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Jacko’s Crown Jewels

April 28, 2009


We were asked to walk along the white line, to make sure our vantage point was just right. You need to the right angle, the man said, so you can see what it would look like if you were really there. “There” is Neverland Ranch, Michael Jackson’s former home which was foreclosed on a year or so back and is remembered in infamy by many for its role in Jacko’s child molestation court case in 2004. So we walked along the white line, the open gates of Neverland in front of us, a banner with an image of the same gates as they stood at the ranch hanging above. This, apparently, was the right angle to look at it from—the gilded, iron gates with their huge heraldic crest welcoming visitors. Behind the gates stood a faux red carpet scene, complete with a police motor bike, a few velvet ropes and a Rolls Royce limo, vintage Michael Jackson selections playing over the loudspeakers. $40 later, we were behind the velvet rope, so to speak, and browsing the extensive, terrifying collection of Jacko’s possessions, which had been up for auction until just the day before, when a judge had ruled that everything could be given back, that the auction would not be going through as planned. So it was a rare opportunity, really—instead of being dispersed throughout the world, novelty decorations or conversational pieces in any number of homes around Los Angeles and beyond (where, theoretically, there’d be a chance of seeing them again—or an even slighter chance having something small in my own apartment), the stage costumes, the video arcade games, the gold and platinum commemorative records, the baby-sized chaise lounges and the many, many jeweled gloves (and socks) would most likely end up in Jackson’s current (and almost certainly smaller) home. Or storage. This was the one chance to take it all in.

You can’t blame Jacko for not wanting the auction to go through. The collection was massive—the complete catalog, spanning five volumes, was going for $200 and most likely had a page count well into the 1000s. Not only would it be terrible, for anyone, really, to have so much of their personal possessions sold off, but in the particular case of Michael Jackson, this mass of belongings is easily the deepest, most thorough and often completely terrifying look into his psyche—a look he would certainly not want so many people to take.


There were a number of life-sized, fully dressed sculptures of human figures scattered throughout the show—butlers in tuxes or old ladies sitting at tables. Surely just decorative touches, placed there by the exhibition designers to give context to the items, right? Wrong. They all had lot numbers, having once been displayed at Neverland. Also on display were countless portraits depicting Jackson as a king, dressed in elaborate robs, holding a scepter and a crown. While these could easily be excused by his title as the King of Pop, the image of Jackson joyfully skipping ahead of a column of giggling children as they make their way along a path leading across a thoroughly bucolic meadow, cannot. Nor can the electric cart with the airbrushed image of him as Peter Pan on the hood. Or the cast resin sculptures of giant books, inscribed with Jackson’s own poetry, exalting the moments when babies smile—not to mention Edward’s scissor hands, the actual prop from the film. It was fascinating and deeply surreal stuff to see. In the room full of arcade games, many of which were plugged in, I sat and played a race of Cruising USA, just reaching the finish line before a security guard asked me to stop, but also confessing to crossing the room rather slowly so that I might “get a good feel for it.”

The one item I wanted to see most wasn’t included: the hyperbaric oxygen chamber he used to sleep in during the late-80s. Those were the pre-Blanket, pre-surgical mask, pre-falling-off nose days, back when MJ was by far the coolest motherfucker around. I remember being obsessed by the Bad video and the Egyptian-themed one that Eddie Murphy was in, even if I had no idea who he was at that time. I roller-skated like a lunatic (meaning really badly, with lots of bruised knees involved) to many a MJ track at Sunset Roller Rink birthday parties. But before he completed the switch from black to white, before his nose began to fall off of cave-in or whatever it is that had happened to it, I remember hearing about the oxygen chamber and think that it was intensely creepy. My suspicion has certainly been supported over the years and was more that confirmed by seeing all of these items—Jackson is without a doubt a deeply strange human being—but I was kind of sad that I wasn’t able to come full circle, closing out my perusal of the King of Pop’s personal effects by seeing the one object that tipped me off so many years ago. I would imagine that seeing the sleep chamber would probably similar to the first time I saw Jeff Koons’ gilded, life-sized porcelain sculpture of MJ and Bubbles at SFMoMA, which left me stalled between that special kind of nearly painful laughing fit and sprinting away very quickly in fear.










One Comment leave one →
  1. brenda permalink
    June 26, 2009 10:01 pm

    i love u michael and i dont think u would ever be forgotten i love u sooooooooooooooooooooooo much may your soul rest in perfect peace i hope people remeber u for the good u have done and the songs u have brought to this universe i was really excited to see u in the 02 arena in july but now u gone i dont no if ill evr see u one day love u lots

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