Michael Jackson Estate Forces SF's Neverland to Change Name
[Updated 2:45 p.m.] When Michael Jackson died last June, San Francisco found comfort in parties paying homage to the King of Pop. From the generator gig up in Alamo Square to the flash dance down at the Embarcadero, this city expressed its appreciation for Jackson's historic career all over the city. But perhaps the biggest event in the icon's honor came from Neverland, a year-old, 14-piece Michael Jackson tribute band that includes a whopping four vocalists, a horn section, and a six-piece rhythm section. That group claims it recently came under fire from Jackson's Estate, however, which issued a cease and desist letter telling the group to stop using the Neverland name.
Band leader and trumpeter Morty Okin's response was shock. He says Neverland is part of the Peter Pan story as well as the name of Jackson's sprawling homestead. The band claims its attorneys couldn't find any registered trademark of "Neverland" by the Jackson Estate.
Okin is a vet of tribute acts. He was a founder of Superdiamond (but only stayed on a couple shows) and currently works in another dozen-plus member homage, the 13-piece strong Barely Manilow. Of that last act, he says with tangible relief, "So far no legal issues!"
He says this experience doesn't alter his passion for Michael Jackson, but it does "put a bad taste in my mouth" when it comes to the suits handling the entertainer's affairs. "It sucks to be bullied," he adds. "It would be interesting what MJ himself would have to say about this. With a bunch of MJ tributes out there, we think he'd be most proud of us for delivering his music and entertainment value as it should be."
Neverland has played 15 shows since its idol's death, including a Redwood City show for 5,000 fans. It will continue delivering the entertainment value of Jackson's music, but now under another name: Foreverland. (Subtitled: "a 14-piece tribute to Michael Jackson.")
Okin never got to see Jackson live, but says other Foreverlanders have. As for his own personal MJ memories, though, he says, "I will never forget the day Thriller came out. I was in middle school then and glued to the TV the day it aired."