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Paul Wellman

Inside and Outside Neverland

New Photographs from Michael Jackson’s Compound


Monday, July 6, 2009

Today, Michael Jackson is being remembered by fans around with the world with an official memorial celebration at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. A random drawing for tickets attracted more than one million requests, but only 18,000 folks could be accommodated for the event, which is supposed to feature musical performances from Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Usher, and Jennifer Hudson as well as tributes from such friends as Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Ross.

But don’t worry if you weren’t one of the lucky ones selected: The memorial service - which, if the latest reports are true, should follow the laying to rest of Jackson’s body at Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills - will be televised on numerous national networks, and is being streamed for free into the Arlington Theater in downtown Santa Barbara. Look to Independent.com for more reports from the Arlington later today.

If you’re still stuck at your office, but want to mourn Jackson while sitting at your desk, we’re presenting you option number three: recent photographs from Neverland Ranch, both inside Jackson’s famously secure compound in the Santa Ynez Valley and outside the gates, where MJ fans continue to celebrate and remember.

Last week, as speculation swirled that Neverland could be Jackson’s final resting place and become a new sort of Graceland, the ranch’s gates were opened to a select number of media. The Independent‘s Paul Wellman was one of those privileged to see the inside of Jackson’s lair. He entered the ranch with a Japanese television crew around 3 p.m., stayed inside until about 7 p.m., and then spent another three hours hanging out with fans outside.

Wellman reported that there was “a lot of work being done” by the groundskeepers, who were trimming trees and clearing brush. Wellman said he could smell fresh paint on the ornate gates, saw sprinklers watering the brightly green lawns, and noticed that the colorful flowers seemed to be recently planted. According to some of the grounds crew who spoke with Wellman, this sort of work has been going on since before Jackson’s death on June 25, and is the directive of the “new owners,” which must refer to Thomas Barrack, the Santa Ynez Valley gentleman farmer who helped Jackson bail out the ranch when the banks were ready to foreclose.

It’s a beautiful and scenic and gorgeous location, just like anything else out there,” said Wellman, who got to see the train station, the empty animal pens, the tree where Jackson wrote songs, and the house’s interior, including Jackson’s bedroom. The buildings were all empty, said Wellman, explaining, “There’s not a lot left over.” He also said that while everything looked nice, there was certainly wear-and-tear on some of the structures.

Once outside the gates again, Wellman found plenty of revelry, including a large video screen where a DJ kept playing videos to the delight of everyone, except for the authorities who had to keep getting the dancers out of the street. People had come from all over to remember the King of Pop, and we hope that these photographs help you remember Michael Jackson as well, on this day when the world mourns.

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