The late Michael Jackson was famed for his Peter Pan existence at his Neverland Ranch in California. It was a slightly unorthodox set up, but being the King of Pop—and with a father like Joe—there were bound to be some issues.
Now dad is getting in on the act, stumping up a stake for a Happyland that is to be built a short ride from Ho Chi Minh City. Why communist Vietnam? Nobody’s too sure, but the theme park—with a 1000-room hotel, a water park and the usual assortment of restaurants and nightclubs—has a price tag of $2 billion.
Vietnam is promoting the amusement park as the largest in the region, hoping to attract 14 million visitors a year after its scheduled completion in 2014. Nobody doubts Joe’s ability to turn a buck, but investors will also likely be conscious of what’s at stake for a country ranked 120 out of 180 on the corruption index by Transparency International.
Bringing in Joe will help with the publicity, and will no doubt provide the 82-year-old with a welcome something else to talk about (interviews these days seem to all be about whether he spanked Michael or beat him—apparently spanking is acceptable).
Online newspaper VietnamNet said Joe was on hand at the groundbreaking ceremony in Long An Province.
‘I like discovering different cultures in the world,’ it quoted him as saying. ‘I like this project the most because it’s located in a beautiful cultural and natural space.’
One assumes the last year’s dispute about a neighborhood waste dump—reportedly six times the size of the park—that’s positioned next door and which was deeply unpopular with locals, has been resolved.
Meanwhile, the media rounds continued. Joe was at his best, and apparently so touched by the real estate deal that he felt moved enough to evoke memories of his son, saying on local TV that Michael had lived to make people happy.
‘I am proud to maintain that, making Vietnamese people happier…My wish is to promote this project to all friends across the world so that they understand more about your country.’
It wasn’t quite a case of Hollywood goes to Vietnam, but lead investor Khang Thong Group of Vietnam was no doubt grateful for Joe Jackson’s publicity blitz. It has been promoting the Happyland amusement park as a resort comparable with Disneyland and Universal Studios.
One wonders what James Barrie would have made of it all.