It’s sad when people leave suddenly, especially when we admire but don’t really know them. But one way people remain “alive” is through remembering them. I love hearing random encounters and thoughts about Prince, and I thought I’d share a few friends’ stories here, including my own minor one…
“My story is not about a direct encounter with Prince, I never met him, rather it’s a funny story that was told to me by someone in our stage crew on tour in 1989-90, who left for a while to work with Prince, then returned to work with us again. He said that whenever Prince saw him, he would ask,
‘Who’s that little band you were with… they sing that little song, then he would sing in his falsetto voice, love shack, baby Love Shack?‘” –The B-52s’, Keith Strickland
“Chi Chi (Valenti) and I are battling over the best description of Prince. My favorite was by L.A. Reid, ‘He could steal your woman wearing high heels.‘
Chi Chi’s was by Robert Christgau on seeing Prince for the first time: ‘Mick Jagger should fold up his penis and go home.‘” –DJ, Johnny Dynell
“The first time I laid eyes on him was at the Ritz in December 1980 where I was djing and he was playing for the Dirty Mind tour. The Ritz was still a fairly new venue opening in May of that year. That was the show that changed it all. For me, for the Ritz and I think for Prince too. It was insane. He came back again and played in March of 1981. Lucky to have witnessed that and all that came after. Saw him many times after and obviously was a massive influence. All the bands and artists he worked with, the careers he is responsible for is pretty astounding. I really used to love when he put out those non lp b-sides “She’s Always in My Hair”, “Erotic City”, “17 Days”. Just too good. He will be so missed, but damm he seemed to do it all and did it on his own terms. Pop life. The artist.” –Justin Strauss
“Prince in Rio! I had the pleasure of being backstage at Rio’s Maracanã Stadium during 1991’s edition of Rock In Rio festival. There was a massive sense of anticipation for his arrival and security was super tight. I had a quick peek into his dressing room – It was all customized in purple drapes, purple pillows, purple candles, purple everything… Then suddenly more excitement as he entered the stadium and passed in front of me with his private security team lead by this beautiful woman! There was a lock down in the corridors, no one could really move around. Then I went down to see his concert from the grass and will never forget the looooooong and out of this world rendition of Purple Rain he played on his Purple piano!!!! Prince was an amazing music innovator and a true pop star in the old school sense of the term! He blew the stadium away!! Shine on Purple Star!” –producer, Béco Dranoff
“My story isn’t a direct encounter with Prince either but I remember this vividly. I was working for Vanity Fair in the art department and we were doing a story on the Prince phenomenon, and hired Andy Warhol to do the illustration for the story. (I still have a hard proof of the one shown here.) For some reason, I got invited to a screening of Purple Rain which was in a theater in Times Square. It was not the kind of red carpet premiere you have today, and Prince wasn’t there, but this new singer who was starting to get hot at the time was; Madonna. She was with her friend Debi Mazar, who I knew at the time and they sat directly in the row in front of us and said hi coming in. I remember Madonna REALLY rocking out and SUPER into the music all through the film as we all were. Prince & Madonna were just about THE hottest things on the planet in ’84, and there they were (sort of) right in front of me. It was a moment.” –artist, Trey Speegle
“Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, products of very religious upbringings: a Jehovah’s Witness, a Seventh Day Adventist turned Jehovah’s Witness, and a deep Catholic school girl named for the Virgin Mother and at war with ‘the father.’ Very interesting to consider together. All–at the same, high 80s moment, really– acting out the freedom of the body and explosive sexuality, exorcising demons, trying to get free, producing music where sexual and religious images mingled, creating more powerful new selves. So much rebellion, conflict, creativity. Yet classic American strivers. Messy inside but unparalleled, perfectionistic professionals, worker bees, hitting the mark at any cost. But the men both seemed so personally conflicted and tortured inside. Michael for sure. Don’t need to repeat that story. Prince, still sometimes needing to project ‘ladies man’ though as seemingly gender-complex as M.J., perhaps struggling more privately as it seems that he was actually conservative and somewhat uncomfortable with gays, himself. Intensely private and mysterious yet exhibitionistic. How did their race figure? Even their size–diminuitive and fey and kind of the antithesis of the desirable male in black culture, but creating their own kind of power, perhaps out of necessity…
All suffering intense physical pain for the work and one dead from a pain-killer. Excruciating/exquisite control of the body and maniacal control of the work, but not the head or heart. No big thesis, just scattered thoughts. So much going on inside those beautiful ones, intensity and creativity on fire. Driven. I miss the moment when they reigned, those sexy hymns we danced to. Exciting. Maybe just because I was young. Maybe because I am still struggling.” –Author, George Hodgman
“When I was 18 years old and studying in Paris at the time I was a resident dj in this club called Montana. One night the manager of the club called me and said that Prince had requested to have the club privatized for him and a few friends and that he specifically asked that I play the music after hearing me a few nights before. Keep in mind that I was a huge fan of Prince since a very young age and that I would play his records on vinyl as a little toddler in my Dads studio.
“The song ‘Kiss’ is in my top 10 favorite songs of all time. I was very excited when I got the call as you can imagine. To make a long story short… Prince showed up around 3ish after I had been playing an empty dance floor for about 4 hours already. He walked in with this gorgeous woman that, I kid you not was twice his size (even with the 5 inch heels he had on) . I was playing a lot of funk and disco which he seemed to be enjoying and dancing to. Fifteen minutes into the party he requested that I play a few of his songs. I played “let’s dance” by Bowie followed by “Kiss”. He turned around and gave me a thumbs up. Seconds after hearing his record drop, he leaned in to his date of the night and kissed her on the lips at the exact moment he says kiss in the song.
I continued playing his music until he came back in the DJ booth and asked for some James Brown. He danced a little bit longer and took his friends and date back to his Paris home. He did not sit down the whole night while I was spinning. Before he left he thanked me, shook my hand with his leather gloves he was wearing and told me I was a talented disc jockey. It was a surreal moment for me at the time and I can easily say it is one of the highlights of my ‘DJ career’. I recorded the mix from that night which I will be uploading in the next few weeks after some digging through my laptops. Deeply saddened by this news today. I am currently in london where I will be spinning his music tonight in his honor. #RIP to the master of psychedelic rock and intergalactic funk. A true musical genius, icon and most of all a genuine nice person. My condolences to all his close ones.” –DJ, Lino Meoli, son of Maripol
“The audacity of Prince Rogers Nelson did not flower with fame and purchase –did not even begin with music, since by all accounts he strode with slight stature onto a junior high school basketball court, throwing shade with the same shy-but-Sly buoyancy we would all witness later in performance. He laid down the law like a landing strip in the rain forest, his flickering lights serving as our clearance from the tower, all touching down safely behind him. He was possessed of the ecstasy of Little Richard, the locomotion of James Brown; the fusing spark-shower of Jimi Hendrix. He understood the sublime and abstracted alchemy of Miles [Davis], the impatient genius of Ray [Charles]; the giddy volatility of Sly Stone, the cat-and-mouse come-on of Marvin Gaye. He embodied the Saturday night/Sunday morning disparities of the Reverend Al –and his persona was as cunning and confounding as that of Salvador Dali.
I have ceased distinguishing between the religious and the secular, for everything is holy: our courage and humility, our senses both lost and found; our love and our lust…all that shall swoon and couple, leaving in their wake the real hope that, late as is the hour –with as much as we have been given and squandered; as little as we might deserve it, though we stomp and plead— there may yet be more on offer: God willing, just one more song sung into high rafters before we are finally called to quit and disperse.” –musician and producer, Joe Henry (posted by photographer Maude Schuyler Clay)
“I had greeted him as he came into the party and had just admired his ass in that jumpsuit which Siskel kidded me for so obviously doing. Then later I went up to his bodyguard standing right next to him and knowingly played the game.
‘May I speak to Prince?‘
I asked the bodyguard as Prince listened above the din and dared to smile at my knowingness. This was Vanity Fair’s first Oscar party at Morton’s in 1994 and he was the biggest star in the room. Yet no one else seemed to be going up to him. The bodyguard looked down at The Diminutive One who, in turn, nodded his approval – knowingly.
‘Yeah, you can,‘
the bodyguard said. So, Prince and I had a little Oscar party tete-a-tete.
‘Gigolos get lonely too, huh,’
I said to get his attention – which it did. I then told him about the one time I ever saw him perform. It was the Purple Rain tour in Daly City at the Cow Palace. I was visiting San Francisco for the first time and a friend, Adam Block, who was the music critic for the Advocate, had prime seats right next to the stage. I also told him his jump suit made his ass look hot. He lowered those eyelids of his, deciding if he should take that as a compliment or a threat. I wasn’t sure if he was going to hit me with his walking cane. He tapped me on my own butt instead.
‘You’re right.‘ he said.
And laughed – knowingly – a gigolo giggle, amusement gargled back down in his throat where those guttural notes could be grunted out amidst those airy high ones that could so shockingly take flight as he himself now has.” –Author, Kevin Sessums
“I was working the door at the ex-Sound Factory (after Ingrid Casares gave up trying to turn it into something else and before it became Twilo). Saturday nights were big, and on this particular one during fashion week Donatella Versace was having a private party for her 1998 ad campaign with Courtney Love. Mobbed confusion at the door all night, lots of famous faces. At some point a beefy guy in a suit approached the side and said,
‘I’ve got Prince in the car over there for the Donatella party but he doesn’t like being bumped or hassled by people.”
He motioned to a limo across the street. I told him to get my attention when ready, and I’d make sure there was a path they could sneak through quickly on the side. He got back in the limo and drove off. A half hour later the same limo slowly pulls up right in front of the crowd, not the side, and the guy gets out and looks at me. I motioned him to the side but it was too late.
Slowly out of the door of the limo emerges, not Prince, but five tall, beefy security guards in matching dark suits, with arms locked in a circle to form a sort of human cage, their open Prada jackets making a curtain. I yelled for people to back-up as this contorted, human tarantula sloooowly crawled out of the limo (two of the bodyguards facing backwards) and inched towards us. It was an acrobatic wonder! People stared. The crowd naturally parted for such a spectacle.
New Yorkers (back then) didn’t yell or take pictures around famous people, they’d just go weirdly quiet. But who were we gawking at? They didn’t know. I wasn’t sure. It could’ve been anybody! Sure enough, as I lifted the velvet rope and they wobbled their way into the door I caught a square-inch of purple from inside the walking flesh cage.
An hour later, Rob Fernandez came out and said,
‘Prince wants to leave.‘
And as the same human contraption inched it’s way out of the club (this time in reverse), I heard a muffled but unmistakable voice from deep inside say,
It crawled back in the limo and drove off. A security guard turned and asked me,
‘Was that really Prince?‘
I said, ‘It had to be.‘
–Sock Job director, Mark Allen