It is hard to believe four years have passed since Michael’s unfortunate and premature passing. 😦
I’m attaching a photo of the “Butterfly Cherub Horse” with flowers woven into the mane that Robert Nolan Hall, Chance Rides Inc., personally custom sculptured, decorated and painted for Michael as his very own special gift. It was totally unknown to Michael at the time of delivery that it existed on his new 50′ Grand Carrousel as one of the 60 different menagerie animals and horses.
On Halloween eve, 1990, after an enjoyable evening visiting and having dinner together in his home at Neverland Valley Ranch, we rode in his “flaming golf cart” to the location where the carrousel had been installed during the previous few days. We rode different animals for awhile, enjoying the music, and were hanging out admiring the beauty of his park model carrousel amusement ride, when I asked him if there was a favorite animal he’d picked out on his new carrousel. I was overly shocked at Michael’s immediate reaction! He took off running around the carrousel like a kid at an Easter egg hunt, in search of one that had apparently really caught his eye. Upon sighting it after passing over half the other animals, this was the very first animal he suddenly stopped next to and exclaimed, “Here it is, Rob! This one!”
To this day, I remain in awe of the bond Michael developed at first sight for Robert’s special gift! Michael was such an unbelievably real and down to earth person with an incredible appreciation for talent and beautiful art shared by few others at his level.
I’m in the process of documenting events at Neverland relating to Michael’s beautiful inner spirit and true love for others, especially the children, and have asked for the support of some associates who were there during what became probably one of the happiest periods and most thrilling moments in his personal and very private life. I greatly appreciate those who are assisting me in this project that can only be accomplished out of love and appreciation for someone so special and held close to our hearts by those of us who were there with him personally and helped make his dream of a place for the “children of the world” become a reality where they could visit and not be burdened by their own problems, if only for a day.
With love and appreciation for you, Michael… God bless you, and may He keep watch over you forever forward during your new journey in Heaven. 🙂
You will forever be greatly missed!
Michael Jackson’s “Maker of Dreams”
You can listen to Rob here; http://www.blogtalkradio.com/a-place-in-your-heart/2013/06/07/brad-sunberg-in-the-studio-with-michael
Rev. Catherine M. Gross, Ed.,CPLC/MJJJP
“Let us dream of tomorrow where we can truly love from the soul, and know love as the ultimate truth at the heart of all creation.” Michael Jackson
UPDATED – 6/23/2013
A bit of the transcript from Rob Swinson calling into the show and sharing loving memories of Michael with Brad Sundberg and listeners;
Rob Swinson: I called in to remind Brad (Sundberg) that it’s Sycamore Valley Ranch, 2,700 acres, he paid about 28 and a half million dollars for it and I rode horses all over it. (laughing)
Brad Sundberg: See, that’s why I need Rob. Well, Rob and I just reconnected here these past couple of weeks, he was my partner in crime up there. umm.. no, I was hanging a couple of speakers here and there and Rob was bringing in some of the most beautiful rides on the planet and Rob is just an amazing talented guy and a good friend. It’s good to here from you Rob.
Rob Swinson: We gave Michael something that he wanted desperately and dreamed of ever since he was 17 years old for the children of the world. This is the reason he purchased the ranch in the first place (deep sigh).. I’m sorry
Rev Gross: Are you okay?
Rob Swinson: It’s very difficult to talk about (sobbing) … okay, I’m over that one. I had a flashback from hell (clears throat) Brad did an absolutely astounding job for Michael. I was a witness to all of his writing and the music. Poor Brad was so out of his element when I first met him.
Brad Sundberg: (Laughs) Don’t make me look bad Rob.
Rob Swinson: Oh, you were wonderful. I mean he understood how to do something for Michael, how to perform for Michael and understood what Michael wanted and he was an extremely important part of Michael’s life and creating Michael’s Neverland (begins to cry).
Brad Sundberg: You’re very kind.
Rob Swinson: It’s the truth.
Rev. Gross: I don’t want you to be upset about this.
Rob Swinson: I’m not upset, I’m happier than hell (laughs). I’m happier than hell, it was just an overwhelming experience Catherine, to build Michael’s dream. That’s why he called me his “Dream Maker” or “Maker of Dreams” is what he wrote on the back of a… in May of 1992 I think it was on the back of a gold catalog “To Rob, my maker of dreams, with love and appreciation, Michael.
Rev: Gross: Now, Rob listen, I’m just a little guy and if you don’t stop that I’m going to start crying too because ….
Rob Swinson: I’m okay. Brad is helping me lift a very big burden off my shoulders and I told him this the other day because I have carried this for so many years and I’m not capable of doing all the things that Brad can do and he became a mouthpiece for both of us so to speak because Brad gave him his music and I gave him dream, Neverland Valley Amusement Park and together we both got to know Michael pretty darn well (begins to cry).
Brad Sundberg: Rob was a very good friend to Michael and it kind of shows the … ummm it’s all about trust and once Michael trusted you and knew you weren’t going to hurt him, and you weren’t going to steal from him, because he had been burned so many times, and that little circle of .. and it’s funny in the studio we had a circle and at the Ranch .. it was really a very small group of people.
Rob Swinson: Very exclusive. Very private. That was Michael’s private side and that was Michael’s private life and we all knew that and that’s why we respected his privacy so much. The very first media release, that I have a copy of, I believe it was in the National Enquirer around August (I would have to go get it out of my file) 1990 with an aerial photo of Michael’s ranch in the valley declaring that Michael was in the process of building a golf course (laughs) and I’m down there building his dream, the amusement park. They were so clueless, I loved it!
Brad Sundberg: They would fly over and take pictures and every now and then a fan would get brave and jump the fence.
Rob Swinson: I helped them capture one one time on the south side of the valley up on the hill. He wore me out running up that damn mountain with security guards. But we took him down, caught him and he was released and the Sheriff showed up and he was removed. All we saw was a reflection up on the hill and knew somebody was up there – from a camera, you know like a flashing and we were down in the park working and knew instantly and we took off.
Brad Sundberg: I think I was there for at least one or two and you know, somebody would sneak in.
Rob Swinson: Brad, I looked through some pictures today, I thought I had one of you at the train barn but I did find one of the train with all your rolls of wire sitting next to it, I guess you were getting ready to wire the speakers and stuff (laughs)
Brad Sundberg: Oh cool!
Rob Swinson: I found one with Miko Brando standing next to the train. I think it was just as we were putting it on the tracks at Michael’s ranch in mid October 1990. Miko and his dad and his sister Rebecca came out on the inaugural ride on Michael’s train ride. You did all the lighting and the sound. The idea of hundreds (inaudible) miniature train ride. Brad created the only miniature train ride in the country with the sound and lighting system like Michael’s.
Brad Sundberg: I had no idea what I was doing, but we just did it. We created stuff out of nothing. You just do it.
Rob Swinson: Michael never ever asked. You made a comment earlier that you were never across the table from doing business with Michael. I’m just the opposite as you know I was always on the other side of the table doing business with Michael and so I had a little different perspective on things than you had. He was so eager and wanted everything now you know, getting him to wait … he had no patience for anything. I mean it was just cute, he was just fun and you know I had a log of great times with him and admired everything that the team around Michael created after I helped him bring in the rides and build the basic amusement park and as Brad eluded to if all you saw was the rides then you didn’t see the park and you didn’t see Michael and you didn’t understand what his statement was. Everything had a meaning very deep to Michael.
I was just looking at a picture Brad that day where he was standing out of that main entrance sign that David Nordahl his personal artist painted for him with the girl with the butterfly. I was there when Michael delivered that painting to Michael and we hung it in his hallway that evening and I looked at that picture later on, with ????? in the background and all those incredible flower beds and the lighting in the trees, he did zoomorphic flower beds that were just unbelievable. I said, you know “this is one of the prettiest entrances into an amusement park that I have ever seen in my life” and I spent over 30 years in the amusement industry, traveling all over the world. I was National Sales Manager over here in Wichita Kansas for Chance Rides Inc. I visited and rode virtually every ride in the United States and Canada and every park, carnival and tourist attraction or whatever and I helped people design, develop and install a lot of different rides in different parts and there would be one here and one there that would be outstanding but not for Michael. (laughs) They are all outstanding. He had his touch on everything we did that was very special.
(Someone was mentioned)
Rob Swinson: That’s what it’s all about, that’s what your all about, that’s what we’re all about. We’re all about the same thing. (begins to cry) I’ll get off and let you guys talk to somebody else. Brad and I are going to talk later. I wanted to call in because you asked me to, Brad asked me not too but I couldn’t keep quiet but when he didn’t even know the name of the ranch Michael bought … (laughing). I’m sorry Brad.
Brad Sundberg: Sycamore Valley. I’ll never forget it as long as I live.
Rob Swinson: I have one question for you (Brad Sundberg) Did you do the yellow brick road between the park and the theatre?
Brad Sundberg: No that was Tony.
Rob Swinson: Oh Tony, that’s right, but you were responsible for the 50,000 lights in each oak trees around the park? Were you involved in that with Tony or was that someone else? Or was that Michael’s laborers?
Brad Sundberg: Well that was Michael’s gardeners.
Rob Swinson: He had an army of 60 people out there.
Brad Sundberg: If you’d ever go to Neverland at night, and Rob is right, when you drove in there it was just the coolest and you knew it was just an amazing place. Michael had this little thing he would like to do, or if he had a couple of friends in a golf cart he had these little tricks on golf carts he would buzz around in and he’d have the whole amusement park to be dark. Everybody knew it was there and up in Santa Ynez when there is no moon, you can’t see your hand in front of your face because it gets so dark. He’d pile them into these golf carts and drive up half a mile up to the main house to the amusement park, so we put this button in the golf cart so he’d get them right up to the park and Michael’s all about timing (putting on a show) and he’d get people just about 100 yards from the park and he’d hit this one button and it would turn on every light in that park – the rides, EVERYTHING! There were no lamp posts, in other words if you go to Disney or someplace there are lighted pathways and things but he didn’t want that he wanted all the lights to come from twinkle lights. So on every tree and Rob correct me if I’m wrong, as I recall it was a 200 amp service to those six or eight oak trees and to talk non-technical that’s like feeding a three bedroom house in any neighborhood. Each tree had that much electricity and then these trees – they were massive California Oaks, they were beautiful trees, they would be twinkle lights on them, but I’m talking every two inches all the way up and down the tree, up the branches, all white. That would come on and it was just breathtaking.
Rob Swinson: It was a fantasy land. That’s what it became. Do you remember the animatron that Disney did for Michael at the entrance in the theatre on the left and right side?
Brad Sundberg: Yeah, the Peter Pan
Rob Swinson: And do you remember the one on the left of Pinnochio that when it started up all the twinkle lights that came on from the Fairy Godmother, I mean it was just like fantasy and then it went down all the way down to the right and Michael in the spotlight and he’s there doing his moonwalk and the rabbit… There were things like that about every corner of that ranch was full of surprises and Michael just loved lights. Music and lights.
Brad Sundberg: And that’s why I say if you go to Disneyland and all they do and see is Space Mountain they’ve missed the point. There’s so much to dig into and explore and that is how Neverland was. I don’t say that from “Oh gee, lucky… me and Rob were so lucky” and but it was something that he built….
Rob Swinson: We were blessed Brad, we were blessed. Very blessed to ever have an opportunity like that in your lifetime to have an association with somebody that’s one of a kind in the whole world. I mean those who were the closest to him were those who were the most blessed by far, and you and I were two of them. … Let me tell you one story and I will get off here. The very first amusement ride that I personally shared with Michael Jackson was a (inaudible 95.50) train that was built here at Chance Rides Inc. in Wichita Kansas and it was very customized, very special, Neverland Valley logo, blue boy in the moon. We had never done one like this and two coaches and Brad — that was the first time I met him — in October, I think 1990, Michael asked him if he’d put lights and music on this, it had never been done on one of our trains and we’d done 200 of them all over the world. It was a one-third scale of the original of an old western type train so anyhow the next time I came back out was to bring back Michael’s fifty foot Grand Carousel with sixty different animals and horses on it. Every animal on that carousel was hand decorated, hand painted and it was a piece of art work in itself and never been done before in the world and that carousel was one of a kind in the entire world — everything custom for Michael. From one end to the other, from the snout to the tail, all the menagerie. Halloween night October 31st, 1990, I’m in the living room and Michael comes in and says, “Rob, I’ve been bad” (laughs) I look at him and say, “what do you mean, you’ve been bad?” and David Nordahl took me out to the trailer where all the animals were stored and snuck me in there so I could see them because we were hiding everything from him and we had dinner and he wanted to take a ride on the carousel and then afterward the train was sitting there that Brad had done for him with the lights on it and everybody left, it was eleven-twelve o’clock on Halloween night and Michael looked at me and I don’t know who asked who but I said, “well, do you want to go for a train ride?” and he said, “can we?” and I said, “yeah” so we take off and to make a long story short we are going up this hill with Brad’s music and lights and Michael’s sitting back there in his seat and I finally get him — I stop and finally get him to move up and get in the seat with me and away we go blowing the horn and the whistles, I show him how to operate the train, it’s almost midnight, full moon, Halloween and Michael and I howled at the moon together (laughs) I get goosebumps — we’re going up the hill going east toward the south side of the track by this mountain howling at the moon, ringing the bell, blowing the whistle and then he turned around and looked at me and said, “I love when we bring out the child within” and thats what he lived for — that moment. That was the moment when Michael and I bonded. Talk to you tomorrow Brad. Thank you Catherine.
(Conversation goes on with Brad Sundberg)
Brad Sundberg: He really did build that for kids, the children of the world. There’s just no way that all the children of the world could experience Neverland but I will say, and this is something that I get very almost passionate about is I have seen it first hand if Michael did have kids there, you know sick kids, Make a Wish kids, Neverland stood on it’s own two feet in terms of this is an amazing place but on top of that Michael gave his time and he would be out there giving the tour. He’d be driving the golf cart and telling jokes with the kids. He would be in the middle of the water balloon fight. He would be on the rides, you know, telling the operator to go faster, faster umm it’s one thing to build something and then say “okay, everyone come enjoy it, I’m too busy”, but it’s another thing to roll up your sleeves and be out there in the amidst of it and that’s really what I saw. I mean I would be there and you know I have four daughters so I have four beautiful healthy awesome daughters, I can’t imagine the pain that a parent must feel when their child is sick and there’s nothing that anybody can do about it but Michael and, how do I put this, that’s a difficult place to go. It’s easy for us to pull back and “yeah that’s too bad there’s sick kids in the hospital and I’m going to be over here doing my thing” but Michael would go to those kids. Michael would open up his home and I would just be heartbroken, I mean I would see little girls and little boys in wheel chairs being lifted onto rides by their parents or by Michael. He had a … Rob talked about a carousel, Michael had a chariot built into the carousel for kids that weren’t strong enough to sit on a horse or on one of the animals, so you could just put them on a bench and they could be on the ride but not quite as vigorous as having to hold onto a horse. That’s the stuff that…. that’s real, that’s real life. That little girl that’s on this ride in front of me is probably not going to be with us in three or four weeks and this is her final wish is to be at Neverland with Michael, that’s a lot of weight to carry around and that’s the kind of stuff that, and I’ve worked with plenty of people that have made a lot of money blowing it up their nose, blowing it on parties and Michael — to experience Neverland for what it really was and see his dream come to life and to see the impact that it had on kids and on families.. I will always have an enormous and most respect for and I’m extremely proud to be part of the team that helped bring that thing to reality. It was like no place else on earth.
Rob Swinson: I have something that I want to read to you and Brad that I just read from the person that personally did Michael’s carousel and oversaw it for him. There were four copies of this in the world, I was privileged to get number one. Michael Jackson and Norma Staikos got two and three and Robert Nolan Hall, who oversaw our horse barn we called it at Chance Rides Inc. was number four and he oversaw the personal design of everything and he kept a daily personal journal that I have never read. I just went and pulled out of my safe, from 1990, the title for the Magic Carousel and it’s from the journal of Robert Nolan Hall – 1990. Next page, three paragraphs.
For Michael and Norma, I will try and get through this (crying)
Michael (?) that there is nothing greater than helping others found the confirmation during the brief and yet timeless moments that you shared (crying) your special world with me. The true magic of Neverland does not lie only in the beautiful things to be seen there but radiates from the inner quiet understanding that lies truest fulfillment bringing joy, creating peace, and rekindling hope.
Being involved with you has left such a strong feeling that this has happened before. The inspiration of your carousel and all you are accomplishing has started my own creativity again as never before.
Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this. May there be magic in all that you touch.
Robert Nolan Hall 1990
I told Brad that I had a few archives on Michael that nobody else has ever seen before. I remember he called me, Brad and I had a laugh about it, I think he was in the Netherlands or Belgium at two o’clock in the morning and he’d just gotten off the stage from one of his live performances and he had to call me to find out how his project was coming along. (laughs) He was so funny, those were the two loves of his life – music and what this park project and his Neverland for the children of the world. Those two things came down to Michael Jackson – 50-50. He was very public on the music side but unbelievably silent on the children of the world side that Brad and I helped him create and there’s one thing and maybe the two of you can help me find out… Michael told me that when he was 17 that the girl he was seeing at the time made this pact, this agreement, to do something for the children of the world and I think it was Tatum O’Neal, it may have been Brooke Shields, I’m not sure which one it was, I never asked him. So I can’t ask him now.
Rev. Gross: No I guess we can’t ask him. It was probably Tatum O’Neal
Rob Swinson: That’s who I thought it was. After he died and Brooke Shields took the stage and I knew about his friendship with Brooke I thought maybe she was the one, but I’d always thought it was Tatum O’Neal. I’ve never been sure there was anybody before though. Appreciate it thank you for letting me share it with you. And for the love of Michael thank you and God bless (crying).
Conversation takes place between Catherine Gross and Brad Sundberg
Rob Swinson: That little castle tree house Brad, do you know what it’s purpose originally was for?
Brad Sundberg: Well I know I had a bunch of my stuff in the bottom of it, what was the top going to be?
Rob Swinson: No no no.. that treehouse was built to hide a generator that we had to sit there by that huge oak tree that had to be a silenced generator that Michael didn’t want to see. So Tony and his crew built the tree house for Michael and added a second and third story and made it like the fantasy castle at Disneyland. Michael and I, and I will never forget this, going up the stairs to the second floor and it was carpeted. He and I sat there and I think there was a little TV in the corner and nothing else and we were there to be alone and totally private and spent the afternoon just looking at pictures of rides and bronze sculptures that I’d come across recently in Las Vegas in a trade show and every time I found a new source of information to feed to Michael, as you know how voracious his appetite was, I shared it with him and that’s how we got the thing done. I didn’t know what he wanted for sure but I just kind of blanketed him and we’d focus our target on what we both agreed or though, like the water park and the water balloon fort, that all came from Michael and me and I got soaked back there with the water fight one time (laughing). His idea of taking it to that water fort level was incredible
Brad Sundberg: Like you say, I don’t ever think there was a grand plan I mean there was no set of blueprints.
Rob Swinson: No, don’t ever say that word, it was totally spontaneous. It was totally Michael, just like writing a song and developing it with you, I did the exact same thing for him with that amusement park. We started with bare dirt and he said “what can we do with this for the children of the world” and, you know, we trial and erred, we had a lot of zoning issues, everything was a war zone but I wouldn’t back off everything that I had to do I got done for him. That was Michael’s dream and he won. He got what he wanted (laughs) and the neighbors quit bugging him. I don’t think the neighbors quit bugging him. They hated it.
Rev Gross: You have a lot of pictures?
Rob Swinson: Oh yeah, I was looking today and the first picture that I saw was of the Brad construction crew putting down Michael’s railroad tracks in mid-October 1990 . No probably August 1990 and the architect out there we laid out a route for the train and we had bare dirt and Brad’s construction crew was sitting their putting the wire in Michael’s railroad track and that was the first thing we did for him for that. It was ugly. It was horribly bare dirt, barren California wilderness ugly. He made that into the most beautiful, fanciful Neverland Valley Amusement Park that any child in the world could go in there and be in Neverland and it was just off the charts. There only will be one Michael Jackson in our entire lives and there will be only one Neverland Valley Amusement Park in our entire lives and Michael is responsible for both and nobody really knows the rest of the story do they Brad?
Brad Sundberg: No, and that’s why I’m reconnecting with some of these guys because it’s just such a small group that Michael would …
Rob Swinson: That’s right. There’s so few of us. I just hope I can contribute but I do mean what I say about these photographs and for your seminar to help you promote your involvement with Neverland and show the rest of the world what you did there. I will gladly share them with you.
Brad Sundberg: Rob, you’re remarkably kind, I appreciate that.
Rob Swinson: Okay buddy, love you and just remember what you told me, Michael Jackson launched your career and I’m just here to help you along the way. Bye bye.