China to build own Neverland
as Michael Jackson tribute
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese
developers are commemorating the late
Michael Jackson by building a scaled-down replica of his
Neverland Ranch on an island off Shanghai, a state-run newspaper
said on Friday.
Investors in the project,
which will cost about 100 million yuan ($15 million) to build, hope
it will open on Chongming island ahead of next year's Expo in
Shanghai, the China Daily newspaper reported.
While they are not as popular
as the Taiwanese and Hong Kong stars who dominate the music scene in
China, Western artists are making inroads in the local market,
thanks to young fans.
"By building a Neverland here
in China, we want to pay tribute to him and at the same time offer
the Chinese people an outlet for expressing their love toward him,"
the report quoted Qiu Xuefan, one of the investors, as saying.
Jackson, who died on June 25
in Los Angeles, abandoned Neverland -- once filled with theme-park
rides and even a zoo -- after his child molestation trial in 2005.
The Shanghai version will
have "Chinese characteristics to have it blend in with the local
environment," the paper added, without elaborating.
But not everyone is convinced
it's a good idea.
"If the purpose is simply to
pay tribute to Michael, I would suggest investors open it for free,
just as Michael did for the children," said Wei Wei, deputy head of
Jackson's Chinese fan club. "Otherwise, they are just making money
But Qiu, who professes his
love for Jackson's music, said the ranch would help keep the King of
Pop's legacy alive.
"His music is a legacy to the
world and should not be forgotten. We also would like to set up a
fund, with profits being used to help encourage children with
Last week, an "instant"
biography of Jackson in Chinese hit the bookshelves, which local
newspapers said was penned by two Chinese writers who worked on it
for two days straight but who had never met their subject.
(Reporting by Shanghai
newsroom, editing by Miral Fahmy)
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hometown holds memorial for pop icon
11 »ĢŽŁ 2009 „. 11:19:48
steel-making city where Michael Jackson got his start playing
on street corners with his brothers and competing in talent
shows said goodbye to the King of Pop with a show that
featured experienced homegrown talent, as well as youngsters
who hope to follow in his footsteps.
More than 6,000 people
showed up for Friday's upbeat memorial event, which included
performers singing and dancing to his hits, video montages of
Jackson and comments from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Gary's mayor
and people who knew Michael Jackson when his family lived in
the city located 30 miles southeast of Chicago.
People in the crowd
said the celebration was fitting for the King of Pop.
"It brought back a lot
of memories," said Betty Nicholson, 52, of Gary, who said she
used to perform at some of the same talent shows as Jackson
and his brothers. "The show was fantastic."
Some of the biggest
applause came before the three-plus-hour event started, when
Jackson's hits were playing over the public address system at
the Steel Yard, Gary's minor league baseball park, and young
children and teenagers went out to the dugout and mimicked his
Two Gary natives --
Chester Gregory, who has appeared on Broadway, and Deniece
Williams, known for her pop hit "Let's Hear It For the Boy"
from the movie "Footloose" -- sang music that wasn't
Jackson's. Gregory sang Jackie Wilson's "(Your Love Keeps
Liftin' Me) Higher and Higher" because Wilson was a singer
Jackson tried to emulate. Williams sang "Black Butterfly," a
song about a caterpillar's struggles to change that she
recorded in the early 1990s. She said it fit Jackson.
"Because that's what he
did. It was a struggle through the pain, through everything.
At the end of the day he still was a beautiful, beautiful
creature with wings that flew and touched not only the United
States but the world and will continue to touch the world
forever," Williams said before her performance.
Jackson spent the first
11 years of his life in Gary, until the Jackson 5 struck it
big in 1969. By that time, the steel industry, in which
Jackson's father had worked, had started to decline. Over the
following decades, the city's unemployment and poverty soared,
crime increased and the population dwindled.
Jackson came back to
Gary just once, in 2003. A speech he gave then was featured in
one of the memorial's video montages. In it, Jackson finished
by saying: "Gary, you are family, you always will be, I love
Mayor Rudy Clay said
Jackson made the city known worldwide.
"He's going to put on
those golden slippers and he's going to dance all over God's
heaven," Clay said.
He later unveiled a
7-foot-high granite slab with an etching of Jackson standing
on his tiptoes with the words "King of Pop" and his birth date
and death date. Clay said it would be the first item in a
Jackson museum he hopes to see the city build.
Organizers said more
than 30 members of Jackson's family attended the event,
including his father, Joe Jackson, who arrived surrounded by
security just as Jesse Jackson was finishing speaking.
In his remarks, Jesse
Jackson praised the pop icon's parents for the job they did
raising their family while living in a small two-bedroom house
in a working-class neighborhood.
"Today we thank and
praise God for Michael and we praise God for the Jackson
family," he said.