Somewhat [I have regrets on how my life has been]. […] When I was really little, you know, 11 or 12, I was in the contract with Motown and I would have to go to the recording studio, I had to go… and make these albums… Because the summer tour was right around the corner, and right across the street from the recording studio was a ballpark. And I could hear the kids, you know, the roar of the crowd and playing and catching ball and having fun and playing tennis. And some of those times I so passionately wanted to just go over there and just play a little bit, and not go to the recording studio and sing. Just to, you know, have some fun with the kids… And I couldn’t… […]
People say, ‘Why is he always with children?’ Well, you know, I was raised in a world with adults. When kids were playing and [were] in bed asleep, I was doing clubs. […] We worked, we worked, we worked, there was no Christmas, there’d be no birthdays… So, I’m compensating, nature made, made sure that I compensate for the loss. So, when you come behind my gates, you’ll see an amusement park, you’ll see animals, you’ll see everything that I’ve never got to do, there’s candy everywhere… It’s fun.”
Michael Jackson in “Take Two: The Footage You Were Never Meant To See”, 2002
"As Michael built Neverland Valley Ranch, the attention he paid to quality and detail was amazing. Music, of course, played a vital role.
If you walk through the various sections of a Disney park, you’ll hear the music and sounds change to reflect the mood of that particular location. We did the same thing at Neverland, using music and sound effects to create ambience for the guests. We even had different line ups of music and effects for day and night time.
Each song was chosen by Michael personally. He would listen to my ideas, and often agree, except when I suggested some of his own songs. That was not allowed."
"The “Ornate Gate” was an incredibly complex project. The “Neverland” sign was filled with fiber optics, which had to come to life when a car approached. The entire area was filled with concert-grade EAW speakers, and (to the best of my memory) some 20,000 watts of power. Ironically, this was the largest music system at the ranch. Michael wanted it to be loud enough to “shake a bus”, in his words. It was. The little building on the left was built primarily to hold all of the electronics, amplifiers, control system, etc. The gate – in it’s own way – was a visual, mechanical and music work of art. When we finished the gate installation Michael came out to hear it. We cranked it nearly as loud as it would go. Michael was not capable of hearing great music not dancing, so we go our own private dance of gratitude from the greatest dancer on the planet – a moment I will never forget."
Brad Sundberg, music ingeneer www.inthestudiowithmj.com
“The scenery was quite breath-taking…never before had I seen land and property so beautiful. The lakes, the bridges all set amongst the sweetest flower gardens from which classical music rose out into the summer air.”
Adrian Grant, first journalist to visit Neverland, 1990
"I wanted to have a place that I could create everything that I never had as a child. So, you see rides. You see animals. There's a movie theater. I was always on tour, traveling. You know? And I never got a chance to do those things. So, I compensated for the loss..... I can't go into a park. I can't go to Disneyland, as myself. I can't go out and walk down the street. There's crowds, and bumper to bumper cars. And so, I create my world behind my gates. Everything that I love is behind those gates. We have elephants, and giraffes, and crocodiles, and every kind of tigers and lions. And we have bus loads of kids, who don't get to see those things. They come up sick children, and enjoy it. They enjoy it in a pure, loving, fun way. […]" "So my heart go out to those children; I feel their pain."
Michael Jackson, in 60 Minutes TV Interview with Ed Bradley, 2003
"Neverland Valley was Michael’s homage to the children of the world, especially those that were ill, underprivileged or neglected. Michael wanted the children to have the time of their life and to forget their troubles, at least for the time they were at the ranch. Michael had a hand in everything that was done at the ranch. His attention to detail was extraordinary. He had every ride in the Midway specially modified to protect children who had physical impairments. The people who managed the rides were sent to Kansas City every six months to practice extraction techniques for children who were physically challenged. I was happy to donate whatever I could for such a noble project."
David Nordahl, artist and Michael´s friend
"…a magical, beautiful, peaceful land where dreams did once come true for tens of thousands of people…children and grown-ups alike."
Dieu Et Mon Droit
"The first time I went to Neverland, of course it was exciting. I was over the moon with excitement. But you pull in then you drive for a while. And then you start to see it. It's just beautiful. And as you get closer, get out of your car, you start to hear the music. And it just kind of awakening something in you, like a child. You feel like a child. It's beautiful. And the sounds and the smells. It's just an experience that I will never forget. Michael gave me the tour. And of course he took me on the train, he showed me the lake, the zoo, the rides, the theater, the dance room, of course. That's where we spent a lot of time. And he just kind of showed me everything. I was just amazed and I thought wow… He's built a paradise here for himself."
LaVelle Smith Jr. in his documentary The Man Behind The Dance www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D1EPRtNjgo
"When there were no strangers in Neverland, I saw Michael in a completely different light: in jeans and a shirt, without makeup and with a beard to do. I once came to him in new clothes - tennis shoes, sweatshirts and a hooded jacket, because at that time I felt almost at home with him. When Michael saw me, he exclaimed in surprise, "Wow, Dieter, that sounds great !", because he'd only seen me in a formal suit and tie before. But in Neverland, it was just different. I was infected with this cheerful mood. And it was possible to do what adults, in general, don't do. Among all these toys, merry-go-rounds, railways and amusement parks, you yourself become a child. Sometimes a question came into my head: What are you, are you really doing this? But then I got into ATV again and drove with Michael through the huge property, and besides, it always appeared in front of me. He was a very good driver. As soon as he left the ranch, he again became Michael Jackson - a star. He had to "work" as a star, and Michael took this role to perfection."
"I don't (get to have fun outside of my property). I go off property sometimes, but not all the time. I create my own world behind the gates because I can't go to the local movie theatre down the street or the local park down the street or go pick up ice cream at the market down at the corner store. So you want to create that world behind the gates. That's what I like to do. It's not just for me. I can share with my family or friends or whoever I do. […] I created Neverland as a home for myself and my children and it was created simply, it was almost like it was done subconsciously […] For me and sharing with others. It gave me a chance to do what I couldn’t do when I was little. We couldn’t go to movie theaters. (…) We couldn’t do all those fun things. We were on tour. We were working hard. And we did enjoy it. But this allowed me to have a place behind the gates where the entire world I love is there. […] I’ve traveled the world over 8 times. I do as many hospitals and orphanages as I do concerts. But, of course, it’s not covered (by the press). That’s not why I do it, for coverage. I do it because it’s from my heart. And there are so many children in the city who haven’t seen the mountains, who haven’t been on a carousel, who haven’t pet a horse or a llama, never seen them, so if I can open my gates and see that bliss, an explosion of screaming laughter from the children and they run on the rides, I say ‘Thank you, God.’ I feel I’ve won God’s smile of approval, because I’m doing something that brings joy and happiness to other people."
Michael Jackson in an interview with Geraldo Rivera, 2005
“When you come to my house, you'll see I have rides, I have a movie theatre, I have animals. I love animals - elephants and giraffes and lions and tigers and bears, all kinds of snakes. I get to do all those wonderful things that I didn't get to do when I was little, because we didn't have those things. We didn't have Christmas. We didn't have sleepovers. We didn't have school, we had private school when we were touring. I didn't go to a state school. We tried it for two weeks and it didn't work. It was very difficult.“
Michael Jackson in “Gold” magazine interview, 2002
“What’s fascinating to me about you is that obviously you have this childlike aura about you and I see children with you and they play with you like you are one of them. BUT A CHILD DID NOT DO THIS! A CHILD DID NOT PUT THIS TOGETHER…THIS IS MAGNIFICENT. These are no Grandma rides!”
"(I created it) for myself and the children. Every three weeks we have terminally ill children that come to… [the house, from charitable organizations such as Make A Wish Foundation, Dream Street, Starlight etc]. […], And these are sick children, children with cancer. And I entertain them. And they come here to enjoy themselves. […] It brings out the child that lives in everybody. […] I love rides and things like that and I share it with the children. […] And we'll have like a hundred bald-headed children, they all have cancer, and they're all running around. And they are enjoying themselves and it makes me cry happy tears that I was able to do this for them, you know. (It) makes me so pleased inside. […] We have children that come who are fed intravenously...they are very sick, bedridden. They can't sit up and these beds, they are hospital beds, you push a button, you go up or you go down and they are able to watch. We have a magic show, we show the current films, there's cartoons, anything so that they can escape to that world of magic that they don't have a chance to experience, the world I was deprived of when I was little. […] The animals are everywhere [here in Neverland].They’re in their habitats. They’re all over the ranch. And they come out in the day time and they play and jump around, they have their own playground and area. I find in animals the same thing I find so wonderful in children. That purity, that honesty, where they don't judge you, they just want to be your friend. I think that is so sweet.”
Michael Jackson in interview with Oprah Winfrey, 1993
“If you’re wondering why I love super-soakers so much, it’s because if you come to Neverland, it’s a rule that you are bound to get wet. Either be thrown in the pool, or you have a water balloon fight or a super-soaker fight. And I love all of the above. […] My favorite thing to play, if you call it a sport, it’s a sport, is a water balloon fight. I love the way they splatter when they hit! I’ve never lost a water balloon fight. I’m the Michael Jordan of water balloon fights. […] Neverland appeals to the child inside every man, woman and child. It’s a place where I feel like you can return to your childhood. You find grown-ups, you know, doing things they hadn’t done since they were like 10 years old. And it’s a – just a fun, wonderful place to be; it’s so much to do [here], I’ve always wanted to have a place where you’re just busy all day and there is just unlimited space to go on quads and mountains and horse-back and all kind of fun things. So, it’s a… it’s just a fun place. I love it. And I will always love it. And I will never ever sell Neverland. Neverland is me… you know? It’s – it represents the totality of who I am. It really does… I love Neverland.”
Michael Jackson in “Private Home Movies” 2003
"It's just a serene and tranquil place to just relax and enjoy yourself and leave your troubled mind and things that iritate you in your heart, behind. Once you enter the gates,, you're just in a very wonderful, quiet, loving place. There's lakes, rolling hills and grass and trees and rides and trains and a movie theatre. It's 3,000 acres.
I get to compensate for the loss in my childhood that I never got to enjoy childlike things, but it's for everybody and we have handicapped, kids with cancer, leukemia kids, Make A Wish Foundation, Dream Street...We've been doing this for, 9, 10, 11 years. I did it before at my Mother's house in Encino. We never wave a flag, we never try to get press for it. I do it quietly. By the busloads they come. We don't allow cameras or video. I do it quietly because real charity is from the heart, you know? Not to say, 'look at me, look what I'm doing.' I do it quietly. I do it from the heart. I've done this for many, many, many years."
Michael Jackson in radio interview with Steve Harvey, 2002
"It´s just a place to make families, to bring them together, to bring people together through love and playful spirit and nature. It makes families closer, Neverland. It´s healing.
Micahel Jackson in MJ Tapes
"There are grown-ups who come to Neverland and they say to me: ´You know, I haven´t done the thing I have done here in years... you can let your guard down and be a child again.´ I say: ´That´s what Neverland is for. To return to your innocence. To have fun.´
Michael Jackson and Marlon Brando…
I've thought about whether there were any similarities between Michael and my dad, and I cannot think of a single one. You've heard opposites attract? I think that explains their friendship. They had absolutely nothing in common, but when you got them together, you couldn't tear them apart. He loved my dad, and they spent many days together at Dad's house and at Neverland. They were very close.
Michael was instrumental helping my father through the last few years of his life. For that I will always be indebted to him. Dad had a hard time breathing in his final days, and he was on oxygen much of the time. He loved the outdoors, so Michael would invite him over to Neverland. Dad could name all the trees there, and the flowers, but being on oxygen it was hard for him to get around and see them all, it's such a big place. So Michael got Dad a golf cart with a portable oxygen tank so he could go around and enjoy Neverland. They'd just drive around - Michael Jackson, Marlon Brando, with an oxygen tank in a golf cart.
"The first time I took my father to the ranch, he was cranky. He's borderline diabetic and all we brought up were sweets, so he was complaining. We were in the arcade and it was blaring loud in there from the jukebox. Now im deaf, so if it was loud for me, it had to be mind numbing for everyone else. So i left and sat w/ my feet in the pool. My dad followed but then said he was going to go and get some water. After a half an hour, he still wasn't back and when I went back to the arcade, there he was, playing a video game with a big cheesy grin on his face. "pow, i got u! POW POW" omg it was hilarious.
Then we went to the train station. It was full of pastries and candy. My father, the 'diabetic', went to the Good Humor chests (they had them all over the ranch) and got two ice cream bars for each hand, stuffed some candy in his pockets and waited for the train. After we ate dinner, we went to watch a movie. Instead of using the popcorn bucket for...popcorn (LOL) he filled it up w/ sweets and went to go sit down.
William B. Van Valin II MD via Twitter
“It was unreal, like you were on a different planet. Neverland is designed to make you feel like you don’t have any responsibilities.”
“He (Michael) goes up in this tree and writes poetry. In the day, he’d be sitting over in the tree, and he’d be just Michael.”
Leon Jones, an artist who worked with Michael
"If you were coming down the slide at Neverland, this was your view. The treehouse castle was built to cover all of the electrical panels and Brad’s music racks. Michael had it fully carpeted and installed a phone, small TV, and chairs. Between the rides, you can see statues of mushrooms and an elephant. These were covered in lights and we filled them with speakers, so at night the park was alive with lights and music."
Brad Sundberg inthestudiowithmj.com/
“He really did build Neverland for kids, the children of the world. There’s just no way that all the children of the world could experience Neverland, but I will say, and this is something I get very…almost passionate about…I have seen it first hand, when Michael did have kids there, you know, sick kids, Make-a-wish kids, Neverland stood on its own two feet in terms of that. This was an amazing place, but on top of that, Michael gave his time, and he would be out there giving the tour. He’d be driving the golf cart and telling jokes with the kids. He would be in the middle of a water balloon fight. He would be on the rides, you know, telling the operator to go faster and faster.
It’s one thing to build something and then say, ‘Okay, everyone, come and enjoy it. I’m too busy.’ But, it’s another to roll up your sleeves and be out there in the midst of it and that’s really what I saw. I mean I would be there, and you know, I have four daughters, I have four beautiful, healthy, awesome daughters. I can’t imagine the pain that a parent must feel when their child is sick and there’s nothing that anybody can do about it, but, Michael…how do I put this…that’s a difficult place to go. It’s easy for us to pull back and go, ‘Yeah, that’s too bad there are sick kids in the hospital and I’m going to be over here doing my thing.’ But, Michael would go to those kids and Michael would open up his home and I was just heartbroken…I mean I see little girls and little boys in wheelchairs being lifted into rides by their parents and by Michael.
Michael had a chariot built into the carousel for kids that weren’t strong enough to sit on a horse or on one of the animals, so you could just put them on a bench and they could be on the ride, but not quite as vigorous as to hold onto a horse. That’s the stuff that…that’s real, that’s real life. That little girl that’s on the ride in front of me is probably not going to be with us in 3 or 4 weeks and this is her final wish…to be at Neverland with Michael. That’s a lot of weight to carry around and that’s the kind of stuff that…and…
I’ve worked with plenty of people that have a lot of money, blowing it up their nose, blowing it on parties. And, Michael…to experience Neverland for what it really was and see his dream come to life and to see the impact that it had on kids and families. I will always have an enormous respect for Michael, and I’m extremely proud to be part of the team that helped bring that thing to reality. It was like no place else on earth.”
“Our trip to Neverland was the highlight of this friendship. Michael had everything a child’s heart could possibly desire. There was a huge funfair with all the rides you could possibly wish for but no queuing or paying necessary. There were stands filled with chocolates, cotton candy and ice cream to be taken at our leisure, no need to ask for permission! There was a cinema with a huge bed in it, where we watched the Sound of Music stuffing our mouth with handfuls of popcorn. We went on quad bike tours around the countryside. We played with Bubbles the chimp and the other animals in the zoo. But the highlight of all was the super soaker park where we played for hours with Michael. He loved throwing water bombs and super soaking one another. He really turned into a kid. He didn’t mind his hair getting drenched and the make-up he was wearing washing off, he was enjoying himself and that was that. We were young enough to enjoy the children’s paradise but old enough to really remember and realize how special this actually was”.
Princess Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis, a German journalist, author, and member of the German princely House of Thurn und Taxis. Based in London, she has been a style editor-at-large for Vogue magazine since 2012
THE MAGIC OF MICHAEL JACKSON'S NEVERLAND:
“I cried and cried. It’s beautiful there. It still has good energy. I think it should be restored to how it used to be so that the children who couldn’t have a childhood could have fun there. That was his goal— like kids in a hospital. They should restore all the rides and everything. As soon as I’m an adult, I’m on it. Count on it."
Paris, Michael´s daughter, visited the ranch in 2011, and this is what she told the Mail on Sunday's Event magazine of the trip two years later
“Michael wisely created his own world in which to preserve the most honest parts of his identity."
It’s sad that #michaeljackson is being painted in a negative light when he was the EXACT opposite. He opened Neverland Ranch, his home, to my friends and I MANY times & made sure his staff spoiled us, feast us with elaborate meals, desserts, etc. ALWAYS. He was BEYOND GENEROUS.— Myra Hissami (@mhissami) February 26, 2019
“It’s not so wild to think about having animals for healing or creating a sanctuary for animals, and a beautiful place for children who are unhealthy or otherwise would never have the privilege of being in such a place.”
Violet Gaitan-Silva, Head of Security, remembers Michael Jackson:
“I worked for Michael Jackson for 16 years. Since I stopped working for him, I haven’t been back to Neverland. I spent my time there protecting him...”
“The most remarkable outcome from working at Neverland is how much we became a family. In working with him, he made me understand that being able to give to other people is not something everyone can do. Most people don’t know that Michael took so much time to every detail and the purpose of Neverland. The message was “You are very special” for each visitor of Neverland. We represented him and the love and care that he wanted people to feel.So many children visited who had terminal illnesses and it was very touching to see them suddenly come to life. Each group brought their own energy and left us with a sense of gratitude for spending time with them.
We were doing big and small events on a weekly basis whether Michael was at home or not. Michael had kids visiting the ranch for 6 to 7 months out of the year. It was amazing to see disadvantaged kids spending the day being able to do whatever they wanted.
Michael also did a lot of good things for the local people. There was a school across the street and let the trainers of the zoo take animals there, as a show and tell for the kids. They could touch the snakes or parrots. He also did this for other schools in Santa Barbara.
Very few times did Michael come out to greet event guests, if he did, the day would suddenly become about him and he avoided attention. He wanted the children to enjoy themselves. He was so charismatic that he could have had ants following him.
To be a part of providing a safe place to raise his children and seeing him as a parent was just the most amazing thing. How he cared for them and they loved him so much. It was a privilege to be a part of that, making his home safe for him and his family.
I would say to him when he returned home after a longer absence, “Welcome home, Neverland missed you!” Neverland was a living thing that required him, that missed him,needed his touch, his warmth and thoughts... he used to give me a smile then.
His vision was our purpose and mission. He was the heartbeat of Neverland and he did breathe life into it.
He wasn’t this eccentric person everybody thought he was. It was never hard working for him bc of his generosity. He was down to earth, funny and spontaneous person.
Michael drove his golf cart to one of the two schools across the road of Neverland and he would play basket with the students, hang out and all of a sudden he calls us and there is this huge group of kids coming into the ranch spending a couple of hours at Neverland having fun.
His message is timeless, I think, and will go on forever. In all he did and achieved, he was always spreading a good message. He could have given up many times, when he was publicly scrutinized, but he kept that good fight up even till the end.
After his passing, I realized how much being around him, being influenced by him and his generosity, changed me in a profound way. Realizing his message, which was the power of love, is really the only way to get through things. I whis I had the chance to thank him for this, but there was never an opportunity to have a personal exchange to express gratitude from one person to another. But maybe he did know how I felt. I am sure he did. If I could say anything now, it would be, “I love you, thank you for being my friend.”
Violet Gaitan-Silva, “A Life For LOVE” book
And memories from Brad Sundberg
You know that old saying, "Can't see the forest for the trees?" This just happened... This morning I was sitting in my office reviewing a few emails and a guy from France wrote me a note asking about Neverland, and the music we played at the Ranch.
As you may know, at my bonus seminar event "The Tour Of Neverland" I tell the entire story of Neverland and how the we created the "Soundscape"(crickets, birds, frogs + music) that guests would hear at the Ranch. I have shared the song titles and offered the "Sounds Of Neverland" to my seminar guests for some time.
Anyway, the gentleman (Marc) who wrote me the note mentioned that I have been talking about "The Neverland Collection Vol II", and he was curious about "Vol I". Hmmmm..... Volume I.
Volume I. (Brad thinking...) It HONESTLY hadn't even occurred to me that I spent so much time talking about Vol II without as much as a mention of Vol I.
I wonder.... I pulled out my trusty old CD case and opened it up, flipped through a few pages... and there it was: "The Neverland Collection Vol I". It was beat up and scratched, so I gave it a quick cleaning and popped into a CD player.
Then the music started.
Oh man... here we go.
Claire de Lune...
My Christmas Tree... Song after song, memory after memory.
I was telling one of my seminar groups in Paris how irritating it is that Neverland has been tainted by this stupid movie, but the movie is also being dismantled bit by bit.
The music plays on, reminding me of the faces of the guests, workers and staff at the Ranch.
Fantasia On Greensleeves...
Carol Of The Bells... This music is part of Neverland.
Many hard working, good people were part of making the Ranch the amazing place that it was.
Arabesque No 1 in E Major...
Somewhere In My Memory...
So Long, Farewell... Countless beautiful events and memories happened at the Ranch.
So many visitors, so much laughter.
Rondo in D Major...
He opened his eyes and looked at me and said, "Doesn't music ever effect you that way Brad? Where you can't just listen, but you have to respond somehow?" I can't remember my exact words, but being a slightly awkward Swedish kid I likely tried to be cool and laugh it off.
Music has a way to doing that - but you already know that.
Brad Sundberg, April 2019: www.instagram.com/inthestudiowithmj/
“Michael wanted a camera present while he was doing his last leg, in the place he called home for more than 20 years; the Neverland ranch.
This was three months after he was acquitted of child sexual abuse in 2005; he left never to return.
This was the last picture taken of him there”.
JONATHAN EXLEY, photographer
Books about Neverland that I recommend:
* Michael Jackson - In Search Of Neverland
by Gloria Rhoads Berlin
* Maker of Dreams: Creating Michael Jackson's "Neverland Valley Park"
by Robert E. "Rob" Swinson