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August 30, 2022

Michael Jackson and His Pet Chimp Bubbles

Bubbles (born April 30, 1983) is a chimpanzee once kept as a pet by Michael Jackson, who bought him from a Texas research facility in the 1980s. Bubbles frequently traveled with Jackson, drawing attention in the media.

Bubbles was kept at the Jackson family’s Encino home until 1988, when he was moved to Jackson’s new home, Neverland Ranch, in Santa Barbara County, California. Bubbles slept in a crib in Jackson’s bedroom, ate candy in the Neverland movie theater, was fed at the dining table, wore a diaper, and used Jackson’s toilet. At Jackson’s 2005 trial, Jackson said that his chimpanzees helped with housekeeping chores: “They run around, help me clean the room. They help me dust, clean the window.” Jackson’s housekeepers testified that they disapproved of the chimpanzee behavior. One said she had to clean feces hurled at the bedroom wall, and another described a chimpanzee tearing off his diaper before crawling into Jackson’s bed.

During the late 1980s, Jackson took Bubbles on outings and would often talk to him. According to reports, he showed him how to moonwalk. Bubbles had an agent and was rumored to have his own bodyguard. He sat in for the recording of Jackson’s album Bad (1987)— Jackson insisted that Bubbles and Jackson’s pet snake attend as spectators—and accompanied Jackson for the filming of the “Bad” music video. Bubbles made a cameo in the video for “Liberian Girl.”

When the Bad world tour began in September 1987, Bubbles and Jackson shared a two-bedroom hotel suite in Tokyo. Bubbles and Jackson made a social visit to the Mayor of Osaka, Yasushi Oshima; there, Bubbles drank Japanese green tea while seated quietly next to Jackson. Oshima said that he and his fellow officials were “surprised to see the chimpanzee, but we understand he is [Michael’s] good friend ... This is the first time an animal ever entered City Hall.” Though allowed to travel to Japan, Bubbles was unable to enter Britain and Sweden due to strict quarantine laws. Jackson also brought Bubbles for tea at Elizabeth Taylor’s house. At a party to celebrate and promote Bad, Bubbles reportedly “worked the room” and was “the life of the party.”

Around this time, Bubbles and Jackson were photographed by Kenny Rogers for his book, Your Friends and Mine. The photo shows Bubbles held on Jackson’s hip, and has been cited as one of the best taken of Jackson. In the black and white photograph, Bubbles is dressed casually in a long sleeved shirt and overalls. Jackson is also dressed casually; he wears jeans and a simple shirt. Rogers said: “Bubbles was so human it was almost frightening. He would take Christopher [Rogers’ son] by the hand, walk over to the refrigerator, open it, take out a banana and hand it to him. Christopher was amazed... we all were.”

According to author David Wigg, Queen singer Freddie Mercury grew frustrated trying to record a duet with Jackson, “There Must Be More to Life Than This”, because of his insistence that Bubbles be in the studio. According to Wigg, “Michael made Bubbles sit between them and would turn to the chimp between takes and ask, ‘Don't you think that was lovely?’ Or, ‘Do you think we should do that again?’ After a few days of this, Freddie just exploded ... ‘I’m not performing with a f*cking chimp sitting next to me each night.’” Mercury left the project and released the song as a solo artist in 1985. The duet with Jackson was not released until Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor discovered it and included it on the album Queen Forever in 2014.

On June 25, 2009, Jackson died at the age of 50, after having a cardiac arrest. Bob Dunn, then one of Hollywood’s most famous suppliers and trainers of animals for films, photoshoots and advertisements, speaking to the News of the World, said: “Bubbles definitely missed [Jackson] when they parted and will miss him now. Chimpanzees are intelligent. They remember people and stuff. Bubbles and Michael were close friends and playmates. The last time Michael visited, Bubbles definitely recognized and remembered him.” He said that Jackson thought of Bubbles as his first child, and added that he hoped Jackson’s children would keep in touch with their “stepbrother” following their father’s death. In 2010, Jackson’s sister La Toya visited Bubbles at the Center for Great Apes in Florida. According to the Center for Great Apes website, Jackson’s estate “has continued to support the annual care costs for Bubbles at the sanctuary.”


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