Thriller and Sabu. Photo: Shambala.
The red jacket Michael Jackson wore in his 1982 “Thriller” video sold at auction for $1.8 million, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Acton animal sanctuary where the late pop icon’s two tigers live.
The tigers, Thriller and Sabu, were born Nov. 20, 1998, and lived at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos until May 2006 when Jackson closed his zoo. He hadn’t visited the ranch since his 2005 acquittal on molestation charges.
Bubbles the chimp went to an ape sanctuary in Florida; Thriller and Sabu joined more than five dozen other big cats at actress Tippi Hedren’s Shambala preserve on Soledad Canyon Road.
Hedren, star of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” (1963) and “Marnie” (1964), founded the preserve and the nonprofit Roar Foundation in 1983 after using the property in her 1981 film, “Roar,” which she made with then-husband Noel Marshall and daughter Melanie Griffith.
The Roar Foundation’s mission is to educate the public about the dangers of private ownership of exotic felines. Hedren has personally spearheaded federal legislation to ban such ownership because it frequently ends in neglect and abuse.
When Jackson decided to part ways with his animals, his zoological veterinarian Martin Dinnes recommended Shambala for the tigers, and Hedren readily accepted them.
But Jackson was broke and couldn’t provide an endowment for their care. When Jackson died three years later, Hedren put out a call for help. Running Shambala, after all, is a $75,000-per-month labor of love.
Beverly Hills auctioneer Darren Julien answered the call. Julien assembled hundreds of items of entertainment memorabilia, from Frank Sinatra’s 1986 Jaguar to Madonna’s annotated sheet music. Highlight of the June 25-26 auction was a red jacket designed by Deborah Nadoolman Landis – the wife of John Landis, who directed the “Thriller” video in which it appeared.
The jacket was expected to fetch $200,000 to $400,000. A portion of the proceeds would go to the home of the video’s feline namesake and his den mate Sabu (a variation of the Sanskrit word for “mistress”).
When the hammer fell, Texas commodities trader Milton Verret walked away with it for a cool $1.8 million.
There’s no word on just how much money will go to Shambala, or whether it’s a fixed amount or a percentage.
But the call stands. Thriller and Sabu and many of the sanctuary’s other felines can be “adopted.”
No, you can’t bring them home. That would defeat Shambala’s purpose. But you can pay to feed one of them, and visit it, and tour the grounds, and get invited to members-only parties, and know you’ve saved a wild animal from human cruelty. For information visit www.shambala.org.