Since his death in 2009, Michael Jackson’s legacy has been polarizing. More than 10 years later, his name continues to make headlines, the most controversial in recent memory sparked by the release of the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland , which focused on the stories of choreographer Wade Robson and former child actor James Safechuck, who alleged that Jackson sexually abused them as children. (These are statements that his estate denies).
Oddly enough, the last reason Jackson’s name appeared in the news cycle has less to do with the “King of Pop” and more to do with an equally eccentric figure: Joe “Exotic” Maldanado-Passage, the flamboyant country singing. , big cat collecting star from the Netflix docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Insanity, who is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for orchestrating a murder-for-hire plot.
In one of The Tiger King In later episodes, it is revealed that Joe Exotic allegedly owned “seven alligators and a crocodile” that once belonged to Jackson and lived on his Neverland ranch. (Unfortunately, they all died in a 2015 fire at Exotic’s Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, which Exotic blamed on an unidentified arsonist.)
Whether or not the alligators belonged to Jackson (Exotic’s ex-husband John Finlay claims yes, although a spokesman for the Jackson estate couldn’t confirm it), has led us to wonder about a more famous member of Jackson’s sprawling animal. . menagerie: his lifelong companion, Bubbles the Chimp.
Who is Bubbles the Chimp?
For those born after Michael Jackson’s heyday, Bubbles was a chimpanzee that the singer adopted in the early 1980s. Born at a biomedical center in Texas in 1983, Bubbles was sold to Hollywood trainer Bob Dunn as a baby. According to CNN , first moving the chimpanzee to the Encino mansion that Jackson shared with his mother, and then to Jackson’s Neverland property. During his time with Jackson, the chimpanzee allegedly slept in a crib next to the pop star’s bed and ate at the dining room table, among other anthropomorphic behaviors.
Although Rolling Stone sadly referred to Michael Jackson’s Encino farm in 1987 as the “children’s paradise,” his coverage of Bubbles during the promotion of his seventh studio album Malo is a perfect encapsulation of the kind of media attention. that the chimpanzee usually receives. “[It] was Bubbles, not the pop star, who worked in the room, really the life of the party,” the magazine reported. “He posed for photos with some of the guests, did cartwheels, and did his own version of Michael’s moonwalk.”
Bubbles was also known to accompany Jackson on tour and during press tours; Arguably his most famous appearance took place in 1987, in which the megastar and his pet chimpanzee were filmed having tea with the Mayor of Osaka during a trip to Japan (via Michael Jackson Archives )
Unfortunately, Bubbles’ reign as Jackson’s favorite would not last.
This is where Michael Jackson’s former Bubbles mascot is today
As Bob Dunn noted in an interview with CNN , however, the bubbles became too difficult for Michael Jackson to show, showing rebellious and even hostile behavior, behavior typical of captive adult chimpanzees not found in suitable living environments. . “When they grow up … they become very strong: 170 pounds, three times the force of their weight,” Dunn said in 2009. “It is very difficult to have to remove them.”
Things came to a head in 2003 when Jackson decided to donate Bubbles to the Great Ape Center, an animal shelter in Wauchula, Florida, after fearing that his primate might harm his children.
Since then, Bubbles has enjoyed a happy and peaceful experience on the refuge’s 100-acre property, as said Patti Ragan, director of the Great Apes Center. CNN in 2009, one that Bubbles should have had from the start. “This was one of the richest and most successful people at the time he had Bubbles, and it wasn’t even appropriate for him to keep Bubbles after a certain age,” he said at the time.
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At the abundant age of 37, Bubbles continues to strengthen, according to the Great Apes Center website and Instagram page. Even if Michael Jackson’s legacy is complicated, we are happy that at least one member of his clique had a happy ending.