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Las Vegas Jackson’s other Neverland

King of Pop finds refuge in city’s glittery shops, stage acts, magic
/ Source: The Associated Press

Michael Jackson’s roots run deep in Las Vegas, his playland away from Neverland, where he holds a key to the city, loves browsing magic shops for a clever card trick and his family owns property in exclusive neighborhoods.

In the neon desert, where practically anything goes, there are no warrants for his arrest. No lewd allegations. No “big lie” as the singer proclaims on his new Web site about the child molestation charges he’s facing.

The ties were apparent when Jackson surrendered Nov. 20 after an arrest warrant alleged he committed lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14. After posting $3 million bail, he shunned his Neverland Ranch in California and flew to Las Vegas.

Jackson hopscotched around the city for three hours as media helicopters hovered overhead and giddy fans swarmed to get a peek of the King of Pop.

“There are places he goes and people scream negative things but it never seems to happen in Vegas,” said Sean Renio, 22, a Las Vegas resident who spent time with Jackson last year while the singer was staying at the Four Seasons hotel.

Plus, Renio added, “there are so many places he can hide.”

After all, Jackson had returned to Las Vegas, a city that revels in the outrageous and even boasts that what happens here, stays here.

People cried and literally shook after touching or seeing Jackson’s spindly fingers sticking out of the cracked window of an SUV. There were nasty hecklers, but they were outnumbered by supporters.

“Oh my God,” a crying Ofelia Felarca, 35, screamed at an intersection. “I got to see his hand. I’m so happy. He’s my idol.”

Jackson eventually made his getaway to the Green Valley Ranch hotel-casino in Henderson and gave the media the slip. Gossip columnists report Jackson might be staying at one of his family’s redoubts. His parents and sister LaToya Jackson own homes in Las Vegas.

But Las Vegas is more than a convenient hideaway that leaves paparazzi and reporters guessing where Jackson has escaped. The city serves up everything the eccentric superstar craves — especially that “glitter” Jackson loves, said Robert Wegner, Jackson’s former head of security, who now lives in Reno, Nev.

The casinos offer shopping extravaganzas where Jackson can spend while being blanketed in impenetrable security.

Spending spree
He was filmed last year in a British documentary during an outrageous spending spree at The Venetian hotel-casino, and reportedly has a $25,000 bill at The Mirage hotel-casino for trashing his villa before returning to Santa Barbara to face the warrant for his arrest.

These are places he has been coming for years, ever since the Jackson Five first played the old MGM Grand hotel-casino on the Strip in 1974.

He claims friendship with casino developer Steve Wynn and was recently given a key to the city by former mob lawyer-turned-Mayor Oscar Goodman. He’s also known to like Las Vegas shows, such as Celine Dion’s “A New Day ... “ at Caesars Palace.

Dion’s high-octane voice isn’t the only act that Jackson enjoys. He penned the theme song for the now-closed Siegfried & Roy show and once fed Apollo, their white male Siberian tiger.

“This is what I always wanted to capture in my shows,” Jackson said on the pair’s Web site. “Music and magic is a fantastic combination.”

When not witnessing magic, he’s buying it at one of the city’s many stores.

“He likes all kinds of things,” said Scott Alexander, 33, manager of Denny and Lee Magic Studio near the Strip. “He’s interested in different types of magic — everything from card tricks to coin tricks.”

Jackson’s frequent jaunts to the city have prompted rumors that he could be planning a show in Las Vegas with a magical theme.

A city known for second chances, Las Vegas would probably embrace Jackson, who some critics claim is washed up.

Experts say anything is possible in this fantasyland. Everybody gets another shot, no matter how they look.

“Elvis bombed here when he was young, taut and ripped,” said Hal Rothman, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas history professor. “He succeeded here when he was a blimp.”