Wednesday, July 1, 2009

M.J.’s Bubbles OK

With all the discussion surrounding the shocking death of Michael Jackson, people have wondered whatever happened to his beloved chimpanzee, Bubbles. The chimp is alive and well and monkeying around in a Florida primate sanctuary, reports.

Now 26, the chimp - who lived with Mr. Jackson in the late 1980s - has spent the past four years at the Center for Great Apes, home to 42 chimpanzees and orangutans.

“He’s a very sweet and nice chimp, he really is,” says sanctuary Director Patti Ragan. “I’ve seen him go to the drinking fountain, start to take a sip of water and then, when he hears one of the younger ones coming, he’ll step back and let them have a sip.”

Bubbles was born at a facility in Texas that breeds primates for medical testing. The chimp, which Mr. Jackson adopted, arrived at Miss Ragan’s sanctuary - which is not open to the public - in 2005 after the entertainer’s former animal trainer discontinued working with primates. Not long afterward, a representative for Mr. Jackson contacted the facility, saying that the King of Pop wanted to come and visit his former buddy. But Mr. Jackson never made the trip.

Over the years, Bubbles has grown into a good-size adult and now weighs 160 lbs. His facial features also have changed since the days when he often romped around with Mr. Jackson in matching Western outfits.

The chimpanzee hasn’t been told of his former owner’s recent death. “We haven’t said anything to him yet,” Miss Ragan says, adding that it’s not yet known whether Mr. Jackson stipulated that any money from his estate would be used to support Bubbles, who easily could live to the age of 60.

To this date, his care has come solely from public donations.

Like buttah

The Michael Jackson stories and tributes keep pouring in.

According to Associated Press, Iowa State Fair organizers announced Tuesday that in addition to their annual butter cow statute, there would be one of the pop-music icon, who died June 25 at age 50.

Both butter sculptures will be on display in a 40-degree cooler throughout the fair from Aug. 13 to 23 in Des Moines.

Organizers say Mr. Jackson has been to the Iowa State Fair. He performed there twice with the Jackson Five in 1971.

Vibe to close

Vibe, the popular hip-hop and urban culture magazine founded by legendary producer Quincy Jones, is shutting down.

Vibe Media Group Chief Financial Officer Angela Zucconi confirmed the closing and said most of the company’s 50 or so employees will be laid off.

The closing comes amid a historic decline in ad revenue across all media that has left many categories of magazines struggling. Among recent casualties have been Portfolio, Conde Nast’s high-end business monthly; the style and home decorating magazine Domino; and Blender, another music magazine.

Founded in 1993, Vibe had a paid circulation of roughly 800,000 during the last six months of 2008.

On the mend

‘Poppins’ peril

A computer central to the new touring production of Disney’s “Mary Poppins” malfunctioned about 15 minutes into Saturday night’s Chicago performance at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, causing the entire show to shut down, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday.

According to several people who were there and sent descriptive (and angry) e-mails to the newspaper, the problem occurred shortly after the start of the technically complicated production, which has two weeks left in a Chicago run of several months.Audience members were asked to cool their heels for about 45 minutes before it was announced from the stage that, for safety reasons, the show could not go on.

Eileen LaCario, a vice president at “Poppins” presenter Broadway in Chicago, confirmed these events and said Sunday that such a midshow cancellation is “very unusual.”

“Mary Poppins” is one of the most technically demanding touring musicals, not least because the title character flies all the way to the back of the theater. Miss LaCario also said that those who bought tickets for the canceled show would be offered their choice of refunds or tickets to an alternate performance during the next two weeks.

• Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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