I don’t envy the difficult decision faced by the Jackson family following the sudden death of Michael Jackson in June 2009… Just one of many difficult decisions immediately faced by those closest to him, but a crucial one.

Where in the world would be the most appropriate resting place for the remains of the most famous man on the planet?

How to accommodate the needs of his children, the rest of his family, the millions of mourning admirers… and the practical final needs of the man himself, security, organization and accessibility being in the forefront.

As we all know, the family chose to inter Michael at a place well known for celebrity burial: Forest Lawn Glendale in the Great Mausoleum, near Los Angeles. To many this was an inexplicable choice since the property known as Neverland in Los Olivos, CA was (and always will be) considered his home, closely associated with the superstar and his dreams for the property. But after Neverland was invaded by dubious law enforcement as part of a grifter family’s nightmarish attempt to extort money from him and actually take him to a grueling trial on false accusations, MJ abandoned Neverland and swore not to return.

The dream had ended.

The physical limitations of access to the rural property amid private ranch and farmland and possible objections by overwhelmed neighbors also took Neverland out of the running as an appropriate final resting place, and became a moot point under the new conditions of the property’s ownership as Neverland reverted to its original name, Sycamore Valley Ranch, and went up for sale.

Seven years later, Forest Lawn Glendale continues as a seemingly well-practiced and efficient resting place for Michael Jackson. The peaceful scenic setting and careful security seem appropriate. The place has an interesting history and artistic elements with which he himself might be pleased, and people significant to MJ like Elizabeth Taylor and Walt Disney are close by to keep him company. One of my all-time favorite blogs, Dancing with the Elephant, recently published a satisfying article on the aptness and positive aspects of Michael’s remains being where they are:

https://dancingwiththeelephant.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/visiting-and-revisiting-forest-lawn/

HOWEVER…

In 2014 I read an article in International Living magazine that left 2009 reality behind and grew into a full-fledged fantasy.

The truism says that no man is an island – yet Michael Jackson was almost forced to be one during his amazing and controversial life and career. He described himself as the loneliest man in the world at one point; beloved by millions and surrounded almost constantly by vast numbers of people who were to play various parts in his daily life, he was ultimately, but for his beloved children, terribly alone. The article I read in 2014 suggested to me an interesting idea for a way to honor this man, who excited and inspired so many people, and offers possibilities way beyond just a cold marble crypt to visit and connect with for legions of admirers.

Interestingly enough, it describes a place that honors another musician, Sir William Walton.

Here is the the description that got me thinking: (bolding is mine)

“The Most Beautiful Park: A private estate on the volcanic island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples (Italy), La Mortella is the result of a 50-year labor of love and determination.

Created by Susan Walton, wife of composer William Walton, it was opened to the public in 1991 and has often been named the most beautiful park in Italy. Walton’s music, along with that of other composers, is played during the summer months in the Greek Theatre, built into the hillside overlooking the Bay of Forio. A foundation in Walton’s name promotes chamber music on the island and provides scholarships for young local aspiring musicians.

The Valley Garden is a lush paradise of palms, water lilies, trees, and exotic plants, including a profusion of orchids. Plants form coves and corners, and fountains spurt among lotus and ferns. The Hill Garden is a completely different environment, sculpted into the rocky slope. Steep paths wind up through different terraced levels, but it is no less exotic, with its Temple of the Sun and Thai Pavilion. There are breathtaking views of the sea up there, too.

LaMortella2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The garden is open from April through October; it is closed on Mondays and Wednesdays and you can book tickets online for musical evenings in the Greek Theatre; see http://www.lamortella.org ”

LaMortella3What a wonderful destination it could be: a dramatic island setting that honors Michael Jackson in just the right ways, including things that meant something to him.

The King of Pop’s own Bali Ha’i, floating serene on an azure sea, beckoning his fans…

Beautiful scenery. Gorgeous gardens.

Architecture and features that reflect the international aspect of his long career and great popularity (Japanese garden, anyone?).

A classically-inspired theater on the premises for music and films.

Statuary and art.

Classical music drifting out of a Brad Sundberg sound system!

Buildings that could house the huge collection of MJ artifacts currently warehoused by his Estate, his many awards, a teaching facility for budding musicians and composers, a visitor center housing refreshments, staff offices, a shop and facilities… Perhaps even some representation of MJ’s original Neverland facility. (After all, the original Neverland of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan saga was – an island! It would be tempting to add some of its elements too, depending upon topography, allowing another pleasant connection to Walt Disney…)

And most importantly, to provide a place for his fans to be with him at least in spirit. In the island estate that inspired the article, Walton’s remains are housed in a large rock outcropping in this island garden complete with a breathtaking view, a great place for contemplation; perhaps a variation of that could be created for Michael, accessible but safely tucked behind glass walls that would preclude any misguided attempt at vandalism. (An island’s natural isolation would also limit access and possibilities for removing anything from the premises.)

Lamortella4

 

Naturally this island estate would need to be located near a convenient transportation hub and local accommodations, and provide ways to get from hub or nearby community to the island (hydrofoil ferry, copter, etc). The staff necessary to operate and maintain such a place and the promotion of this destination would provide an economic boon to the whole area. I submit that there are many such island places in the world that are already successful and popular visitor attractions (Canary Islands, Galapagos, Azores, Greek, Caribbean, Taiwan, Belize all pop immediately to mind), and I think there are many such island places in the world that would be eager to host Michael Jackson’s physical legacy and explore the limits of possibility for such an ambitious endeavor. Funding to create it might be supplemented by international business and entertainment figures who remain his admirers.

(An expensive proposition, you say? Well, we are talking about Michael Jackson, who expected only the best! I do guarantee one thing: there are a lot of island properties available for purchase at prices far below the $28 million MJ paid for his original Neverland Ranch in 1988…)

As fantasies go, this one isn’t really that far beyond the realm of possibility. Can you feel it?

I can. Dramatic, colorful, independent, innovative, peaceful, beautiful, singular… just like Michael.

In short, this island retreat honoring Michael Jackson would be a first for the world…  and I suspect that would please the man himself, who gave us so many firsts.

 

LaMortella1

“Bali Ha’i” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”:

Bali Ha’i may call you, any night, any day
In your heart, you’ll hear it call you
Come away, come away
Bali Ha’i will whisper on the wind of the sea
Here am I, your special island
Come to me, come to me
Your own special hopes, your own special dreams
Bloom on the hillside and shine in the streams
If you try, you’ll find me where the sky meets the sea
Here am I, your special island
Come to me, come to me

 

 

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Comments
  1. Lisha McDuff says:

    Incredible! Best one yet! As I’ve said before, let’s add that the Michael Jackson Museum and Library is on the mainland, only a hop, skip and a jump away. It houses all the artifacts, letters, recording vault, concert film footage, TV appearances and of course, Michael Jackson’s library and private collection.

    It’s the Andy Warhol Museum and Walton Island and Bali Ha’i all rolled into one! 🙂

    • Chris Kohler says:

      Sorry it took me a while to respond to your “what’s your fantasy” question in response to DWTE’s excellent article about Forest Lawn Glendale, Lisha!

      I must say that I’m greedy and thus mentally placed the Library and Museum on the island as well, along with everything else, no mainland involved except to house and feed visitors. So we may need to appropriate a sizable piece of rocky real estate to hold it all. (Look out, Sicily! Beware, Malta!)

      I really think that this destination would be irresistible to Michael’s fans and would scratch a lot of itches. Neverland the First (by Barrie) and Neverland the Second (by MJ) could be very well represented here at Neverland Third. And we all know that the third time is the charm…

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