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Bubbles (chimpanzee)

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Title: Bubbles (chimpanzee)  
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Subject: Michael Jackson, Stark Raving Dad, Primatology, April Fool's Main Page/Featured Article/Archive 2010, Lee Solters
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Bubbles (chimpanzee)

Bubbles being held in Michael Jackson's arm
Species Common chimpanzee
Sex Male
Born 1983[1]
Austin, Texas, United States[1]
Notable role Pet, occasional actor[1]
Known for One-time pet of American recording artist Michael Jackson[1]
Owner Michael Jackson
Weight 160 pounds (73 kg)[2] - 170 pounds (77 kg)[1]

Bubbles (born 1983) is a common chimpanzee, known for being the one-time pet of American recording artist Michael Jackson, who bought the primate from a Texas research facility in the early 1980s. The animal was a frequent travel companion to the singer, whose attachment to the animal led to media mockery and, among other factors, to a public perception of Jackson as an eccentric. During the Bad World Tour, for example, Jackson brought Bubbles with him to Japan, where they both drank tea with the mayor of Osaka.

Bubbles was initially kept at the Jackson family's home in Encino, Los Angeles, but was moved to Neverland Ranch in 1988. There, he slept in a crib in Jackson's bedroom, used the singer's toilet and ate candy in the Neverland movie theater. In 2003 the public learned that, like many captive chimpanzees, Bubbles had matured into a large and aggressive adult chimp unsuitable as a companion animal. He was sent to a California animal trainer. When the trainer closed his operation in 2004, Bubbles was moved to the Center for Great Apes, a sanctuary in Wauchula, Florida, where he has lived since 2005.


  • Bubbles' acquisition 1
  • Life at Neverland Ranch 2
  • Media mockery 3
  • Out and about 4
  • Bubbles's relocations 5
  • Death of Michael Jackson 6
  • Legacy 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • Bibliography 11
  • External links 12

Bubbles' acquisition

Bubbles was born in early 1983 in an Austin, Texas research facility that bred primates for animal testing.[1][3] There are conflicting reports as to how he came into Jackson's possession. Multiple reports state that Jackson had Bubbles bought for him when the chimpanzee was eight months old. The acquisition was said to have been supervised by Bob Dunn, then one of Hollywood's most famous suppliers and trainers of animals for films, photo-shoots and advertisements.[1][4][5]

Life at Neverland Ranch

Bubbles was kept at the Jackson family's Encino home until 1988 when he was moved to Jackson's newly acquired Neverland Ranch.[6] There, the chimpanzee slept in a crib in the singer's bedroom,[7] ate candy in the Neverland movie theater,[8] was fed at the dining table,[7] wore a diaper, and relieved himself in Jackson's personal toilet.[8][9]

At Jackson's 2005 People v. Jackson trial, jurors learned from a videotaped interview with the singer that his several chimpanzees would help him with housekeeping chores. "They run around, help me clean the room. They help me dust, clean the window," the singer stated. At the same trial, Jackson's maids testified that they were not impressed with the behavior of the various animals that the singer had kept over the years. One housekeeper told of how she had to clean up the droppings of one of the chimpanzees, after it had hurled its feces at the bedroom wall. Another maid described a chimpanzee called Max tearing off his diaper before crawling into Jackson's bed.[9]

Media mockery

The public perception of what Michael is as a human being has been highly exaggerated. Those articles are hard for me to relate to. For instance, Bubbles is more fun than a lot of people I know. I saw Bubbles at a wedding in a tux. He has great table manners.

Jackson's attachment to Bubbles resulted in media mockery. For instance, the media reported that the chimpanzee would be the ringbearer at Elizabeth Taylor's October 6, 1991 Neverland Ranch wedding. The report was not true, but was, according to The New York Times, "an idea that some newspapers found too delightful not to report."[11] Bubbles' companionship was a source of comfort to the singer and formed, writes journalist Steve Huey, a public perception of Jackson as a "bizarre eccentric, obsessed with recapturing his childhood."[12][13][14] "This is when the weirdness began to reach mythic proportions," wrote Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University.[15]

Their human-animal bond, as well as the entertainer's other alleged eccentricities, contributed to the media epithet "Wacko Jacko," a nickname Jackson would eventually come to despise.[13] The media often focused on Bubbles, rather than on Jackson's music, and published many false stories regarding the animal. One such story was an allegation that Bubbles was not a single ape, but one of several.[16][17] A later claim suggested that Bubbles had died. Commenting on the untrue avowal, Jackson's press agent Lee Solters quipped to the media that "when Bubbles heard about his demise he went bananas." He added, "Like Mark Twain, his death is grossly exaggerated and he's alive and doing well."[18][19] Another story, reported in The National Enquirer, claimed that Prince, Jackson's longtime rival, had used extrasensory perception to turn Bubbles crazy. "What kind of sicko would mess with a monkey?" Jackson was reported to have asked. "This is the final straw. Poor, poor Bubbles." Jackson found the story hilarious, and his staff reported that they had never seen the singer laugh so much.[20]

Out and about

A headshot of a man wearing a red baseball cap and shirt. He has long black hair and is smiling towards the camera.
Michael Jackson had Bubbles accompany him throughout the late 1980s.

The late 1980s were a busy period for the primate. Jackson took Bubbles on outings and would often talk to him. According to reports, the singer later showed the chimpanzee how to moonwalk.[21] The animal, who had an agent, was also rumoured to have his own bodyguard.[7][22] Bubbles sat in for the recording of the Bad album— Jackson had insisted that the chimpanzee and his pet snake attend as spectators—and accompanied Jackson for the filming of the "Bad" music video.[7][23][24] In the short film for "Liberian Girl", Bubbles made a cameo appearance.[25] When the Bad World Tour kicked off in September, 1987, he and the singer shared a two-bedroom hotel suite in Tokyo.[7] During the tour, Bubbles and Jackson made a social visit to the Mayor of Osaka, Yasushi Oshima. There, the chimpanzee drank Japanese green tea while seated quietly next to Jackson. Afterward, Oshima commented that he and his fellow officials were "surprised to see the chimpanzee, but we understand he is [Michael's] good friend". He continued, "This is the first time an animal ever entered City Hall."[26][27] Though allowed to travel to Japan, the chimpanzee was unable to enter Britain and Sweden due to strict quarantine laws.[28][29] Jackson also brought Bubbles along for tea at Elizabeth Taylor's house. Taylor did not mind the fact that Jackson had brought a chimpanzee.[30] Later, at a party to celebrate and promote Bad, Bubbles reportedly "worked the room" and was "the life of the party".[7]

Around this time, Bubbles and his owner were photographed by Kenny Rogers for his book, Your Friends and Mine. The photo shows Bubbles being held on the entertainer'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.[31] Rogers said of the animal, "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."[31]

Bubbles's relocations

An aerial shot of a large ranch. Trees surround several huts and buildings on the barren property.
Neverland Ranch served as the home of Bubbles, until he became too aggressive to live with the Jackson family.

In a 2003 documentary, Living with Michael Jackson, the singer revealed to journalist Martin Bashir that Bubbles had become overly pugnacious.[32] He was removed to an animal sanctuary over fears he might attack Jackson's newborn son, Prince Michael II.[nb 1][34] Jackson subsequently bought two more baby chimpanzees, Max and Action Jackson; the public believed these two chimpanzees were also Bubbles.[1] Bubbles' removal was a source of regret for the musician, who stated that the animals could live for up to 60 years. During the interview, Bashir was also told of how Jackson had planned to hold a "celebrity animal party" for Bubbles. Cheeta, the chimpanzee from Tarzan, Benji and Lassie were to be invited.[35] Bubbles was relocated to Bob Dunn's ranch in Sylmar, California.[4][36] "Bubbles is an adult chimp and a wild animal", Dunn stated at the time. "We don't let him out to play."[36] According to CNN, the chimpanzee would be visited by Jackson and his children, who also played with the other animals while at the Californian ranch.[36] "He still acts like a kid around them", Dunn added, referring to the musician.[36] The Washington Times, however, claimed Bubbles was not visited by Jackson, despite the singer's representative stating beforehand that the entertainer would like to meet with the animal again.[37] Shortly afterward, in December 2003, it was claimed that Bubbles had attempted suicide.[nb 2][42][43] The chimpanzee was supposedly taken to a hospital in time to be saved.[43]

Since the closure of Dunn's facility in 2004, Bubbles has been kept at the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida, where he is said to enjoy painting and listening to flute music.[4] The center for apes, where the annual care for each animal costs around $17,000 as of 2009, also houses 41 other chimpanzees and orangutans.[2][4] Patti Ragan, director for the Center for Great Apes, commented on the animals' daily routine at the sanctuary. "They relax. They take naps together. They might go up in the top of the cupola. They go out in the chutes and lie under a tree in the tunnel system. They groom each other and they fight and they have arguments, too."[4] According to animal keepers at the center, the 160 pound (73 kg) Bubbles—whose facial features have changed since his time with Jackson—is now "huge and ugly" but has a "sweet character".[2][3] The ape now spends most of his time sitting quietly in trees with his best friend Sam, a 40-year-old chimpanzee.[2]

Death of Michael Jackson

On June 25, 2009, the singer's memorial service, but instead stayed at the Center for Great Apes.[2] It has not been revealed whether Jackson left money to support Bubbles, whose care, to date, has been paid for from public donations.[3] Animal trainer Dunn, speaking to the News of the World, stated that the chimpanzee would miss Jackson.[42] "Bubbles definitely missed him 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."[nb 3][42] He revealed that Bubbles was thought of by the singer as his first child, and added that he hoped Jackson's children would keep in touch with their "stepbrother" following their father's death.[42] In 2010, La Toya visited Bubbles at the Center for Great Apes in Florida.[46]


Jackson launched Michael's Pets, a range of soft toys based upon the animals the singer owned, in November 1986. The toys consisted of a frog, dog, rabbit, snake, ostrich, giraffe, llama and Bubbles the chimp. Jackson also appeared, as a bear wearing sunglasses and a fedora.[47] "He [Jackson] was very instrumental in designing the toys", said Bob Michaelson, who was responsible for developing them.[47] "He was very instrumental in how it should be programmed... he's got tremendous intuition."[47] Jackson, in approving the toys, stipulated that the manufacturers donate $1 per sale to a children's charity.[48]

In 1988, Jeff Koons made the three identical porcelain sculptures Michael Jackson and Bubbles as part of his Banality exhibit.[49] At the time, each sculpture was said to be worth $250,000.[50] Koons once said of the pop star, "If I could be one other living person, it would probably be Michael Jackson."[49] The art piece became one of Koons' best known works.[51] The figure shows Jackson and the chimpanzee wearing gold military-style suits.[49] In 2001, one of the figures was put up for auction and was expected to fetch between $3 million and $4 million.[52] The figure sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for $5.6 million.[49][53] The sale was a record for a work by Koons.[54] Two of the sculptures are housed at The Broad Contemporary Art Museum in downtown Los Angeles and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The Daily Telegraph reported in August 2009 that Bubbles was to publish a "tell-all memoir" about his time with Michael Jackson. The book—entitled Bubbles: My Secret Diary, From Swaziland to Neverland—is a spoof diary by journalist John Blake.[55] The book fictionally documents the "darker aspects" of Bubbles' life, including a "$2,000-a-day banana addiction, depression, romantic conquests, and [his] 'vicious rivalry' with Tarzan star Cheeta".[55] The "collection of very personal and honest entries from [Bubbles'] diary" fictitiously revealed how the chimpanzee coped with the death of Jackson. The publication was released in October 2009.[55] Speaking of Bubbles, Blake stated:

Behind his seemingly-perfect life of glamorous friends, gold-plated tyre swings, and personal chefs, there is a dark history of medical experiments, addiction and loss. But Bubbles has fought against his personal and professional problems and, with his help of man-pet Michael Jackson, he has grown to become bigger than King Kong—figuratively speaking.[55]

See also


  1. ^ Primatologist Jane Goodall writes that while some chimpanzees may seen "cute, funny and even lovable", to think that they would make good pets is inaccurate. She notes that at about 6 to 8 years of age, the animals become strong and indocile.[33]
  2. ^ Reports on "animal suicide" can be traced back decades.[38] While there is no consensus on the topic and modern naturalistic studies have found little evidence of self-harming behaviour among nonhuman species, it has been noted that there are "strong cross-species parallels" and that traits linked with suicide in humans have been found in rodents.[39][40] Author You-Sheng Li wrote in a 2005 book that it was doubtful that chimpanzees have the mental capacity to attempt suicide. She added that some animals, however, may give up their lives in certain circumstances.[41]
  3. ^ Jane Goodall notes that chimpanzees become more relaxed around individuals they recognize.[45]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Bubbles the Chimpanzee - Center for Great Apes Resident".  
  2. ^ a b c d e Allen, Nick (July 3, 2009). "Bubbles the Chimp not invited to Michael Jackson’s funeral".  
  3. ^ a b c Yourse, Robyn-Denise (July 1, 2009). "M.J.'s Bubbles OK".  
  4. ^ a b c d e Segal, Kim; Zarrella, John (July 2, 2009). "Jackson's chimp Bubbles enjoys life out of public eye".  
  5. ^ Ayres, Chris (March 24, 2005). "What does Hollywood do when a screen chimp turns nasty? Shoot it dead and call in a cartoon".  
  6. ^ "Michael Jackson joins the over-30 crowd". Deseret News. Deseret Management Corporation. August 29, 1988. Retrieved April 3, 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Goldberg, Michael (September 16, 1987). "Is singer Michael Jackson for real?".  
  8. ^ a b Taraborrelli, p. 455
  9. ^ a b "Monkey business in the loo".  
  10. ^ Campbell, p. 133
  11. ^ Mydans, Seth (October 7, 1991). "California Journal; Liz Taylor's 8th: Old Role, New Lead". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved April 3, 2009. 
  12. ^ Stout, Gene (October 28, 1988). "Michael Jackson superstar's weird but wonderful".  
  13. ^ a b Taraborrelli, pp. 370–373
  14. ^ Huey, Steve. "Michael Jackson biography".  
  15. ^ Leung, Rebecca (November 22, 2003). "Behind The Mask".  
  16. ^ Taraborrelli, p. 364
  17. ^ Taraborrelli, p. 380
  18. ^ Martin, Douglas (May 21, 2009). "Lee Solters, Razzle-Dazzle Press Agent, Dies at 89".  
  19. ^ "Pop star's chimp is alive and well".  
  20. ^ Taraborrelli, p. 383
  21. ^ Lartigue, Michael J. "Is Michael Still a Thriller?".  
  22. ^ Anderson, p. 159
  23. ^ Rees, p. 261
  24. ^ Barnes, Ken (September 10, 2001). "Michael: Thrilling, bad, dangerous and more".  
  25. ^ "Just Who Was Bubbles, Michael Jackson’s Famous Chimp?". MTV. Viacom. June 26, 2009. Retrieved June 28, 2009. 
  26. ^ "Chimp's tea party" (Payment required to access full article).  
  27. ^ Wire, From (September 19, 1987). "People" (Payment required to access full article).  
  28. ^ "Tour goes on without chimp".  
  29. ^ "Sorry Bubbles, you have to stay home".  
  30. ^ Taraborrelli, p. 511
  31. ^ a b Campbell, pp. 128–129
  32. ^ Ayres, Chris (February 8, 2005). "Neverland, or Iraq? That's an easy one. Hand me that flak jacket, will you...". The Times (London: News Corporation). Retrieved April 2, 2009. 
  33. ^ Goodall, Jane (February 25, 2009). "Loving chimps to death".  
  34. ^ Flett, Kathryn (February 9, 2003). "Bashir'd, but not beaten".  
  35. ^ Elsworth, Catherine (May 13, 2005). "Like Princess Di, my love for children is pure, says Jackson". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved August 21, 2009. 
  36. ^ a b c d Miller, Samantha (July 29, 2002). "Michael Jackson may face a cash crunch". CNN (Time Warner Inc). Retrieved April 2, 2009. 
  37. ^ "Taking Names". The Washington Times.  
  38. ^ "Animals that commit suicide".  
  39. ^ Preti, Antonio (2005). "Suicide among animals : Clues from folklore that may prevent suicidal behaviour in human beings". Psychological reports (Psychological Reports, Missoula, MT, ETATS-UNIS (1955) (Revue)) 97 (2): 547–558.  
  40. ^ Malkesman, Oz; Pine, Daniel S.; Tragon, Tyson; Austin, Daniel R.;, Henter, Ioline D.; Chen, Guang; Manji. Husseini K. (April 2009). "Animal models of suicide-trait-related behaviors". Trends in Pharmacological Sciences (Elsevier Ltd) 30 (4): 165–173.  
  41. ^ Li, p. 140
  42. ^ a b c d Copping, Jasper (June 28, 2009). "Michael Jackson: pet chimpanzee Bubbles pines for former owner". The Daily Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved June 28, 2009. 
  43. ^ a b "And misfortune strikes MJ".  
  44. ^ "Singer Michael Jackson dead at 50-Legendary pop star had been preparing for London comeback tour".  
  45. ^ Goodall, p. 238
  46. ^ "La Toya & Bubbles Reunited". National Ledger. June 24, 2010. Retrieved June 27, 2010. 
  47. ^ a b c Campbell, p. 127
  48. ^ Well-known celebrities help little-known causes.  
  49. ^ a b c d Bennett, Will (June 5, 2001). "Mystery buyer pays £4m for golden vision of Jackson and his chimp". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved April 2, 2009. 
  50. ^ Dewan, Shaila K. (June 6, 2000). "No Walking, Just Watering for This Puppy". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved April 2, 2009. 
  51. ^ "Art foundry flounders after sculptor's suit".  
  52. ^ Rohleder, Anna. "Trouble Ahead For Art Market".  
  53. ^ Multimillion-dollar sculpture. Jet (Johnson Publishing Company). June 4, 2001. Retrieved August 21, 2009. 
  54. ^ Mason, Christopher (May 20, 2001). "That Cool, That Suit: Sotheby's 007". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved April 2, 2009. 
  55. ^ a b c d Irvine, Chris (August 5, 2009). "Bubbles the chimp to 'publish' tell-all memoir about Michael Jackson". The Daily Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved August 15, 2009. 


  • Anderson, Christopher P. (1994). Michael Jackson Unauthorized. Simon & Schuster.  
  • Campbell, Lisa (1993). Michael Jackson: The King of Pop. Branden.  
  • Li, You-Sheng (2005). A New Interpretation of Chinese Taoist Philosophy: An Anthropological/Psychological View. Taoist Recovery Centre.  
  • Rees, Dafydd; Crampton, Luke (1991). Rock Movers & Shakers.  
  • Warner, Jay (2006). On this Day in Black Music History. Hal Leonard Corporation.  

External links

  • Bubbles' profile at the Center for Great Apes
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