Archive » July 9, 2009
MOURNERS AND MEDIA LINGER AT NEVERLAND RANCH
By Lauren Crecelius, Staff Writer
Some remain hopeful for an event there; others propose a solution in
While the main herd of news media and mourning Michael Jackson fans migrated to Los Angeles for the memorial ceremony Tuesday, July 7, some stragglers remained behind at the gates to Neverland and watched the service on a television there.
Compared to the gathering of more than 1,000 people the first week of July — mostly various media representatives — the group at Neverland watching the memorial service numbered only in the dozens.
According to the Associated Press, some people still came to the sprawling ranch on the hopes the service would indeed be held in Los Olivos after all.
Rumors about a public memorial at the ranch off Figueroa Mountain Road started circulating soon after Jackson’s death June 25, even after the announcement it would be held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The news media frenzy continued outside Neverland through the Independence Day weekend on the off chance an event did take place at the pop star’s former home.
Erik Morsink, a reporter with the Netherlands’ Daily Telegraph, said July 2 he was sent to the valley when the news reports in Europe claimed Jackson would be brought to Neverland in a glass coffin.
“Everyone is still saying something is going on here,” Morsink said, nodding to the circling media.
The only other event he could think of that stirred such media interest is when Princess Diana died 12 years ago.
All around, “Mike check” could be heard in at least a dozen languages, as reporters from all over the world continued to make broadcasts in front of the gates shrouded in funeral wreaths.
For a while, it even seemed one group, Relevé Unlimited, would host a huge Michael Jackson festival on a nearby property for all the fans, to keep a local event. The festival idea, however, was quickly squashed by the end of July 1.
On July 2, 12-year-old Karson Avila, from Solvang, said he and his family had been camping on Figueroa for the three days. He had been moon walking for the news cameras.
“(We’ll stay out here) until the body comes,” he said. “They said he’s going to the Staples Center, but you can’t always believe what they say. … Michael loved this place. I think he’d like to be buried here like Graceland.”
Concerns that Neverland could be converted into a Graceland of the west have been circulating throughout the valley. While owner Tom Barrack has not announced his intentions for the property, a few valley residents came up with an idea to make it an attraction in Las Vegas.
Retired venture capitalists Bob Field and John Poitras say they think Neverland should be taken apart, transported to Las Vegas, reassembled, and set up as a Michael Jackson museum. The theme park, Fields reckons, could even be reconstructed for kids.
“Besides being better for the valley, creating the Graceland-like Neverland tourist attraction in Las Vegas instead of in Los Olivos is a 10 to 50 times better deal for the Barrack and the Michael Jackson families,” Field said in an e-mail.
Field said having the attraction in Vegas would be easier, faster and cheaper for permitting and tourism purposes, and it could sustain that many more visitors.
Also, he said, there could be a great musical show featuring Jackson’s greatest hits accompanying the attraction.
Whatever happens, Neverland will not be turned into a permanent Graceland attraction overnight.
But the stragglers remaining at the gate suggest some still believe a more immediate event may still be held at the ranch.
Flowers, candles, pictures and letters remain piled around the entrance, and up the road, an unmanned sign still waves in the wind reading, “We are waiting for you, Michael.”
Reach Lauren Crecelius at email@example.com.