Neverland Valley dreams
...continued from Neverland Valley - Part 1
Michael left us at the theater and we were whisked off to the zoo for a 10-minute visit, after which we were summoned back to the house. The door swung open and inside stood Michael holding Blanket in his arms and beaming proudly. Such a proud father. Such a sweet little boy, just learning to walk at the time.
With Blanket clutching the edge of his trousers, Michael led us through his home, first past the kitchen, where all the staff greeted us, then into the dining area. He pointed out photographs, including ones of his children that he had taken, and beautiful paintings, including some of those that appear in his book Dancing the Dream.
At one point, a door burst open and Prince and Paris rushed in, calling ‘Daddy’. Michael picked each one of them up and hugged them tightly. It was clear even then that he and his children were each other’s world.
The house was beautifully furnished, with touches here and there of their family life together. On a bulletin board by the door were notes the children had written to their father, telling him how much they love him. Underneath were their shoes, kicked off after a day playing outside.
Inside Michael's mind“If you want to know what stimulates my mind, take a look around,” said Michael as he led us into a series of rooms cluttered with all the things that inspire him - cardboard cutouts of Peter Pan, Harry Potter and Charlie Chaplin, giant paintings of his children, enlarged baby photographs, movie memorabilia, fan gifts (including one I had given him a week earlier, on his birthday – he told us that he keeps EVERYthing we give him!), toys, knick-knacks…
We followed him into a walk-in closet that was crammed with jackets, including the silver one he’d worn in NYC in September 2001 and the US-flag one he’d worn at United We Stand a month later. He handed a few of them to me – they were HEAVY!
“Oh, they’re so heavy,” I said in surprise. “How do you dance with them on?”
“That’s what you don’t see when you watch me perform,” he replied. “You have no idea how heavy they are. But when I’m dancing, I don’t think about it. I melt into the music. If you see a dancer and you see her counting, 'One, two, three,' she’s not really dancing. When you dance, you become the music. You become the rhythm and forget everything else.”
I wrote down every word he said the next day so I could hold on to it forever.
“Have you seen my bedroom?” he asked us a little while later. We all shook our heads, our eyes wide with excitement as we followed him up a short stairway into his bedroom, which had a movie screen that dropped down from the ceiling, a rhinestone-covered bedspread and a pet rat called Sparkles in a cage. He waited until we’d all crowded in, then turned off the lights – everything sparkled and we all oooh-ed and aaah-ed in amazement.
Tainted by darkness
Little did we know it at the time but that was one of the last happy days at Neverland, before it was raided by darkness for a second time and tainted beyond repair. The estate became a prison to Michael in 2005 and after the trial ended, he moved out, never to return.
He talked to my friends and me about Neverland several times in 2007 and 2008 and always vowed that although he would never live there again, he also would also never sell it. The fantasyland he created exists now only in photographs and videos, in the memory of those he invited into his paradise and in the hearts of all those who can still go there in their dreams.
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