Commentary: Just say no to 'Neverland' becoming a state park

Just say never to a new proposal to make Michael Jackson's Neverland mansion-amusement park-zoo a California state park. A private amusement park or private celebrity mansion museum, perhaps. But leave public ownership and operation out, please.

The idea of turning Jackson's estate into a park where children might frolic would be a sick joke except that an appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested it, and a state legislator, Assemblyman Mike Davis, a Los Angeles Democrat, is asking for further study.

California has enough budget troubles without taking on the renovation and running of Jackson's bizarre, artificial, expensive world. Not even Jackson could afford it. The place was shut down several times for failure to make various payments.

In the end, only a rescue by Santa Monica-based Colony Capital in 2008 prevented foreclosure.

No doubt a place that was the home of this talented, deeply troubled — yes, weird — popular culture icon would be a public draw. Just like Graceland, the estate of Elvis Presley. That Tennessee estate, now a private museum — repeat, private — draws hundreds of thousands of people each year.

But the curiosities that filled Jackson's Neverland have long since been dismantled or sold. The place is empty. Reassembling Neverland as it was before Jackson abandoned it in 2005 would be impossible.

The Ferris wheel, bumper cars and amusement park rides. Gone. Steam engines that ran on a rail line around the grounds. Gone. Elephants, orangutans, tigers, snakes, giraffes and more. Gone. Personal wax figures of Jackson, his own personal crown, portraits of him dressed as a king and others leading hundreds of beaming children. Gone.

Life-sized toys of superheroes and villains, Star Wars and Walt Disney characters. Gone. Life-sized statues of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Bruce Lee and others. Gone.

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