But even at the height of his fame, no one expected Michael Jackson to befriend a chimpanzee.
Bubbles was his name, and he accompanied MJ everywhere, travelling the world on tour with the pop star and even appearing in music videos alongside the King Of Pop.
It was definitely a unique period in pop music, as Bubbles became Michael Jackson’s mascot of sorts throughout his global Bad tour in 1987.
But after a while, their ‘friendship’ soured and Bubbles’ time in the limelight came to an end, though he would remain MJ’s pet for years to come.
So what happened to Bubbles, and where he is now?
How did Michael Jackson find Bubbles?
Bubbles was reportedly born in 1983 in a research facility in Texas that bred primates for animal testing.
There are conflicting stories about how Bubbles came to be Michael’s pet, as he reportedly purchased him directly from the facility when he was only eight months old, but also reportedly bought him from a Hollywood animal trainer for $65,000.
Michael and Bubbles were inseparable for several years, initially living in Jackson’s Los Angeles family home.
He then later moved to Neverland with MJ, where he would share a bedroom with the pop singer, scoff sweets whilst watching his home cinema, and at times throw his ‘mess’ all over the house.
Michael even taught Bubbles how to do his iconic ‘Moonwalk’.
Where did Bubbles travel with Michael Jackson?
Before and during Michael’s global tour in support of his 1987 album Bad, his friendship with Bubbles caused a media stir.
The pet chimpanzee accompanied Michael almost everywhere, notably during the Japan leg of his tour where they shared a hotel suite and drank tea together with the Mayor of Osaka, Yasushi Oshima.
Due to strict quarantine laws, Bubbles couldn’t join Michael in Sweden and the UK, but did join him during his visit to Elizabeth Taylor’s house and a promotional party for Bad where he supposedly “worked the room” and was “the life of the party”.
Bubbles’ presence in the studio made tensions boil over between Michael and Freddie Mercury whilst recording ‘There Must Be More To Life Than This’, where Freddie supposedly exploded at one point saying: “I’m not performing with a fucking chimp sitting next to me each night.”
After taking a photo of Michael and Bubbles together, Kenny Rogers said: “Bubbles was so human it was almost frightening.”
Why did Michael stop taking Bubbles out in public?
The older and bigger Bubbles got, it became more of a logistic effort for him to accompany Michael to places.
According to Michael, he became more “pugnacious” but there were also suspicions that Bubbles was being abused behind closed doors.
The world’s top primatologist, Jane Goodall, believed that Bubbles had been physically mistreated whilst under Michael’s care.
“I went to see him and we talked about Bubbles” she said. “I ticked him off.”
Having grown to 12 stone and Michael fearing for the safety of his newborn son Prince Michael II, Bubbles was eventually moved to the ranch of California trainer Bob Dunn in 2003.
Where is Bubbles now? Is he alive?
At the ripe old age of 39, Bubbles is alive and well.
After Bob Dunn’s ranch was closed down, Bubbles was moved to the Centre for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida where he has a relaxing routine where he enjoys painting and listening to the flute.
His life hasn’t been without its setbacks however, as the former pet chimpanzee reportedly attempted to commit suicide in late 2003 after he was abandoned by his owner Michael.
Bubbles clearly missed Michael after they parted ways and has not been told of Michael’s death, with trainer Dunn saying: “Bubbles definitely missed [Jackson] when they parted and will miss him now. Chimpanzees are intelligent.”
Though their friendship came to an end, the Michael Jackson Estate has supported the annual care costs for Bubbles since the singer’s death.