One of the survivors Michael Jackson left behind was Bubbles the chimp. Years ago, after Jackson had kids, he gave Bubbles to a sanctuary — the reason being (so the story went) because chimps can be aggressive around kids.
Las Vegas native James Ronald Whitney — an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker who raises monkeys — ran into Jackson a few times over the years, and they chatted about their primates.
“Only other monkey owners know what you’re going through, with the diapers and the monkey chow and where to get the best deals,” Whitney says.
One time they met at a Chippendales in Los Angeles. Whitney danced there then. Jackson went there that night with one of his brothers because the brother was friends with a dancer there.
Whitney says Jackson was “very, very bonded” with Bubbles.
“I’m sure he was a much better father to his chimp than he ever would have been to a child of his,” Whitney says. “I think he loved his chimp. I don’t know for certain, but my guess is he had children for very different reasons than the reasons he had his chimp.”
Bubbles “was gonna be his kid,” Whitney says. “That’s how it was with me. And I think he had kids to have some politically correct spin on his life.”
Why would Jackson and Whitney — who both had very troubled childhoods — feel so close to chimps and monkeys?
“I don’t really like people that much, and I guess I share that with Michael Jackson. I don’t think he (was) particularly fond of people,” Whitney says.
He explains further that people learn to be off-puttingly artificial, but monkeys never do.
Bubbles probably began missing Jackson immediately after being sent to a sanctuary.
“A monkey typically has the intelligence of a 4- or 5-year-old. That’s pretty smart,” Whitney says. “If you go back to when you were 4 or 5, and your mom and dad went on vacation, that’s what it would be like.”
But Whitney adds:
“Trust me, Michael would have missed Bubbles more,” he says. “It’s like giving a kid up for adoption. There’s no difference. Most of my friends have kids. They think it’s strange when I compare my relationship to my monkeys to their relationship to their kids. But I don’t think it’s strange at all.”
Clint Black sings tonight through Sunday at The Orleans (check out my interview with him in the back of Neon). Pussycat Dolls are at the Palms on Saturday. Artie Lange does stand-up Saturday at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel after his afternoon pool contest search for a new Miss Howard TV. Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood reunite Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden arena. Maxwell sings tonight at the Palms.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the blog at reviewjournal.com/elfman.