Hide the kids, lock the wine cellar, and don’t leave your children alone at the craps table, because Michael Jackson is back in the United States:

Ending 18 months of seclusion in Europe, reclusive superstar Michael Jackson was on a plane to the United States late Saturday bound for Las Vegas, where he plans a comeback.

Jackson and his three children, Prince Michael, Paris and Prince Michael II were due to arrive before midnight at a private executive terminal at McCarran International Airport, sources said.

It seems like only yesterday that the Neverland Ranch, former home to the, uh, man (?), who was once the most famous singer on the planet, many carnival rides and who knows how many tickle fights with McCauley Culkin, had its carousel unplugged. The government temporarily shut the ranch down. It has since reopened.

Dozens of employees had to be laid off due to the fact that the California Department of Labor closed the place in 2005 because Jackson carried no workers compensation.

After all that has been alleged to have gone on at Neverland – from supplying kids with alcohol to drug use to sequined fingerprints on Garanimal zippers – Michael Jackson’s home was shut down not due to any of the plethora of “alleged” crimes, but because Jackson wasn’t set up to accommodate government regulations in the event his umbrella holder poked out an eye or a Neverland carney lost a leg in a bumper car accident.

Oh well, whatever it takes.

The government shutting down Neverland for a lack of workers comp was the pop world real estate equivalent of getting Capone on tax evasion. The lesson being that, if you’re a bank robber, child molester, carjacker or mobster, your odds of getting off the hook are far greater if you simply keep your paperwork with the state timely and on the up-and-up.

Frankly, Jackson should feel lucky. Problems with the government, mounting debt and fleeing the country in shame pale in comparison to what could have happened. For a while, it was looking like Michael was facing the kind of serious jail time often reserved any of the rest of us who have have a playscape in the wine cellar, but fame can get you out of just about anything – with the exception of non-compliance with government regulations.

Now Michael’s back in the states and looking for a comeback, not to mention directions to the local Chuck E. Cheese.

We can be fairly certain that, after all he’s been through, Michael Jackson has learned his lesson: Never mess with the government. After that, anything’s fair game, including kids with negligent morons and/or greedy slime-buckets for parents.

Frankly, I’m glad Jackson is having a second chance. Why? The thought of Michael Jackson going to jail unaccompanied by some of the parents who allowed their kids to spend the night with him would have made the vessel of justice seem a little emptier. Especially the parents who sent their kids to Neverland after all that was known of the charges against Jackson.

In 2005, for example, about 200 kids visited Jackson at Neverland. Yes, parents were still allowing their kids go to the place where “beat it” wasn’t just a song. Amazing. Perhaps when those kids get older and realize what their parents did, they’ll reciprocate by sending ol’ mom and dad off for a weekend at Jack Kevorkian’s “amusement van” and see how their folks appreciate the gross negligence.

When you figure all the money Michael has paid out to the families of children to shut them up, his financial difficulties are easy to understand. Consider just the kids in the visit mentioned above. Let’s see, 200 kids at about $1.75 million a kid equals … a checkbook that’s very difficult to balance.

Now Michael has returned to try to get that money back in the form of ticket sales from some of the same people he gave it to to shut them up. If this isn’t the weirdest way to do business, I don’t know what it. In other words, it’s perfect for Vegas.

Somewhere out there right now are some parents who are going to let their kids spend the night and/or have a nice long unsupervised visit with Michael Jackson. You just know it will happen. Forget about Michael — these are the people who should be in prison.


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