• Thu. Sep 29th, 2022

Michael Jacksons chimp Bubbles huge, ugly and unrecognisable out of limelight

Aug 20, 2022

At one point, Michael Jackson's chimpanzee Bubbles was probably the most famous animal on Earth.

But today, the cute little ape who captured people's hearts, is barely recognisable in his quiet 'retirement'.

In the 1980s, the adorable young ape was often snapped hanging on Jackson's hip at showbiz events.

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He travelled the world, in first class and on private jets, and appeared on TV, often wearing cute little outfits similar to those worn by his famous owner. He had an agent and was even said to have his own bodyguard.

"Home" became Jacko's sprawling Neverland ranch, where he scoffed sweets, watched movies in the cinema, used the toilet, ate at the dinner table and slept in a cot next to the singer's bed.

He even learned how to do Jackson's trademark moonwalk dance move.

Born in 1983, Bubbles was reportedly taken away from his mum when he was just a baby. He was apparently sold to Jackson by a trainer for $65,000 (£53,000) and the two soon became synonymous with one another.

Soon he was appearing on primetime TV, putting in a star turn on The Dick Clark Show.

In 1987, when Bubbles was four-years-old, he accompanied Jackson on his Bad tour, sharing a two-bedroom hotel suite with the star in Tokyo, Japan. While there, he drank tea with the Mayor of Osaka, Yasushi Oshima.

At a promo event, Bubbles was apparently the "life of the party".

But not everyone was a fan. According to author David Wigg, Queen singer Freddie Mercury became annoyed by the animal while trying to record a duet with Jackson, who "made Bubbles sit between them".

Mercury eventually snapped, according to Wigg, saying: "I'm not performing with a f***ing chimp sitting next to me each night." He later ditched the project, favouring a solo recording.

From the outside looking in, Bubbles enjoyed a charmed life full of luxury and privilege, much different to that of chimps living in zoos and wildlife parks, or even those in the wild.

But things might not have been quite as sweet as people imagined.

Some have claimed that Bubbles was badly mistreated, even physically abused while living at Neverland.

Dame Jane Goodall, the world's leading primatologist, said the chimp was "beaten" while living with Jackson.

She told TMZ: "Chimpanzees belong in the forest and pet chimpanzees are one of the worst things you can possibly do. By the time they get to seven or eight, they are dangerous and stronger than you."

She added: "I ticked him [Jackson] off. I went to see him and we talked about Bubbles.

"Bubbles is still alive and he is very beautiful. But when he was with Michael Jackson, he was being beaten."

Jack Gordon, ex-husband of Jackson's sister La Toya, has accused the singer of abusing Bubbles

He said: "I saw Michael punch Bubbles in the face, kick him in the stomach. Michael used to say, 'He doesn't feel it. He's a chimpanzee. I have to discipline him.'"

Jackson's family has refuted the claims that he was physically abusive towards Bubbles.

But Goodall, speaking in an ITV documentary aired this year, again alluded to such violence.

Appearing in Searching for Michael Jackson’s Zoo with Ross Kemp, she told the former EastEnders star that she had to take Jackson to task about how Bubbles was being disciplined.

She said: "He [Jackson] looked at me and [asked] ‘you wouldn't approve of a chimp being hit over the head, would you?’ I said, ‘No, Michael, you know I wouldn't.’

"Bubbles was hit when he did something wrong. Michael said that once he was hit across the room. I said, ‘Well, Michael, did you think that was all right?’ And he said, ‘No, not really.’"

Eventually, when he grew so big and aggressive that he posed a risk to those at the ranch, the 12st chimp was shipped off to live with a trainer somewhere in California in 2003.

It came after concerns he could attack and seriously hurt Jackson's baby son, Prince Michael II.

Trainer Bob Dunn, who helped look after Bubbles at Neverland, told CNN: "Bubbles is an adult chimp and a wild animal. We don't let him out to play."

A report has since emerged, claiming that when Jackson faced child molestation charges in 2003, Bubbles tried to take his own life.

The Times of India said of Jackson: "His favourite pet, a chimpanzee named Bubbles tried to commit suicide."

He was apparently saved by medics, but no information has ever been released.

At Neverland, Bubbles was replaced with another infant chimp, again called Bubbles, and Jackson also bought two more baby chimps, Max and Action.

The original Bubbles was moved to the Centre for Great Apes, a specialist animal sanctuary in Wauchula, Florida, when the trainer called it a day in 2004.

Jackson reportedly remained as Bubbles' owner and carried on paying for his upkeep.

Bubbles still lives at the sanctuary today. The average lifespan of a male chimp in captivity is 32, so at 39, Jacko's old playmate can certainly be considered old.

These days he likes to paint and listen to flute music.

And, unsurprisingly, he looks a lot different. Gone are the colourful outfits and cute features. For starters, he's much bigger and his facial features much flatter.

Staff at the sanctuary have described him as "huge and ugly" but add that he has a very "sweet character".

When the star died of a prescription drug overdose in 2009, it was claimed that Bubbles self harmed, but Patti Ragan, founder of the Centre For Great Apes, dismissed the suggestion, saying he had not been told about the death.

These days, Bubbles spends his 'retirement' with his chimp friends, Oopsie, Ripley, Jessie and Boma.

He relishes the peace and quiet of his new life.

According to keepers, his cheeky side is still there as he sometimes playfully spits water and throws sand at strangers.

And after an early life in a goldfish bowl, it's perhaps unsurprising that he no longer likes cameras, often turning his back on the lens.

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