DeBorah B. Pryor
JOURNALISTS NOTE: I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge
the difficulty of writing about this particular topic at this
particular time the 1st anniversary of Michael Jacksons
passing. To write about his dream home, his utopia, his Neverland,
and know that he is gone from us forever remains, at best, a
devastating blow. Yet, in remembering the spirit of Michael,
we can never forget his unbridled sense of joy at the smallest
things, his almost childlike innocence, and his love of children
and animals. This book tells us about the fulfillment of one
of Michaels biggest dreams straight from the mouth
of the woman that helped make it come true. *Just when you were
probably thinking, Oh no, not ANOTHER Michael Jackson
book, comes MICHAEL JACKSON: In Search of Neverland
a charming 98-page self-published paperback that details
Jacksons search for the home of his dreams. The book was
written by Gloria Rhodes Berlin, the real estate agent who single-handedly
shopped for, located and negotiated the transaction for what
became known as The Sale of the Century in 1988.
The sprawling 2,700-acre Los Olivos, California property; originally
called Sycamore Valley Ranch; that later become known around
the world as Michael Jacksons NEVERLAND.
Berlin recently spoke with EURs Lee Bailey, who asked
why she wrote the book.
The book is because I found him the ideal paradise he
wanted for himself and for his animals. When he was being cited
by the animal regulation department continuously
family compound. They threatened to come and arrest him and
impound all of his animals. They said they belonged at the L.
A. Zoo, not at his home. He had llamas, giraffes, a baby elephant,
[and] snakes. A python got out, went swimming next door in the
neighbors pool; and it scared the neighbors and they called
the animal regulation department (laughs).
MICHAEL JACKSON: In Search of Neverland takes readers on a delightful
walk with Jackson as he nears his 27th birthday. He still lived
with his parents, at least three of his siblings, and a menagerie
of animals at the Encino family compound on Hayvenhurst Avenue.
At the time, Jackson was working on The Wiz, preparing for the
Bad World Tour and feverishly trying to move away from the family
home. Oh yes, and he was bagging groceries at Gelsons.
But bear with me. Im getting ahead of myself.
He was a bachelor and wanted to get married. All he ever
wanted to do was have a home of his own, get married, and have
children. A wife to come home to. He tried, says Gloria
Rhodes Berlin, a neighbor to the Jackson family at the time
of the sale.
Berlin had become friendly with Katherine Jackson and first
met Michael at age twelve. She had been living in Encino for
ten years when the Jackson family arrived from Gary, Indiana.
Her book shares several sweet, little anecdotes that we have
yet to hear elsewhere; and there is no doubt that the author
is someone who genuinely cared for the entertainer.
Michael Jackson and I had a very wonderful relationship
I always thought he was going to wind up being a box-boy at
Gelsons because he had a crush on a very beautiful young
lady who was about 4 ½ feet tall who was working there.
[She had] very white porcelain skin with big blue eyes; real
red-haired, that she wore in little pigtails and he used to
come over and act as a box boy for her; pack the groceries for
the people who came through her aisle. I always came through
there and he would say, Hello Mrs. Berlin. My son,
Will, used to play with the Jackson Five, basketball, at their
home. I think they hired him (laughs). He
would come [to the market] dressed up as The Wiz; wearing these
shoes that were like on stilts
He came to see that pig-tailed,
.He loved her. He knew everyone that came
Prior to becoming his real estate agent, Berlin had contacted
Jackson on another matter.
I wrote him a letter about a family that was losing their
home. The man was 87-years-old, Black and married to a White
woman. They had three children, young teens. The father had
and died finally and there was no burial
money. Michael Jackson paid for the burial of that man he didnt
This exchange opened the door for Jackson, who had worked unsuccessfully
with other realtors, to seek Berlins assistance in finding
his dream home.
Michaels frame of mind during this time, according to
Berlin, was to become independent of his parents and
for them to become independent of him. He wanted to be alone,
away from prying eyes, street traffic and noise. He wanted a
place where he could look out the window and see bluebirds,
do his own farming and feed his animals. He specified the place
had to be accessible to deer, so they could prune his trees.
A former actor who once shared the same theatrical agent as
Elizabeth Taylor, dated Frank Sinatra for two-and-a-half years,
and had roles in movies like Guys and Dolls, Gentlemen
Prefer Blondes, and Theres No Business Like
Show Business, Berlin lists some of her fondest Michael
* When he played I Just Cant Stop Loving You
on the Boesendorfer grand piano in the living room of the main
* When he ran along the top of a wooden fence on the Neverland
property as if it were a balance beam
* Developed new dance steps on the stones in the middle of a
* Planted flowers in the flowerbeds around the main house at
Neverland using different color schemes for each season of the
* Slid down the banister and hid in the secret room inside the
* Played Ghost using a Casper ghost costume in the
playroom with moving walls
* Held my hand and walked with me throughout the entire ranch
Jackson had actually been on the ranch before.
Paul McCartney had been a guest of Bill Bones, said
Berlin of the man who had originally developed and lived on
the ranch with his family. Then, without authorization,
[McCartney] decided to start shooting video and invited Michael
Jackson to come there and be in the video. And Michael Jackson
been driven there
and then removed when they
were kicked off after a manager phoned Bill Bones and told him
they were filming and [had] brought film crews on the ranch.
Berlin says that she happened to locate the same ranch Jackson
had previously visited, as a guest was a coincidence. He needed
a ranch of that size. At the time of his visit there, it was
not for sale. But after a divorce between Bill Bones and his
wife, it was. Bones-a realtor, broker, builder and developer
himself- did not list the ranch. In order to see the house you
had to register. Berlin found out about the property
which had an original asking price of $35 million dollars -
by contacting the Chamber of Commerce.
But the transaction, says Berlin, did not progress without its
share of drama from Jacksons people.
John Branca wanted to offer them $9 million
want to listen to me; and then he said $10 million
and finally we presented an offer. Mr. Bone went crazy and said
if I had been a man, he wouldve punched me out!
After all was said and done, Michael Jackson laid down $17 million
dollars and walked away with a ranch that housed part of the
Los Padres National Forest in its back yard. He was there for
Lee Bailey asks Gloria Berlin her thoughts about what is going
on with the estate since Michaels passing.
My thoughts are that Mrs. Jackson is an amazing woman.
a true beauty
I saw her about 2 ½
weeks ago and she told me the story about Michael and his death
me its a heartbreak. I cant even think about it
without crying because I knew him since he was 12. But she is
his mother. I told her Dr. Conrad Murray should be prosecuted
for murder. She said No, he cant be prosecuted for
murder hes only going to be prosecuted for involuntary
was very calm, very polite. She
hugged me and squeezed me.
Michael Jackson: In Search of Neverland by Gloria Rhoads Berlin
is available at Amazon.com. It can be downloaded, and is offered
through Kindle and eBooks.
DeBorah B. Pryor is a freelance journalist
and consultant to everyday people that aim to become
better public speakers in daily life situations. Her CD, Public
Speaking for the Private Person can be purchased via her
website at www.dpryorpresents.com.
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