Photo Credit: Gerwin Filius via Compfight cc
What do you do when you release the biggest selling album of all time and are crowned the King of Pop by legions of fans worldwide and by a media industry salivating for its next lurid headline? You purchase a chimp is what you do.
Michael Jackson, possibly the most famous musician that will ever exist, indisputably reigned the pop charts in the 70s and 80s (and the 90s, depending on your critical perspective), bestowing us such timeless classics as Thriller, Billie Jean, Man in the Mirror and The Way You Make Me Feel. In stark contrast to today’s manufactured pop stars, the man composed the music himself, creating an infectious fusion of pop, soul, R&B and funk that continues to pack dance floors to this day, his countless earworms being some of our first joyous experiences with melody and rhythm. Many of us remember where we were when his untimely death was pronounced, and it would not be an understatement to say that it almost felt like a part of us had gone as footage of his public funeral was broadcast to mourners the world over.


Yet it would be amiss to ignore the fact that to the end of his career Jackson suffered quite a scandalous fall from public grace, as he struggled to stay relevant, and was beset in equal measure by the rare skin ailment Vitigilo and criminal allegations. It is at this point in time that the malicious moniker Wacko Jacko became a media catchphrase, just as his helpless son was dangled from the balcony of a high class hotel adjacent to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. And just a chimpanzee that he was to name Bubbles became the most famous pet on the planet.

Bubbles was purchased by Jackson from a research facility based in Austin, Texas with the help of celebrity animal trainer Bob Dunn, and over the coming years would come to play a bigger and bigger role in the Jackson saga. Initially held at the Jackson family home in Encino, the primate was moved in 1988 to the now infamous Neverland Ranch, that came over time to be thought of as an exhibit of Jackson’s eccentricities and infantile regression. It is here that Bubbles began to be spoiled with perks that most humans could only dream of: he slept in a specially made crib in the singer’s private bedroom, wore diapers, and attended the primary dining table and movie theatre.

This proved to be only a part of Jackson’s increasing obsession with the pet. In the late 80s, Jackson was noted to have engaged in conversations with him, and even taught him how to moonwalk. At this point, the ape was seen virtually everywhere the pop star attended. The “Bad” and “Liberian Girl” music videos featured cameos, but it was on the Bad World Tour of 1987 that the most publicized and bizarre incident occurred when Bubbles joined Jackson for green tea with the mayor of Osaka in the town’s City Hall.  Jackson also threw celebrity animal parties for Bubbles that were attended by Cheeta from Tarzan and none other than Lassie.

Nevertheless, by 2003, the ape had matured into a fully-fledged adult and is said to have become more aggressive. Fearing what might happen to his newly born son Prince Michael II, the chimp was first moved to Dunn’s animal sanctuary, but eventually wound up at Florida’s Center for Great Apes, outliving the King of Pop, and ending one of the more zany pet attachments in history.