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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 September, 2003, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Jackson throws Neverland open
by Colin Paterson
BBC Three's Liquid News presenter in Neverland

It's not every day that you end up singing in a children's choir to an audience of 20 - including Mike Tyson and one of the Backstreet Boys - outside the gates of Neverland.

But, hey, if Mike Tyson asks you to, you are not going to argue.

Colin Paterson
Colin Paterson was "persuaded" to sing by Mike Tyson
Saturday was the first time Michael Jackson had ever opened his ranch to members of the public. Visits by Martin Bashir and the star of Home Alone do not count.

About 250 tickets had been sold for this charity event at the price of $5,000. (Cue Jackson-style yelp).

Each gave two people all the fun of the farm for one day. $1,000 will be divided between three charities. The other $4,000? Well that was never fully explained.

The press were not allowed beyond the Neverland gate, but the events that unfolded there over the next eight hours proved to be as bizarre as anything a look at Jackson's llamas and a few goes on the waltzer could have matched.

After a few hours, during which the highlights are seeing Pink arrive in a jeep and being brought the head chef to interview ("chicken will be served" - wooo), things start to brighten up.

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson was proving elusive
Grammy-winning soul singer Ashanti stops to talk on her way out from Neverland to the airport.

Burly security

She says she had opened festivities with her song Rock Wit U (not Jackson's Rock With You) before adding how "the ranch is a blessed place".

But not blessed enough for her to have seen Michael. "No I haven't met him yet. I hope to before I leave," she says, 10 seconds before hopping back into her stretch limo and zooming off to the airport.

The biggest drama of the afternoon comes when two middle-aged women are escorted out of the estate by burly security guards.

They make an unusual sight, what with tears streaming down their faces and carrying twisted animal balloons home as a souvenir of a truncated afternoon.

It turns out that Ameria and Zara from Canada have been thrown out of the event for trying to take a photo inside - one of the many nevers in Neverland.

They are crestfallen. Not surprisingly, having shelled out the best part of $10,000 on their trip.

"I've let my sister down, I've let my country down and most of all I've let Michael down" wails Ameria. At least she hasn't let her twisted animal balloons down.

Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson had "nothing better to do" than visit Neverland
Then the afternoon takes a distinctly surreal turn.

Gold smile

Out of another stretch limo hops what could be the cast of a US I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

There is Mike Tyson (complete with new girlfriend), Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys), his little brother child star Aaron Carter and music producer Rodney Jerkins, who looked like he'd been trying to get the whole value of a $5,000 ticket from visits to the buffet table.

So why was Tyson there? "Because I've got nothing else to do," he laughed revealing a gold smile that would interest his bankruptcy creditors.

But he'd apparently been having a great old day. "I love the gorillas and the camels in there were just amazing," shared the former heavyweight champion of the world and convicted rapist.

Tyson is an unusual choice of guest by Jackson, who we are told is trying to re-establish a positive view of himself in the media.

Nick Carter is suitably impressed with his look around Neverland. "We've been on the rides, helped ourselves from the piles of ice-creams and watched movies in the cinemas. Amazing."

What they had not done was see Michael. "No - maybe later," he confessed.

Michael Jackson
Jackson rarely opens his home to the public
Then things become truly bizarre.

Sharing

Before Tyson's gang leave The Full Harvest International Children's Choir arrive at the gate, all 25 of them, and start singing a song that make We Are The World look lyrically edgy.

It's then that I find myself surrounded by them. I can tell by the look on Mike Tyson's tattooed face he thinks I should join in.

Never before have I sung about "sharing together, no matter what colour," with such a fear of losing my life. And without knowing the words.

Tyson seems delighted, and heads back in to watch a title fight from Las Vegas.

Tyson will see the boxing in Neverland. He will not see Jackson.

Watch the full report on Liquid News on BBC Three at 2000 on Monday.


SEE ALSO:
Jackson opens Neverland's doors
27 Aug 03  |  Entertainment
Jackson Five to reunite
18 Jul 03  |  Entertainment
Jackson settles 'awkward' lawsuit
12 Jun 03  |  Entertainment
Jackson suffers sudden illness
22 May 03  |  Entertainment
Jackson loses $5m court case
14 Mar 03  |  Entertainment


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