Michael Jackson's Neverland Valley
Neverland Valley was Michael’s magical kingdom, a haven of innocence and bliss. Everything about it was an extension of his soul - the bronze statues of children depicted in a moment of playfulness, the winding paths that glittered at night, the movie theater where the candy was free and abundant, the sparkling fountain, the exotic animals, the fairground rides, the rolling hills and meadows…
It was a paradise designed to reflect the essence of who he is, to appeal to the inner child in everyone and to provide a retreat for the many busloads of terminally ill children who he invited inside.
On September 6 2003, I was one of a very lucky 13 – a group of fans from Europe who just happened to be at the gates of Neverland when Michael rolled up on a scooter and invited us all to spend the day with him inside. It wasn't my first visit to Neverland - that had been with four friends in February 2003 (see photo above) - but it was by far my most magical and memorable one.
A beautiful monologue
After we'd parked our cars and cooled off with a water fight, Michael called us into a room and had us sit around him in a circle. He then began to interview us one by one, asking us how and when we became fans, where we had been to see him, what our favorite songs were…
After listening to us and asking us questions, it was his turn. And so he began, breaking into a beautiful monologue, drifting from topic to topic, speaking with such knowledge, wisdom and insight. Michael is so beautifully expressive. It’s always a joy to hear him speak.
He talked about the beauty of Africa, saying, “You read a lot of things about Africa but they’re not true. People want you to believe that it’s a poor country full of crime. Every country in the world has poverty and crime. Africa is so beautiful, full of rich resources.”
He spoke about the importance of childhood, saying, “Parents don’t spend enough time with their kids. Play station has become the pacifier. Children are crying out to be loved.”
He spoke about how the media portrays him, saying, “I don’t know why the media always say that I’m a freak and that I’m weird and that I don’t want to talk to people. Why do they say those things when they're not true?”
Of course we responded passionately to this, assuring him that anybody with more than half a brain cell could see through the media lies. When the conversation finally wound down, he asked us, as he did several times that day, “What will we do next?”, and then came up with a plan. He led us outside to his car and a handful of us piled in (while the others travelled in a van).
He drove us to the movie theater, then showed us all into a secret room crammed with recording equipment and tour costumes – including his gold Scream outfit from the HIStory tour. He told us he had come up with the backbeat for Stranger in Moscow and The Lost Children in this very room, then burst into song. We were in HEAVEN.
We drifted over to a huge painting of Michael surrounded by angels, in which there were hidden images and symbols. Michael began a little game that he would continue later in the house – where there were many more amazing paintings. He would say, “Find Macaulay Culkin”, and we’d find a figure under a tree with blonde hair, or “Find me”, (pointing at a section of the painting) and we’d find a set of leaves in the shape of his Billie Jean pose.
The most surreal moment of my life (up until then at least) came a little later when I was sitting next to Michael in the theater watching his videos on the big screen and sharing his popcorn. Smooth Criminal had always been my favorite video, one that my brothers and I had taped off the TV and watched over and over again every day after school, so when it came on the screen, it all hit me….
Here I was sitting beside Michael Jackson in Neverland Valley watching his videos while eating popcorn from his bowl. I tried to tell him how I was feeling but became too overwhelmed to speak. He squeezed my hand. I think he understood.
Read about what happened next at Neverland
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