This morning after I took my bath, I wrestled into my purple bra and underwear, shoved my purple long-sleeved shirt over my head and torso and slipped my phone with its purple case into my pocket before heading out the door. I briefly considered taking my purple cane but decided against it because I knew I would be gone for about 20 minutes tops, which is the high end of how long it takes for the CSF to start pressing on my brain and making me wobbly.
Then the news started to trickle in: A dead body was reported at Paisley Park, Prince’s residence here in Minnesota. Just a week ago or less, there was a report that Prince’s plane had to make an emergency landing because he was experiencing some sort of health crisis, but he was resting at home comfortably. It was not a huge leap to assume the body was Prince’s, and it’s also not a huge leap to know that many of us locals are just plain sad about it. Of course he has a large following outside of Minnesota, but he was OUR guy.
Back when my dad was working on making a name for himself as a top-rate hair stylist in the very early 1980’s, he met Prince. My dad loved to name drop. He also thought Prince was a spoiled brat and didn’t hold back on saying so. Prince always traveled with an entourage (read: there was never a time he wasn’t a star). I later bragged to my classmates that my dad talked to Prince. I wasn’t afraid to name drop either.
The movie “Purple Rain” came out and the residents of Minneapolis/St. Paul (commonly referred to as the Twin Cities) were absolutely thrilled to be featured in a movie. First Avenue – “First Ave” if you’re cool – was forever galvanized as THE stage to play on thanks to “Purple Rain,” and who cares that the script was weak? The soundtrack was to die for! I mean, “Darling Nikki”?? Prince was so dirty! He actually talked about masturbation in a song and if any stations played it, the word had to be altered. How could such a short little guy get so many women to throw their panties at him?
When I went to the arts high school for my junior and senior year, I remember a boy who was trying to get into my pants saying to me, “Just give me a dark room and a Sam Cooke album.” I had no idea he was quoting a line from “Under the Cherry Moon,” another low-budget Prince movie that also starred Kristin Scott Thomas, at that point an actress largely unknown to American audiences in a film that didn’t have the commercial or musical success that “Purple Rain” did. I laughed when I finally did see the movie (on VHS tape!) because Prince found a way to infiltrate my love life as I’m sure was his intention all along.
In my senior year at the arts high school, I had a roommate who only played three albums: Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Weird Al (I can’t remember the name) and Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls.”
I don’t remember which album the rumors were flying around for, but supposedly Prince actually recorded a woman getting off and put her “sounds” on a track. This was well before we could actually research anything on the internet. He is well-known for pushing artistic and cultural boundaries. I mean, who else would have a top 40 song called “Cream (Get On Top)”?
In 1996, my boyfriend at the time and I road tripped back from Albuquerque to Minneapolis and after a night of drinking with a friend and my sister, decided to check out Paisley Park. My friend had worked there previously as a security guard and offered to guide us with him driving his car and me driving my car just to show us where it was. Well, my boyfriend told me to pull into the driveway where the guard was stationed; when my friend saw what we were doing, he took off. My sister was pretty drunk in the back seat and pulled a blanket over her head, saying, “If I can’t see them, they can’t see me.” The guard greeted us, saying, “Can I help you?” My boyfriend leaned over me from the passenger seat and slurred, “Is this where Prince lives??” The guard straightened up and said, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” My boyfriend persisted, saying, “Can we take your picture??” The guard said again, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” In the meantime, my sister Heidi is quietly saying, “Oh god, oh god” in the back seat under the blanket. I backed up and managed to find our way out of the back roads of wherever we were; this was well before GPS and it was around 1:00 a.m. in a very rural area, and my friend was long gone, so it was no cake walk. Thank goodness I have a pretty good internal compass.
The same boyfriend and I relocated to Cincinnati and worked for a box office that was also a Ticketmaster outlet and managed to score tickets to two very different Prince shows. One was in Columbus, Ohio; the entire show started two hours later than it should have and we were already an hour away from home. Start time was supposed to be 8 but it was more like 10 and it was an opening act, then Prince came on at around midnight and played “Purple Rain” and we thought well shit, that’s it – but NO, he played for two more hours!!! The next day was hell because of course we had to work after taking an hour to drive home, but we got to see it. The next show we saw was very different, which was Prince playing with no opening act and playing all of his hit songs, but it was like one 2-hour medley – he had so many hits that he couldn’t play any of them all the way through. I was sitting behind Peter Frampton for that show.
After I moved here from Phoenix last summer, I saw something I never thought I would see, and that is Prince opening Paisley Park up to the public for parties. He has always been notoriously private. I hope that holding those parties brought him some joy. I never thought they would be his final act.
I feel like those of us (and yes, I say “us” because I count myself in this bunch) who do as much as we can as soon as we can somehow have a sense that our time on this earth will end at a much younger age than those who are much more methodical about how they spend their time. The moral of this story is to get your purple on and party like it’s 1999. We will miss this magical man and all of the soundtracks that he has provided for our lives.