Article from Rolling Stone, January 9th, 1992 - by Michael Goldberg
The Seven Dwarfs are singing. Their voices are floating out of speakers hidden among the trees and lush flora surrounding Michael Jackson's mansion in Neverland Valley - his 2700-acre, $22 million oasis in the Santa Ynez Valley, an hour north of Santa Barbara, California. "Michael's very own Xanadu," as his friend director John Landis puts it.
At Neverland Jackson has created a secluded and secure environment far from businessmen, attorneys, managers, music-television-channel VIPs and even members of his immediate family. Here he can stand in front of his house and the only sounds to hear are the birds in the oak and sycamore trees and, of course, the Seven Dwarfs. And if he chooses to gaze past the expansive lake that stretches out in front of his three-story Tudoresque country home, past the lush green lawns and neatly manicured flower beds, the bronze statues of young boys beating tambourines or playing toy accordions, he sees simply a peaceful hillside dotted with oaks.
In any direction, as far as the eye can see, lies Michael Jackson's Magic Kingdom. "Sure he's a little afraid of people," says choreographer Vince Paterson. "When you have people that, from the the time you're a little kid, want you, they want pieces of you, they want your clothes, they want your hair - you're going to get nervous around people. But here at Neverland, protected by armed guards that patrol the grounds around the clock, Jackson doesn't have to be around people. And he never has to grow up.
Though Jackson is now a thirty-three-year-old man, his associates and friends say he still has the interests and enthusiasms of a child, and at Neverland he has created the ultimate child's playground. "Being with Michael is like being in Santa's workshop," says Paterson.
Santa has been working overtime at Neverland.
One can ride the turn-of-the-century C.P. Huntington amusement-park-style train that holds several dozen passengers. Hop on board and it will take you from the main house out past an Indian village (teepees, full-size replicas of Native Americans, a totem pole and campfire), a two-story fort (complete with hefty artillery that shoots water) and an amusement park (including a carousel with custom-made, hand-painted animals, a Ferris wheel, a three-story high slide and a heart-stopping ride called the Zipper).
Continue and you will see the $2 million-plus Neverland Cinema complex (where Cape Fear is playing tonight, according to signs posted at every stop along the train's route).
Walk in and fest your eyes on the candy counter, filled with every kind of popcorn and confection imaginable. On either side of the large main projection room you will find separate glassed-in vieving rooms, complete with beds for the children who are ill.
Ride past the zoo, with its horses and zebras, buffalo and chimpanzees, ostriches and swans, deer and llamas. And the Zonkey (a cross between a zebra and a donkey). And let's not forget about the three giraffes. Or go boating in the lake. You can choose between a swan boat, a canoe and a red dinghy. Perhaps you are up for playing some kind of electronic game. The rec building contains two floors of arcade games ranging from Sega's Time Traveller hologram unit and Galaxy Force Version 2 to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and something called Ghosttown.
At night, Neverland looks like it has been sprinkled with a kind of high-tech fairy dust. Out by the amusement park for instance, Jackson has had white lights installed up the trunk and on the branches of the oak trees. As these lights flash on and off, glittering trees appear to materialize before one's eyes, only to vanish.
A winding yellow-brick road (with recessed gold-colored lights) leads to the amusement park, which is lit against the black sky. Back at the house, the lake, the statues and the wood and stone buildings themselves look like set pieces from a fairy tale.
Amid this magical environment, Jackson will sometimes get in the outdoor Jacuzzi, remove a large piece of stone that conceals the TV and VCR and, sitting beneath the stars, watch one of the hundreds of videos that are stored in his tape library upstairs in the main house.
Jackson frequently has children over to play. According to his spokesperson, Bob Jones (who first worked with Jackson at Motown when the singer was a member of the Jackson 5), these regularly include "bus-loads" of underprivileged and terminally ill kids (such as the late Ryan White), as well as young personal friends of the superstar.
"When the children are here, sometimes they get so excited they just can't go to sleep," says Lee Tucker, who helped design Jackson's movie theater and serves as his projectionist. "I'll get a call at 2:00 a.m. sometimes: 'Lee can you show such-and-such movie?' Neverland isn't about kids going to sleep at a certain time. The kids really run the place when they are here."
Jackson is extremely fond of children. Those who know him believe that one reason he can relax with kids is that he truly believes they like him for himself, not because he is a big star. As one associate observes: "If you're under three feet tall, you can have complete access to Michael Jackson."
Jackson's house is exquisitely furnished. The main floor includes and oak-paneled library stocked with rare editions of classics by Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and dozens of others. The spacious living room houses a Bosendorfer custom-made rosewood piano and numerous rare art pieces, among them a raymond Bigot sculpture of a rooster and chickens. There is a roomy den with Bouquet Canyon stone fireplace, a fully equipped professional kitchen and a spacious dining room with its own fireplace. Down a hall is Jackson's bedroom, which is off-limits to most visitors; it looks out onto a garden enclosed by a six-foot-high stone wall.
While the main floor would make an English lord feel right at home, the upstairs is, like the grounds of the estate, filled with stuff that children dream about. There is a doll bedroom, a large room with a canopied bed that is crowded with dozens of dolls. Many more dolls, some with sad faces, some smiling, peer at you from every nook and cranny. A three-story, elaborately furnished doll house containing miniature figures sits on one side of the room, "Wizard of Oz" plates and jack-in-the-boxes, each featuring Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man or one of the other primary characters, have been placed on shelves. There is an old-fashioned typewriter with a piece of paper in it on which someone has typed: "And all we want for Christmas..."
Sitting on an end table is Shirley Temple Black's autobiography, "Child Star."
Another room is jammed with children's games and toys. There are coloring books and crayons, a gun that shoots soap bubbles. A table full of trucks and cars and spaceships. In front of a window stand life-size cutouts of Batman and the Joker. Simpsons characters are everywhere.
A narrow staircase leads up to the train room, half of which is filled with an elaborate Lionel set. In addition to the train on the track, there are more in unopened boxes on the floor. Another part of the room is covered with race-car tracks. Standing against the walls are larger than life Bart simpsons cardboard cutouts and Roger Rabbit displays, along with an E.T. video display packed with copies of the tape. Peter Pan and Mickey Mouse and Bambi quilts lie on the floor. "The kids have slumber parties up here," says one of Jackson's employees as he takes me through the house.
Ironically, as Neverland becomes even more magical and dreamlike, Jackson himself can't often enjoy it. For most of the three years he's owned it, mich of his time has been spent in Los Angeles sequestered in more than a half-dozen darkened recording studios. Now that the album is done, he'll be busy for months, cranking out videos for the various songs on Dangerous.
He also has plans to star in his first feature film, tentatively called 'Midknight', for Sony's Columbia Pictures and will hit the road to support Dangerous by the middle of 1992. Touring plans have not been formalized, but it's clear that Jackson, in his drive to stay on top of the entertainment world, will want to take his time and make the show as spectacular as possible.
"The plan is for him to start work on his film," says Bob Jones, who for the past three years has been working for the star's own company, MJJ Productions. "But with Michael you never know. That could certainly change. Since I've been here, Michael has been in complete control. He knows what works for him and for the public. He's much more fixed in his ideas as to how he wants to do things."
One thing is for sure, Jackson won't be spending much time at Neverland lying by the pool. For as everyone in the world knows by now, the Michael Jackson show is, once again, open for business.
I bet many of you have wondered what is behind the many windows of the main house at Neverland Ranch. Is it the kitchen? The living room? And what is next to it? How did Michael get into his upstairs bedroom? Lots of questions that were hard to answer even if you studied the available pictures and videos meticulously.
Maybe some of you have even seen the two small floor plans available on the Architectural Digest homepage and wished they were bigger, so you could study all the tiny details?
All your questions are about to be answered as I bring you for the first time ever online (at least as far as I know) the Neverland floor plans - supersize and complete with furniture!
Just click the pictures, and you will see!
Notes: Although I am convinced that I have got the majority of it right, there were a few minor details that I could not quite make out. So, if you have corrections, please let me know. I want this to be as accurate as possible.
The floor plans are my work and consequently also my property. So, ask before you lend them.
The word had spread. The people waited. Rock's reigning monarch and the Boss—Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen—were about to meet for the first time, and 25 members and guests of the Jackson entourage had wedged into the reception room of Jackson's suite in Philadelphia to gawk. It felt like history.
Springsteen, 35, entered first, wearing boots, faded jeans, a short-sleeved shirt rolled up to free his biceps, stubble on his chin and a red kerchief knotted around his neck, as if his body needed a tourniquet to cut off all that energy on nonworking days. Then came Jackson, 26, fresh from a postconcert shower. He wore a pink button-down shirt over a white T-shirt, dusty rose pants so long they accordioned at the bottom and blue slippers with his initials stitched in gold. He seemed like a friendly, rich little schoolboy curious to know something about the world of a working man.
A space cleared around them, and both remained standing.
"Hi," said Jackson, extending his hand. "I just read a story about you in PEOPLE magazine. It was very good."
"Oh, thanks," grinned Springsteen. "I really enjoyed seeing your show tonight."
"I hear you play long concerts. How long do you go?"
"Oh, about three hours."
"How do you do it? Do you take a break?"
"Yeah, about a half hour. It works out pretty good, I guess."
A camera clicked, eyes strained, ears tilted. Jackson's eyes flitted about the room, never pausing long enough to see. He seemed anxious to think of another question, the way he seemed anxious onstage at the end of a song to sing another song. Springsteen sucked on an ice cube.
"Did you write that song Fire [sung by the Pointer Sisters]?" Jackson asked.
"Yeah, that was a quick one. Only took me about 10 minutes. But I don't write when I'm on the road. Can you?"
"No," said Jackson. "There's too much going on."
His hands fidgeted for a home, folding in front of him, then connecting behind him, then looping over the unused belt loops of his pants. A reggae song came on the television nearby, and he started a dance step, then stopped himself.
Couldn't he simply ask Springsteen back into his empty bedroom so they could talk like two normal human beings, maybe discover that they both loved watching reruns of The Honeymooners? Or was the anxiety of intimacy perhaps greater for him than the anxiety of holding center stage?
During the lull Michael seemed to be looking for a prop. "My secretary, Shari, wants you for Christmas," he said, putting his arm around her waist and pulling her between them.
"What's wrong with Thanksgiving?" laughed Springsteen, as the three posed for Jackson's personal photographer.
"Do you talk to people during your concerts?" Jackson asked. "I read that you do."
"Yeah, I tell stories. People like that, I've learned. They like to hear your voice do something besides singing. They go wild when you just...talk."
"Oh, I could never do that. It feels like people are learning something about you they shouldn't know."
"I kinda know what you mean—the songs are a protection. But I remember once I played for a Vietnam veterans' benefit and I had to go onstage to introduce this guy who was a president or something, and I didn't have my guitar. Man, I was shaking. I realized it was the first time in 15 years I'd been onstage without it, and I've never been so nervous in my life."
Jackson's voice grew softer, so no one could hear. "Do you like talking in front of all these people? It feels kind of strange."
"Yeah, it is strange, isn't it?"
Jackson took a deep breath, then took a small step toward the door. Springsteen's boots remained planted. He broke the pause. "How long did you rehearse for this tour?" he asked.
"Oh, one or two months."
"There's so many cues in that show."
"Yes, there is a lot of technology.... We'll finish up in December. Then we're going to do a movie."
"Yeah, I heard about that—with Steven Spielberg?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I just spoke on the phone with him today," Jackson said. "It's not certain just what the movie will be yet, but it will be with him."
Pause. Jackson's hands rapped the rhythm of the reggae song on his thighs, his eyes hopping like sparrows.
"I read you go right to sleep after you perform. You can't really do that, can you?" Jackson asked.
"No, I feel good after a concert, because I feel like I've worked hard. I stay up till about 4. What do you do?"
"I watch TV or read," said Jackson. "I can't go to sleep."
"Don't you ever go out?" Springsteen asked.
"I can't. Too many people would bother me.... How did you decide to let PEOPLE magazine do that story on you?"
"I just rolled the dice," said Springsteen, blowing on his fist and tossing imaginary dice.
"Oh," said Jackson, shaking his head. "I could never trust anyone enough to do that."
He took another fleeting scan of the room, his bank of questions emptied. "Well, I think I'm gonna slide on out now," he said quietly. "It was real nice meeting you." He thrust out his hand quickly and walked through the door to another part of the suite.
Springsteen lingered for a moment. A little earlier he had seen Jackson do things for more than an hour and a half onstage that appeared almost effortless. But this was something Springsteen seemed more familiar with, 15 minutes of a human being struggling.
"You know," he said, spitting an ice cube back into his cup, "he's just a real nice guy."
"The peaceful Chumash Indians welcomed the Spanish upon their arrival in the vally in 1542. In 1804, when the Mission Santa Ines was established on a bluff overlooking the Santa Ynez River, the hunter/gatherer tribe yielded their old way of life to agiculture and Catholicism. Decendants of the Chumash still live on the Santa Ynez Indian reservation.
The Spanish government rewarded and colonized through a system of land grants. The Mexicans continued the system after their rule was established in 1822 and divided up the Valley with sixteen such grants. It was the beginning of California's much romanticized era of Dons and Caballeros, which the Santa Ynez Valley experienced fully. Fiestas, which lasted for days if not for weeks, attracted Californians, who rode great distances astride silver saddles to dance day and night.
Spanish influence remains, but has long been superseded by American settlement. The Valley offered land for agriculture, cattle, horses and sheep. A mini-gold rush brought no profit, but some quicksilver mining did. Townships sprang into existence. But the history of the Valley was dramatically affected by the railroad that never came.
In 1876, the Southern Pacific completed the Los Angeles to Santa Barbara leg of a proposed coastal route to san Francisco. Travelers continuing north from Santa Barbara took the stage up though Gaviota Pass and the Valley. In 1887, the tiny Pacific Coast Railroad ran a narrow gauge line some sixty miles south to Los Olivos in the Valley where it connected to the Santa Barbara Stage. It was assumed that the Southern Pacific would close the gap over the stage route. Instead it chose a more coastal path, by-passing both the Pacific Coast Railway and the Santa Ynez Valley. The result left the Valley outside the stream of onrushing "progress" and, fortuitously for today's residents who cherish those qualities, left a tranquil and unspoiled enclave.
Today the Valley serves host to some of the most respected wine growing environments. Wineries such as Zaca Mesa, Firestone, J. Carey and numerous others have produced more than their share of award winning vintages.
Prestigious arabian and thoroughbred farm dot the valley, another facet to the present day richness of the Valley..."
Located in the middle of these tranquil settings was also the Sycamore Valley Ranch and what you have just read was in fact the first few paragraphs in the real estate brochure from1988 when a very certain Mr. Jackson bought the property.
It was not his first encounter with the ranch. In fact he had visited it years earlier - in 1983 to be precise - when he shot parts of the music video for the song "Say, Say, Say" with Paul McCartney.
The shooting of the video did not go completely as planned. They got thrown off the property since Paul McCartney's team had not obtained the owner's permission in advance. Still, Michael had fond memories of the place so when he began searching for a home of his own five years down the line, he wanted "something just like that."
And this takes us right back to the real estate brochure...
Let's take a closer look at some of the pictures inside!
When William Bone owned the house, it fronted a flower-filled garden
by landscape architect Thomas A. Stone.
The living room
An antique Heriz rug, a pair of circa 1865 French brass chandeliers, a late-18th-century French walnut tall case clock and a concert-grand Bösendorfer piano set the stage in the living room.
Kitchen "breakfast room"
The breakfast room featured a late-17th-century drop-leaf table made of yew wood. Among the many objects on display were pieces from Bone’s vast pewter collection.
The master bedroom
In the master bedroom, white linen covered the walls, and the fireplace had a white-painted mantel and columns and blue-and-white Portuguese tiles. The mahogany four-poster bed was made for the house.
The master bathroom
The master bedroom’s baths had skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Does anyone know the exact location of this room?
The dining room
Michael kept the family portrait of the former owners and You Tube footage shows
that this room did not change much after Michael bought the property.
Guest room - "The English Room"
Description in the real estate brochure:
"The Empire building English were once the worlds greatest collectors which allows this more clectic room to be called the English Room. It contains a number of styles, but none so diverse as to not mix gracefully with the others.It shows a rough-hewn timber beam ceiling and a post and beam bay. The English desk is mahogany; the chair before it is a mahogany Queen Anne. The lamp on the desk is fashioned from a Chinese cloisonné vase. The two armchairs are French Bergere. The table between them is an English tilt-top. The rug is custom-made in Thailand as a Portuguese needlepoint. Not seen in the picture are some striking pieces - a Queen Anne lowboy and two very rare Chinese-Chippendale bed boards. The floors are all oak peg and groove, and the walls are upholstered in yellow silk."
The main foyer
I am sure many of you have seen the many marble statues and
the huge white marble clock, which later came to occupy this room.
Michael had the floor reinforced because of the massive weight of the clock.
Description in the real estate brochure:
"The rustic and sophisticated mix in the foyer, setting a tone for the entire house. A hand-hewn structural beam spans overhead alongside the elegant and graceful Dutch 18th century chandelier. The rich, light-to-dark patina of the oak bannisters reflects the red cast of the Persian carpets. The ranch logo, a Sycamore, is carved in the stairway newel posts. The larger of the two rugs is a Heritz, dates 1810, the smaller, an 1810 Caucasian flat weave. On the left a 1680 French convent table supports a pair of antique Chinese jardinieres. A Queen Anne style English settle sits against the wall beneath two Gainsborough paintings. Pillows on the settle are covered in old tapestries. Old American samplers hang on the wall of the upstairs gallery."
Description in the real estate brochure:
"In the library, the warmth in the richly hued oak ceiling and walls is particularly evident, while accents of green marble, bronze and leather blend their complementary qualities. Standing on the Heritz Persian rug is an 18th century drop-leaf table. Om the right is an ellm and beechwood English Windsor chair, circa 1840. A leather upholstered English Gainsborough chair sits on the left. Flanking a pair of English coaching scenes are a pair of French bronze horses signed by Moignier. Hidden from view in this classic setting is an electrically-powered movie screen that drops from the ceiling at the touch of a switch and converts the library to a screening room."
Description in the sales material:
"Entertaining outdoors is a feature of California's lifestyle, admirably served by the Ranch's barbeque area - a complete outdoor kitchen facility that can suit 2 or 200. It is situated between the Terrace and Autumn Gardens and shielded under a canopy structure of rough-sawn Douglas Fir. The long counter has recessed trays for salad, a sink and a gas grill. There is dishwasher, two food warming drawers, icemaker and trash compactor and two Corning cook tops. There are cabinets for linen, silverware and dishes; there is a refrigerator, electrical outlets, taps for instant cold and instant hot water and a telephone. The floors and walls are the familiar Bouquet Canyon Stone.
Gloria Rhoads Berlin, "In Search of Neverland", Gloria Rhoads Publications, 2010
(A sweet and very interesting little read - highly recommendable.)
Text and pictures from the 47-page real estate brochure made for marketing the property to a select group of people showing interest in purchasing the ranch - amongst them Michael Jackson.
(There are still some for sale on ebay.)