Posts Tagged ‘Michael Jackson’

Michael Jackson State Park: No Thriller for Locals

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

By William Etling
Special to Calbuzz

The two families braving 93 degree heat to visit the Neverland Ranch gate over the weekend were all in favor of making the late Michael Jackson’s estate near Santa Barbara a California State Park.

Peace-and-quiet-loving citizens in the neighborhood are not so blithe.

Nicolai, Birgitte, Lea, Jonas and Anton Bentzen came all the way from Denmark to see the place, and were a little bummed that only the guard shack is visible from the road.

Maria Martinez and nieces Gabriella, Denea, and Samantha live just up the road in Santa Maria, where Jackson was acquitted of molestation charges a few years ago.  “It’ll be great for the kids,” Maria said of the state park proposal.

A year after the ruckus surrounding the death of the King of Pop, the laid back residents of the Santa Ynez Valley had just begun to think they could turn their back on Neverland.

Then came the recent statement by Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-L.A., that the California Department of Parks and Recreation should look at taking over the property.   Davis, who said NAACP president Alice Huffman approached him with the idea, is poised to pursue the idea when lawmakers return from a month-long recess in August, a possibility that’s generated a round of head-shaking among locals.

The 2,676 acre estate is five miles from the tiny town of Los Olivos where Sideways was filmed, bordered by other large ranches and Midland, an exclusive prep school. The Los Padres National Forest is nearby.

The state park project would be in the district of Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr, who said, “I think the idea is problematic in several respects because of the state’s fiscal woes, the lack of infrastructure locally to support it and what would probably be significant community opposition.”

Solvang mayor Jim Richardson said, “I like the idea of more tourists for Solvang, but I’m opposed to the traffic it would cause on Figueroa Mountain Road, and it would change the character of Los Olivos – that would be a sad day for the Valley.”

The Los Olivos Business Organization reprised the same objections they voiced last year at this time when fans called for a MJ museum:

We believe that a concept like this would be a significant detriment to the unique character and well being of our town, would not be good for the majority of businesses in our town, and would overwhelm our rural infrastructure.

This project would also jeopardize the Agricultural Zoning that keeps the wineries, horse ranches, and agricultural producers that our economy is based on viable. Like Michael Jackson, the majority of residents in the Santa Ynez Valley chose to live here for the tranquil settings and rural character that it provides.

Bob Field, spokesperson for Never!, a group formed to prevent a Graceland style attraction, said “Our position on the inappropriateness of any such development has not changed.”

One local who probably loves the idea is globetrotting investor Tom Barrack, who controls MJ’s former fantasy ranch through the private equity firm Colony Capital.  Barrack owned a ranch in this sleepy village even before he was a deputy under-secretary in the Department of the Interior in the Reagan administration in 1983.

Barrack converted the pop star’s amusement park area into a series of gardens and is renovating other parts of the estate, according to Bloomberg News. He says he’ll sell Neverland when the real estate market recovers, hopefully for more than $100 million. According to the Santa Barbara county recorder’s office, Colony paid $35 million in a joint venture with Jackson in November of 2008.

Fighting the local tide of frowns was Santa Ynez Valley Real Estate Company broker Allan Jones. He said, “Let the current owner do with it what he wants. I hope I sell it.”

Journalist and Calbuzzer William Etling has been prominently featured in national media reports about Michael Jackson and the late pop star’s Neverland estate. He has written more than 400 columns and articles about the Santa Ynez Valley, and is the author of Sideways in Neverland: Life in the Santa Ynez Valley.

But what about the hot tubs? Before Monday, the most attention that Washington Post feature writer Manuel Roig-Franzia ever attracted in his career came when his editor punched him in the face in the newsroom.

From now on, though, Roig-Franzia will also be known for penning the worst profile of Jerry Brown in history.

Given his latest accomplishment, it’s a little ironic that he got smacked in the puss by Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Henry Allen after defending a female colleague whom Allen had accused of writing “the second worst story” he’d ever seen. The fact that Roig-Franzia’s gallant defense of his colleague consisted of telling Allen “not to be such a cocksucker” injected a layer of moral ambiguity to the incident, however.

In any case, the 68-year old Allen has since taken a buyout from the paper, while the punked out Roig Franzia was allowed to continue plying his craft, a management decision which resulted in the unfortunate piece on Brown that the Post inexplicably chose to publish on Monday.

As a professional matter, it’s not easy to write a 2,532 word story that contains not a single shred of new information. Our man Manuel managed not only that trick, but also the feat of larding on every tired cliché about California and Brown in the process, starting with this dreckful lede:

Hate to break this to you: Time’s whizzing by. You’re getting older.
Need proof? Brace yourself.
Jerry Brown is 72 years old.

Stop the presses, Maude: Manuel Roig-Franzia’s performing his own special brand of journalism again!

Things went downhill after that.

Apparently Brown in his early days was an “endless summer wonder boy” and a “bliss-following political son who was soo California cool.” Also: he dated Linda Ronstadt, has an “abstract, slightly dazed portrait” hanging in the Capitol, practices yoga, is a notorious tightwad who rented an apartment instead of living in the governor’s mansion and – get this – was dubbed “Governor Moonbeam” by Mike Royko.

As for California, how about those whacky New Age Left Coasters!

Apparently it was once “the empire of the laid back,” but now when people here “talk about being underwater, they’re referring to their mortgages, not afternoon dips off Malibu,” even though the state “still has Google and the movies.”

Memo to Style section: Next time save the expense money for this guy to punch his ticket to California and let him write from the office. Trust us, you won’t notice the difference.

Jacko Hug: Post Facto Praise for a Great Entertainer

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

jacksondanceEven Calbuzz was moved when 11-year-old Paris Katherine Jackson took the microphone to tell the world that Michael had been a wonderful father and that she loved him dearly, which you can watch here on TMZ.

That was the emotional high point of the MJ Tribute, for sure. The political high points were two: the Rev. Al Sharpton’s observation that Jackson was instrumental in breaking the color barrier and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s insistence on the presumption of innocence.

Sharpton’s great line: “He put on one glove, pulled his pants up and broke down the color curtain.”

The Rev was suggesting that even before Oprah, Tiger Woods and Barack Obama, Michael Jackson was an international crossover phenom of great significance, linking nationalities, ethnic groups and cultures through his extraordinary musical talent.

And then, turning to the MJ’s kids, Sharpton said,  “There wasn’t nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what he had to deal with.”

That’s not true, of course. There was a lot strange about Michael Jackson. But it was a nice thing to say to his kids. And it’s also clear that to huge numbers of people around the world — and especially in the black community — Jackson’s life is an inspiration and his music is iconic. Whether he is, as Berry Gordy pronounced him, “the greatest entertainer of all time,”  is a judgment for the history books – not mere political hacks. But it’s certainly arguable.

The other political moment of note: the defiant (and way too long) speech from Rep. Lee of Texas, taking aim at her colleague Rep. Peter King of New York, who had called Jacko a “pervert,” “child molester,” and “pedophile.” Lee sharply noted that under the U.S. Constitution one is considered innocent until proven guilty (which Jackson was not) and she presented a resolution from Congress memorializing MJ as a great entertainer.

Why it matters? Because it is further evidence that having one black family living in public housing in Washington has not eradicated the racial divide in America. The black community’s spontaneous rally in defense of Michael Jackson against presumptions – expressed mostly by white politicians, commentators and comedians (with some notable exceptions like Chris Rock)  — that Jackson was an unconvicted pederast, is just another measure of the divide.

When you get Queen Latifa, Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Jennifer Hudson, Berry Gordy, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Bernice King, Martin Luther King III and Usher singing praises to the life of one man, it’s clear that those who would argue otherwise are wading into racially-charged territory.

Skunk Note: Over at Fox News, Geraldo Rivera had a few choice words for many of the geraldocelebrities at the Staples Center:

“The vast majority of the people in that hall,” Geraldo said, “and certainly ninety nine percent of the celebrities who have come to this memorial did not stand anywhere near Michael Jackson during the years he was accused of those horrible crimes, and they didn’t say, ‘We believe him innocent, they didn’t say let the case go where it may, let the facts prove innocence or guilt.’ They just disappeared, and now they have resurfaced to celebrate his life.”

With All Due Respect…

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Hitler Finds Out Michael Jackson Has DiedHitlerCoat … a You Tube video we can’t really improve on.

Swap Meet: Jerry Probes Celeb Sex & Drug Secrets

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

jacksonScoop of the week: Green with envy kudos to the Chron’s irrepressible Carla Marinucci for her blog disclosure that AG Jerry Brown has insinuated his office into an investigation of the role of prescription drugs in the Michael Jackson case. In revealing that General Jerry has waded into what the tabs like to call your Jacko Death Probe, Ms. Carla managed to skillfully boost her Google Juice ratings by tossing in a couple of gratuitous links to Anna Nicole Smith.


What the Whirling Dervish of Daily Journalism failed to report, however, is that the MJ Drug Deal is just one of many high profile, celeb legal matters being eyed by the once-and-future candidate for governor.  Breathing the rarefied air of political PR nirvana, Brown is poised to launch investigations into a half-dozen other has-been scandals and mysteries, sources close to our imagination told Calbuzz:


Did OJ really search for the real killer? With Simpson safely on ice in Nevada, Brown’s crack  celebrity investigation team is focusing on allegations the broken-down jock broke interstate commerce laws by fraudulently accepting free greens fees, after telling golf course operators in multiple states his chief suspect was playing on their back nine.

Kate Moss and the missing flatware. Everybody knowskate_moss1A_300_400 that super-model Kate Moss used coke on a fashion shoot a few years back, but only Brown’s office has doggedly pursued the possibility of filing grand theft charges against Moss for allegedly leaving the scene with a spoon belonging to the on-location caterer stuck up her nose.

hasselhoffDid David Hasselhoff defame Wendy’s? Brown has long believed that law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions blundered by turning a blind eye to possible Product Disparagement civil law violations by burned-out Baywatch star David Hasselhoff, who was famously taped trying to get  his choppers around a Baconator while falling down drunk, a video that may have sent sales of the once-popular Wendy’s menu item plummeting.

Was Britney’s buzz cut legal? Acting on a tip from an britney_bald-431x300anonymous informant in the high-end L.A. cosmetology industry, Brown is reportedly close to filing charges against the pop princess for not reimbursing a Tarzana hair salon for the use of high speed clippers with which she whacked off all her hair a few years back. With interest, Brown investigators say, the tab by now may well be close to the mid-three figures.

david_duchovnyDavid Duchovny’s sex addiction scam. Brown’s undercover agents have developed confidential information that after “X Files” star Duchovny was released from rehab for sex addiction, he plotted to fleece and seduce thousands of gullible libertines by inviting them to join him in steamy sessions of a new, scam 12-step program.


Paris Hilton, parking scofflaw. While Paris the Heiress paid her dues for her DUI, lawman Brown has developed evidence that since getting sprung from L.A. County lock-up, she’s failed to pay multiple parking tickets on her Hummer hybrid, including several violations for not curbing her wheels and, at least once, for leaving it on the wrong side on street cleaning day.

Lockyer channels Al Franken: Just when he seemed to be emerging as the only grown-up in Sacramento, Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s brain was seized by his inner adolescent and he jumped with both feet into the Capitol’s budget pie fight.

In an interview with the L.A. Times Sacramento bureau Lockyer suggested the way out of the mess was to pass two budgets – one for the enlightened libs of coastal California and one for the knuckle-draggers everywhere else:

lockyer“We’ll have the budget for the coast that has tax increases and services,” Lockyer told the Turgid Times.  “And in a bunch of other areas in Central and Southern California that don’t have tax increases … their public schools are closed a month of the year – and see what happens.”

“If people in Orange County aren’t going to vote for a state budget, I don’t know why you shouldn’t sell  [UC Irvine] to Google,” he said. “Why is there a DMV office in Riverside? Those folks ought to figure out how to go to L.A. at night to renew their driver’s license.”

At a time when Lockyer’s loyal fans are fanning flames of speculation about him making a late entry into the governor’s race by occupying the considerable space in the moderate middle, his sudden left turn lurch in trashing half of California’s population as a bunch of know-nothings is baffling; that Lockyer is the guy who has to go out and sell California bonds to a bunch of Wall Street suits who find the state’s fiscal crisis less than amusing makes his Alfred E. Newman act even more inexplicable.

eMeg’s Mixed Message: While Meg Whitman’s spin meginchairposse is busy trumpeting her $6.5 million fundraising haul as evidence that she’s connecting with Real Voters, her web site still tells another, very different tale: that her Megness lives in terror of sitting down to answer questions from California reporters who understand state issues.

On her home page, the “Meg in the News” feature lists these four media interviews:

— CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer: Former eBay CEO wants Arnold’s job
— The Weekly Standard: eMeg: eBay Republican Meg Whitman bids to save California
— The Wall Street Journal: Whitman lays out plan to solve California’s fiscal woes
— FORTUNE: Can Meg Whitman save California?

All Politico All the Time: Big week for Politico, the Beltway obsessive’s best online friend, which scored a trifecta of triumphs. First, Vanity Fair’s Michael Wolff abandoned his normal cranky skepticism in a fluffy profile that declares the throwback journalism guys who launched Politico “may have solved the future of news.”

Next, a few days before Sarah Palin’s abrupt resignation as Alaska governor, Politico’s Jonathan Martin chronicled the cat fight of the year which broke out between always-wrong-from-the-right bloviator Bill Kristol and California consultant Steve Schmidt, who managed John McCain’s failed presidential effort; the brawl followed publication of a 10,000 word takedown of Palin in Vanity Fair by Todd Purdum, aka Mr. Dee Dee Myers.

Then Politico scored again with a very cool story by Michael Falcone that put the recent sexcapades of Gov. Mark Sanford and Sen. John Ensign into political cultural context by recounting how they’re just two of a number among the Republican congressional class of 1994 to have fallen considerably short of the moral superiority values preached by that “Take Back America” crowd.

Best Calbuzz wishes for a happy 4th of July.

— By Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine

Why the King of Pop Can’t Be Buried at Neverland

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

michael-jackson-neverlandBy William Etling
Special to Calbuzz

Hotel rooms sold out in the sleepy Santa Ynez Valley Tuesday, as the world’s press corps descended in pursuit of rumors about Michael Jackson’s burial, viewing, memorial service and/or museum in and around his former Neverland Ranch.

As Santa Barbara County officials reportedly met about a local service for Jackson on Friday, fervid fans pushed a much hotter rumor – that he would be buried at Neverland, which would then become the site of a Graceland-like museum, one of the late pop star’s fondest dreams.

However, the illustrious patriarch of the Jackson clan, Joe Jackson, said Michael would not be buried there, and Don Loper, director for the Loper Funeral Chapel in nearby Ballard, had a succinct answer to the question.

“No,” said Loper, explaining that, legally, only ranches with grandfathered personal cemeteries may be used to bury remains. Of course, ashes could be scattered anywhere.

neverlandaerialThe possibility of a Jackson museum put Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr, elected on a slow-growth platform, on the political hot seat, caught between music fans and her pro-green supporters. Speculation about a Jackson museum ignored one King Kong-sized if prosaic issue, however: zoning.

The ranch is five miles from the tiny wine tasting town of Los Olivos, where “Sideways” was filmed, out in the middle of fields and farms.

Santa Ynez Valley residents have spent the better part of a decade on a simple update of their existing community plan. After all that effort, and some riotous meetings, the final product is not much different from the prior plan, and it says that agriculture is ag, downtown is downtown, and never the twain shall meet.

The ranch formerly known as Neverland (the new owners call it Sycamore Valley Ranch) is zoned agricultural. Legally, it takes a Conditional Use Permit to apply for a commercial enterprise on ag land.

Brooks Firestone, the wealthy, connected former Assembly member and ex-Supervisor, who started Firestone Winery and is the scion of the tire fortune, abandoned an attempt to get a conditional use permit to hold weddings at his Foxen Canyon property near Neverland in 2008. The votes just weren’t there for it.

Tom Barrack, who bought Neverland for $35 million in November of 2008 through his company Colony Capital and lives nearby, was mauled by his Happy Canyon neighbors when he asked to open a winery recently. He eventually got approval to make wine, but easy public access was negotiated away.

Even affable octogenarian Fess Parker (Disney’s Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and the dad in Old Yeller) was politically pummeled by locals when he wanted to plant a resort amid the vineyards in 2004. The Fess Fuss even made The Wall Street Journal.

In this vigilant valley, commerce and cows don’t mix, which is why Supervisor Farr said in an interview that protecting agriculture may trump any plans for a Michael Jackson museum.

etlingJournalist William Etling, the author of  “Sideways in Neverland: Life in the Santa Ynez Valley,” was interviewed about Michael Jackson this week by CNN, the London Times, French radio, Rolling Stone, USA Today, KABC-TV, and some newspaper in South Carolina, among others.