The last room we toured had a very large glass terrarium with a lid on it. It was a low table, and it was hard to see what was inside. Jackie and I were looking around admiring some very beautiful birds in cages, oblivious to what Michael was up to, when suddenly he turned from the terrarium and said with a sweet smile, ”Here, Shaye, you want to hold Muscles?”
Languishing across his outstretched hands was a very pretty boa constrictor. I took it. It felt like damp silk and, much to my surprise, began to move sideways, so that I was in danger of dropping it. I exclaimed to that effect, and Michael protectively retrieved his snake with a look of abject disappointment on his face. It was only much later, when he teased me about it, that I realized he was hoping — wildly hoping — for a shriek from me and, maybe, a hysterical dash out of the room. He was a kid at heart — then and always.
In the evenings, we would sometimes see a movie in the screening room. I remember him taking his friend and advisor Karen Langford and me to the L.A. County Children’s Museum, which they kept open for us after hours. We exhausted ourselves leaping against Velcro walls, standing in front of spinning lights, and throwing ourselves into the pools of plastic balls. On the way home, he asked his driver to pull over somewhere near the intersection of Hollywood and Vine and jumped from the car to dance on his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, singing some perfect little bit of a song before leaping back in, and off we went into the night. It was exhilarating to be in his presence. He was exciting and funny and brilliant.