesn’t die.

      I just realized the above probably sounds morbid, as I’m already saying good bye to NL. Actually, far from it. I believe as long as there is a glimmer of hope that NL can be preserved, we should definitely fight for it and leave no stone unturned. This isn’t about giving up hope.

      But it is nice to know that even if our worst fears are realized, the SPIRIT of NL will never die.

  15. I’m frightened right now to even check the news button on the Google search for any new news on Michael Robson & Safechuck are doing terrible damage. Robson’s claims were largely ignored by credible news sources, but with Safechuck’s court filing, credible news sources are starting to pick this up.

    I am starting to be afraid that the Estate will be crushed by public sympathy for the alleged victims, which will influence/compell a judge and/or jury to find in favor of their claims even in the absence of any evidence.

    Sorry for this post–don’t want to bum anyone out–but sometimes this just hurts too much.

    What to do?

    1. What to do? Keep calm and don’t worry. Unless the judge decides to make new law, the claims will not make it to court because of time limitations. Robson and Safechuck’s stories make for lurid reading, but they don’t make any sense. None. Most people are smart enough to see this mess for what it is – a money grab. Meanwhile the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award is coming up, and next week So You Think You Can Dance is featuring Michael’s music. This is particularly significant because Nigel Lythgoe, the show’s producer and one of the judges, was a great champion of Robson’s work in the past. A Michael Jackson week seems to be rubbing Robson’s nose in it, so to speak.

    2. I haven’t really seen much other than tabloid media. But I will be addressing these latest allegations soon.

      In the meantime, nothing can be done except to weather the tide and see what happens next. In all likelihood, these cases are going to be thrown out, anyway. Right now the tabs are taking advantage of what they see as a juicy story. It will die quickly, especially if the cases are thrown out. Of course, it won’t stop the haters who will insist these two didn’t “get justice” and having the cases thrown out won’t stop that-if anything, it will only strengthen their resolve, but it just means it will go back to the way it’s pretty much always been (us against them, lol). Maybe in a way a trial would be a good thing, as it might publicly expose these scams for once and all, but then, if 14 Not Guilty counts isn’t enough to convince people, then I honestly don’t know what is. I think to some degree, there will always be people who have their minds made up about Michael. We just have to keep doing what we’ve always done-putting the facts out there for the people who want to listen.

      But for starters, there is really no outcry of “public sympathy” for these two. Most people do not know about, nor care about these latest allegations, and most who have heard them do not believe them. Their few, apparent “supporters” are the same handful of sycophants that repeatedly spam every article on them. Even if there WAS a tide of such sympathy, it has no bearing on the legal process. That’s a decision that will be based on the evidence presented. And a lot of shocking, salacious “claims”-with no evidence to back them up-isn’t going to get very far.

      And Simba is right. There’s a lot to be excited about in the coming week. We’re getting a new single (A Place With No Name, yay!) and a full MJ tribute on So You Think You Can Dance. We know by now that being an MJ fan is always going to be a bumpy road, full of highs and lows; peaks and valleys-and, not surprisingly, we can go from one to the other within a few days’ time. I have had to somewhat learn over the past five years when to just take a deep breath and say, “This, too, shall pass.”

    3. Ara, I think Simba has said it all, but as Raven so rightly said “This too shall pass”. No-one in their right mind is going to pay any attention to these claims, and let’s face it, the tabloids and haters are never in their right minds!! Please just don’t feed into yourself and let the negativity rub off on you. We all who love Michael, and know the truth of his loving spirit, don’t need to buy into this crap in any way. Just keep the love for Michael flowing, and all shall be well.

      1. Thank you all for your encouragement, which I really need right now.

        As you say, Raven, “We know by now that being an MJ fan is always going to be a bumpy road, full of highs and lows; peaks and valleys-and, not surprisingly, we can go from one to the other within a few days’ time. I have had to somewhat learn over the past five years when to just take a deep breath and say, “This, too, shall pass.”

        It’s just that I have never felt so protective of and vulnerable for anyone else before. Every attempt to vilify or disparage him causes me dread and hurts my heart.

  16. Well, JS’ BS made it’s way to Peoplerag (no typo there) and NYDailyNews, not exactly mainstream but most likely not considered tabloid either, both with extremely large subscriber bases. Something becoming more apparent in any “Michael” articles over the past several months is the nearly total INVISIBILITY of Conrad Murray when the inevitable cause of death is mentioned, whether it be articles on Neverland, sales of prior Vegas homes, even pieces about “tributes”, the preference being “overdose” or “anesthetic overdose”, with less and less challenge to this distortion in available comment sections. Has media forgotten this former doctor was convicted and served a sentence for manslaughter (thought not nearly lengthy enough)? To me, the person responsible for taking Michael’s physical life (who undoubtedly will surface before the end of August) should not be given a free pass no matter what the article subject matter, and any such assertion re “overdose” should be challenged as strongly as the lies of WR and JS.

    1. I, too, cringe when I see those references to “overdose” because they are very misleading. I tend to chalk it up to lazy reporting more than anything. It takes fewer words (and a lot less explanation) to say “died from an overdose” than to say “a death that was ruled a homicide at the hands of his physician Conrad Murray.” I think there is also a sense that this somehow alleviates them of any liability where Murray is concerned, even though he was convicted. The way they look at it, it isn’t a total lie, although the more accurate ones will at least state it as “anesthetic overdose” rather than-even worse and more grossly inaccurate-an “overdose from prescription drugs” (I still see that one brandied about quite a bit). But yes, the narrative they are are contributing to (whether intentional or not) is that of Michael as solely to blame for his own death. It still floors me that all of the horrific details that came to light during that Murray trial just seemed to sail right over the heads of most-and no one, it seems, is apparently interested in having enough journalistic integrity to set the record straight. It is pretty bad when I can honestly say that one of the few rags that doesn’t cut Murray any slack is TMZ.

  17. Raven, what you said i.e. ” It is painful to know we will not see them again in that form, but the spirit doesn’t die”, isn’t morbid in the least, but is a deep spiritual truth. Michael’s spirit will live on in the millions of lives that he touched so deeply all over his beloved planet earth. Neverland wasn’t Michael, Michael wasn’t Neverland – that too shall pass, but he will always be in the hearts of those who love him, be it family, friends, fans. Plus of course in his music, short films, poems and essays, and the acts of humanity that he is well known for. It would be nice to have a specific place for fans to go to to feel closer to him, and perhaps Havenhurst can become that in time, but really there is so much of his spirit elsewhere for his fans to feel, specially those of us who don’t live in the US and have very little chance of ever going to ‘a place’.

    But, having said all that, I still wish that Neverland could go to his children if they want it, because it was their home and so full of wonderful memories for them, but in the long run, even they don’t need Neverland to remember the love of their Daddy, or to feel him close.

    1. Thanks, Caro.

      Yes, in some ways, U.S. MJ fans have it somewhat fortunate because so many of the landmarks most associated with his life and his history are here. He was born here, raised here, and lived here all of his life except for the brief period from 2005-2007. But, of course, he belonged to the world.

Leave a Reply