Today marks the first anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. While over the past year we’ve read plenty of updates on how the kids are coping, his mother Katherine’s money problems, and all things Debbie Rowe, there has been one member of Jackson’s inner circle that we’ve been wondering about: his pet chimpanzee Bubbles. Click through for a quick overview of his relationship with the famed chimp, and to find out what Bubbles is up to now.
Michael adopted Bubbles from a Texas lab in the early ’80s, when he was just 8 months old. While he originally lived in the Jackson family home in Encino, when Michael moved to Neverland Ranch in 1988, Bubbles came along, too. There, he slept in a crib in Michael’s bedroom, used his personal toilet, and snacked on candy in the palatial home’s movie theater.
Note: While Jackson owned several chimps (and in a 2005 trial, claimed that they all helped out with basic housekeeping duties at Neverland), his relationship with Bubbles — who was rumored to have had his own bodyguard — was special. He considered him a first child, dressing him in outfits that matched his own, bringing him as a companion to tea with VIPs (the Mayor of Osaka, Elizabeth Taylor), and even teaching him how to moonwalk. Jackson talked about throwing Bubbles a “celebrity animal party” and inviting Lassie, Benji, and the chimp from Tarzan. While that never happened, it was this kind of behavior that ultimately led to the media bestowing him with the now infamous nickname, Wacko Jacko.
By 2003, an adult Bubbles had grown into an aggressive chimp, and was sent away to celebrity animal trainer Bob Dunn’s ranch for fear that he would harm Prince Michael II, then a newborn. Unhappy in his new home, Bubbles allegedly attempted suicide, and had to be taken to the hospital. When the sanctuary closed the following year, he was moved again, this time to the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida, where the 27-year-old chimp resides today. Says sanctuary director Patti Ragan: “Bubbles has adjusted beautifully — he has lots of places to explore in this habitat.” He reportedly enjoys painting and listening to flute music, and has a 40-year-old chimp BFF named Sam. His care is paid for by public donations. He was not present at last year’s memorial service.
Watch Bubbles reconnect with LaToya Jackson (after 20 years) in a clip from Animal Planet’s Michael Jackson And Bubbles: The Untold Story below. Be warned, it’s very, very dramatic. Also: he’s looking pretty blown out these days, don’t you think?