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Prince onstage during the 2007 NCLR ALMA Awards held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on June 1, 2007 in Pasadena, California.

*It wasn’t until my flight from Los Angeles touched down at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International, just after noon, that I let myself get excited. I was allowed: I’m certain I was the only person onboard who’d come to meet with Prince.

October 1991. After more than a decade of hit singles, multi-platinum albums, sell-out concert tours, Grammys and a 1985 Best Original Song Score Oscar for the acclaimed “Purple Rain,” Warner Brothers released Prince’s 13th album, Diamonds And Pearls.

At the time, musician and label were at odds over, among other things, how much material Prince could release at once and when (Warner said no to the ever prolific artist’s desire to routinely release double and triple-album sets), and the label’s promotion of his records, or lack thereof. To that end, Warner held that their situation wasn’t helped by an artist who grants so few interviews.

Prince’s compromise was his agreement to meet with some reporters. Thus, one morning I received a phone call at the Hollywood office of Black Beat, the fan magazine I edited at the time, from a PR man who said Prince, his client, wanted to fly me to Paisley Park in Minneapolis. There wouldn’t be an interview, the publicist was quick to add; I’d watch Prince rehearse his current band, New Power Generation, for a series of concert dates. I’d hang out at the rehearsal and write about what I saw and heard.

I listened in quiet exhilaration to the man’s proposition. When he was finished, I politely declined.

What was an innocent, professional offer in the hands of an unknowing publicist I felt could also be a trap. In fact, I was sure that Prince was going get me to Minneapolis and punk me.

See, in 1984, I wrote the first book ever about him (the first book I’d written, too), an unauthorized, hastily-created quickie paperback bio printed in a font large enough to serve as an eye test that Perigee Books commissioned in time for the premiere of the movie “Purple Rain.” Alan Leeds, Prince’s road manager during the period, told me Prince had said of the book, “Well, I don’t hate it.” “From Prince,” Leeds added, “that’s a compliment.”

Maybe. But that didn’t change the fact that from the beginning of his career, Prince and I shared a fragile, whimsical relationship.

I first encountered him in May 1977, one Saturday afternoon backstage at the Los Angeles Coliseum where I was covering L.A.’s first Funk Festival for Soul Newspaper. Soul publisher Regina Jones had dispatched members of its staff—photographers Bruce Talamon, Bobby Holland and Michael Jones; I don’t remember if Soul writer Leonard Pitts, Jr., came out—-to cover the story from all angles.

The line-up for the all-day summer affair included Rick James, whose debut Motown album, Come Get It, featuring his first hit single, “You And I,” was just out; the Bar-Kays, the Brothers Johnson, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Chaka Khan and Rufus, the Isleys 3+3, and headliners George Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic.

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Prince

The Festival, the largest assemblage of Black music stars at the venue since 1972’s legendary “Wattstax” benefit concert, happened during a heady period in late ‘70s R&B/pop, when soloists, vocal groups and self-contained bands all flourished. In ‘77 Stevie Wonder’s Songs In the Key of Life was going strong. Marvin Gaye hit with the funky “Got To Give It Up.” The Emotions broke through with “Best Of My Love,” while L.T.D., featuring Jeffrey Osborne, scored with “(Every Time I Turn Around) Back in Love Again.” The O’Jays, Natalie Cole and Thelma Houston all enjoyed chart hits.

Meanwhile, the continued success of veteran super bands the Ohio Players, Earth, Wind & Fire and the Commodores paved the way for new self-contained units such as the Norman Whitfield-produced Rose Royce, which officially debuted with the urban comedy movie soundtrack “Car Wash,” and Quincy Jones protégés the Brothers Johnson, who had a huge single with a cover of guitarist Shuggie Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23.” Out of this wonderful era of Soul, funk, rock and roll, jazz and gospel emerged Prince.

At some point in the sweltering afternoon, the show stopped. The massive audience that filled the outdoor football arena didn’t know the reason for the lengthy intermission, but backstage, people were milling about, drinking, eating stadium food and gossiping about the Isleys not going onstage until they got paid.

That’s when I noticed him. The 18 year-old one-man-band I’d heard Warner recently signed calling himself Prince (when his record came out, nobody believed that was his real name) was standing alone next to a small huddle of people, eavesdropping as they discussed what they’d heard about the drama. Prince stood near but just away, obviously trying to read lips and listen, like the new kid in grade school who, while shy about making friends, wants someone to talk to but is ignored.

Sporting a full afro, thin, neglected mustache and wearing the funky ensemble one is left with when they can’t afford to achieve a desired effect, Prince resembled a diminutive, after-taxes wanna-be. He appeared lonely and out of place, like a corny, singular hanger-on to be avoided.

With Funkadelic and Bootsy being fellow Warner acts, I figured Prince, new to the label, was either given tickets and backstage passes or was actually brought to the show by Warner reps wanting to give the label’s latest addition a glimpse of the Big Time. I considered going over and introducing myself, but I was too busy taking in everything else.

I didn’t exactly glimpse him and say, “Wow, there’s music’s next big thing.” Prince himself could not have known that someday he’d actually help out two of the acts performing that day: Chaka Khan in 1984 would hit with a cover of his “I Feel For You”; in 1989 George Clinton would sign with Prince’s Paisley Park label.

After the April 1978 release of For You, his first album, I kept an eye on Prince. I was there for his dismal garage band debut L.A. performance at Hollywood’s Roxy Theatre, where, in knee high stripper boots–accompanied by childhood friend Andre Cymone on bass along with guitarist Dez Dickerson, Gayle Chapman and Matthew “Dr.” Fink on keyboards and Bobby Z. on drums–he employed every clichéd rock star pose and stripped down to nothing but animal print bikini underwear and his now trademark Hohner Telecaster guitar. The next day people were talking about that show-—how horrible it was.

On the upside, Prince exhibited quite the full-bodied perm hairdo, which he played like an instrument, flipping it around as he shimmied and shook.

Prince takes his seat for the Golden State Warriors game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at ORACLE Arena on March 3, 2016 in Oakland, California.

Prince takes his seat for the Golden State Warriors game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at ORACLE Arena on March 3, 2016 in Oakland, California.

I was there for his redemption in early 1982 at the 3,000-seat Santa Monica Civic Auditorium during the Controversy tour. That’s when I first witnessed the Prince whose budding onstage prowess and finesse would only mature with every album and tour. By the time he broke into the funky, smoldering “Let’s Work,” I was hooked. I left that concert in a daze, trying to remember everything I saw and heard.

In the ‘80s Prince spent quite a bit of time in L.A. I’d see him at hot spots on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip-—Le Dome restaurant and bar, the chic music industry hang; El Privado, the exclusive club above Carlos n’ Charlie’s restaurant, where he’d sit in smug indifference inside a roped off section, usually with a pretty girl, and his menacing-looking wrestler turned bodyguard “Big” Chick Huntsberry. Occasionally he was joined by Eddie Murphy.

I never bought into the farcical notion that I could not speak to Prince. Sometimes he’d nod. Most of the time, though, his reply was a solemn gaze that begged, Why are you talking to me?

By the way, let me dispel the myth right here and now: Prince. Was. Not. Shy. Ever. He was not. He was funny and for a short cat, talked a whole lot of shit. The shy thing, like every other element of his public persona-—how he dressed, gestured, walked, talked, what he said and didn’t say–was of deliberate, calculated design. From the beginning, Prince, a true student of show business, set out to create a mysterious aura about himself, which he achieved brilliantly.

The shy bit officially started during Prince’s 1979 appearance on the iconic TV dance show, “American Bandstand” when, after his lip-synced performance of “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” a mute Prince frustrated host Dick Clark during the post-performance interview, communicating mostly with hand gestures and nodding his head.

Clark, gracious during the taping, was furious off camera, vowing that Prince would never again appear on a Clark-produced program. All was forgiven years later when the by-then superstar Prince and the Revolution’s performance was the highlight of a Clark-produced American Music Awards telecast.

In Los Angeles in the 1980s, Prince seemed to be everywhere. One afternoon I happened to look out the window of Black Beat’s sixth floor window at Sunset-Vine Towers in time to catch a custom-painted purple 1980s Fleetwood Cadillac pull into the parking lot of a McDonalds across the street, on Vine.

Bodyguard Huntsberry got out of the front passenger side, went into Mickey D’s and returned with a big bag of fast food. He handed it through the window of the back door on the right side of the car and got back in the front passenger seat. The purple Fleetwood sat in the lot for a good 30 minutes before moving on, completely ignored by people walking through the lot.

Prince was a huge favorite of Black Beat readers, its editor—-me–being his biggest devotee. However, Beat, a “fan” magazine by definition, didn’t sip the purple kool-Aid mindlessly. We covered “His Royal Badness” and his various acts–the Time, Shelia E., The Family, Jill Jones, etc.-—with an objectivity that, so I was told, didn’t always sit well with Prince. I figured he had a hard-on for me, hence my unwillingness to make the trek to Paisley Park.

And, I didn’t like the no-interview bullshit. It wasn’t like Prince wasn’t doing them at all; he talked to Rolling Stone and other “pop” (read: white) publications. It just seemed like more of the same inequitable treatment the Black press usually got from certain Black entertainers and their handlers in the ‘70s and ‘80s, which usually went like this: before the “pop” market knew who they were, these artists would be elated to see themselves in and on the cover of such Black publications as Ebony, Jet, Black Stars, Essence and Soul Newspaper.

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However, once they scored a “crossover” hit, those same artists became unavailable to Black periodicals. Or, they’d give Black publications 10, 20 minutes to do an interview. Meanwhile, writers from magazines like Rolling Stone, People, Us and Vanity Fair would be invited by the label, the artist’s management or the act itself to spend days with Black acts that suddenly found themselves hot with white audiences, crisscrossing the country on the act’s private bus or jet, hanging out with them, even vacationing with them, to get their story.

The color of the reporter wasn’t necessarily the problem; just the hue of the audiences to which a publication catered. In 1978, when Canadian singer/songwriter Gino Vannelli had his pop breakthrough with the ballad, “I Just Wanna Stop,” I was assigned by Oui Magazine, Playboy’s younger, hipper adult monthly, to interview him. To get me to Vannelli’s home in a suburb just outside Los Angeles, A&M Records, his label, had me picked up at my apartment in a big, black limousine. I interviewed other A&M artists–Black acts who sold far more records than Vannelli—and never had I been limoed to the interview.

The Black press understood the R&B artist’s zeal for mainstream exposure; we still “get” it. We simply wanted equal access—-at the very least, enough time that could be deemed professional in conducting an interview. Regrettably, this kind of thing still goes on with today’s big Black stars.

For the record, it was Cynthia Horner, former longtime editor of the legendary Right On!, America’s first major Black fanzine, who first presented Prince to the reading public nationally—-interviews, color posters, the whole bit-—back in the ‘70s. Cynthia used to tell me how Prince would randomly call her at her office at any time of day from a phone booth (pre cell phones), talk about strange stuff, including asking about other artists the magazine covered, then suddenly say he had to go…and hang up.

Prince’s PR man called me with the invitation to Paisley Park once a week for three weeks, and for three weeks I said no. The fourth time, he was frustrated. “Look, he’s not going to sit for a formal interview,” he said. “That’s just not going to happen. But he’s going to talk. He just doesn’t want me to tell you that because he doesn’t want to be obligated.”

The publicity guy no longer had to sell me on the trip. I’d already come to my senses regarding the matter. So what if Prince didn’t want to talk. It’s Prince. Rehearsing. Hell yes. I am there.

By any standard, Paisley Park is impressive. Located in the small town of Chanhassen, just outside Minneapolis, Prince had the $10 million state of the art facility built from the ground up. It opened for business in 1988.

Batman has the Batcave, Superman has his Fortress of Solitude and Prince had Paisley Park. The place is the true creative artist’s dream. There are recording studios. Soundstages big enough to accommodate an arena-sized concert stage so that an artist may rehearse using the same stage and effects they will take out on the road; soundstages big enough on which to shoot movies. Tons of musical instruments and the latest technical gear. A second level features offices and private living quarters. The facility’s interior is tastefully designed throughout.

When Prince opened Paisley Park, folks in the industry said he was crazy for building it–said he’d lose it in a few years–but it turned out to be one of the best things he ever did.

When the PR guy picked me up at the hotel he reminded me that I couldn’t bring a tape recorder or pen and pad. Prince’s rules. He led me inside Paisley to the hangar-sized soundstage where Prince and the New Power Generation were working. Rehearsal had yet to begin; the band was onstage with their instruments chatting, but there was no Prince in sight. So I decided to take a walk through the facility.

During my little expedition I came upon a room occupied by two women sitting at a huge table on which different kinds of fabric were strewn about. On bulletin boards were pinned fashion sketches. Around the room, mannequins stood at the ready. Lots of sewing machines. I’d stumbled onto Paisley’s 10-person wardrobe department, which made all of Prince’s clothing, stage wear for his band and, occasionally, clothes for his girlfriend of the moment.

Standing in the doorway, I said to myself aloud, “Wow, so this is where Prince’s costumes are made!”

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 19: Musician Prince performs on stage at the 36th NAACP Image Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on March 19, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. Prince was honored with the Vanguard Award. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Prince performs on stage at the 36th NAACP Image Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on March 19, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. Prince was honored with the Vanguard Award.

One of the two women, measuring tape hanging around her neck, looked up at me over reading glasses sitting low on her nose. “My good man,” she said with reprimanding nonchalance, “we don’t use the ‘C’ word around here. These are not costumes. Prince dresses like this everyday.”

Casual Fridays be damned.

James Brown once told me that “a true star, no matter when or where you see them, should always look like someone that somebody would pay good money to see.” I loved the “good money” part. Early on, Prince apparently took this as his canon.

Actually, it was his local Minneapolis fans, in their early worship, who demanded that Prince be “different” from them. According to legend, the young musician, a couple of hits under his belt, would run into supporters around town and sense their disappointment at his civilian wear. After experiencing this more than once, Prince struck with himself an immutable covenant: at all times in public, be dressed to kill.

Hearing the muted sound of musical instruments in the distance, I beat it back to the soundstage. On the platform with New Power Generation, front and center, stood Prince. His back was to where an audience would have been. Music wasn’t being played–crunching various guitar foot pedals under one of his celebrated high heels, he appeared to be checking out equipment.

Rehearsal being rehearsal, the musicians had reported for work in denim cut offs, tank tops, sweats, jeans and sneakers. Flip flops. The boss, on the other hand, was resplendent, head to toe, in canary yellow.

I walked over to Mr.Publicity Man, standing at the back of the soundstage, near the sound board. From a corner of this huge room waved Benny Medina, then a Warner Brothers Vice-president and head of Black Music, who today manages Jennifer Lopez. I asked the publicist where were the other invited journalists. “What others?” he said. “It’s just you.”

Prince, still fiddling with the floor pedals, counted down and directed the band through a mid-tempo instrumental passage before abruptly waving them quiet. A tech support person came over to take a look at those pesky pedals, as Prince told NPG to take a break.

They left the stage and headed for the exit as Prince, still wearing his custom-designed “Yellow Cloud” guitar, jumped from the stage and strode toward us. Medina, seeing this, also headed over, attempting to beat Prince to me, in order to do the honors.

“Prince, this is—”

“Oh, I know exactly who this is,” Prince interrupted, extending a hand. “I’ve read your work for a long time. It’s an honor. Thank you for coming.”

He sounded part businessman, part tour guide. His handshake was firm, his demeanor warm. And not at all what I expected.

Up close, Prince was a lot to take in. First thing I noticed was not his height, but how the man smelled. Obviously not Old Spice. More like Eau de Badd MF. Whatever it was, no doubt the fragrance was designed especially for him. And it was heavenly.

Then I noticed his height. Years of seeing him around L.A. still hadn’t prepared me for how small he was. Onstage, in music videos and on film, Prince’s appreciable symmetry—-the equality of his torso in relationship to his arms and legs, not to mention his quietly bold personality and sheer dynamism as a performer—cast the image of a towering, if compact, personality. But up close, he was tiny. Delicate, but sturdy.

The total presentation was striking in its self-containment: every strand of his full head of dark hair, even those seemingly tousled, had its place. His unblemished skin resembled porcelain, his facial hair, a purposeful five o’ clock shadow and sideburns, all hooked up tight. The tailored outfit was a casual (for Prince) yet spectacular mélange of contemporary pimp and time-honored pontiff in both its majesty and funky elegance.

This was the refined, quintessential post-“Purple Rain” Prince of the “Diamonds and Pearl” video, when his sartorical style came together on yet another, exquisite level. That afternoon, in the middle of the week–in Minnesota, no less–he looked every inch a person somebody would pay money to see. Good money. Oh, come, let us adore him.

“How was your flight?” Prince asked. “Is the hotel okay?” We sat on the first row of a set of bleachers. Those on the soundstage stood at a distance, observing us. I asked him about the guitar. He said he designed it; wanted something that visually resembled his music. I wondered if the Yellow Cloud was a Telecaster, his favorite guitar, in disguise. “Not at all. Different guitars do different things. When I want a Telecaster, I play it. They both give me what I want, in different ways.”

The rehearsal, he said, was in preparation for a tour that would see Europe, Japan and Australia. “‘Money Don’t Matter 2 Night’ is my current favorite from the Diamonds LP,” I told him.

“Ya like that, uh?”

We sat a few more minutes as different tech people came over to ask Prince one thing or report another. He knew the impact of simply sitting with me.

“Wanna hear some music?” he teased rhetorically, as the lights on the soundstage lowered. “I mean, only if you can stick around, sir…” He well knew the answer to that. I resisted adding, “Or, you can just sit here and be Prince while I bask in the fabulousness of how you smell and that badd ass yellow suit.”

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Imagine a world famous superstar performing an entire concert just for you. Sound and lights, effects. With me being the only person there–among maybe ten–not somehow associated with Prince, it was easy to imagine he was performing just for me.

They played the entire Diamonds and Pearls album with “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain”, “Nothing Compares 2 U”, “Thieves in the Temple” and “Sexy MF” rounding out the set.

Prince was a brilliant musician and a master showman–which is to say he worshipped at the altar of Rehearsal. The man was gifted, but as with any entertainer renown for breathtaking stage skills, what resembled magic was created through back-breaking, spirit-making rehearsal.

Former members of his bands have talked about Prince’s meticulous, slave-driving dedication to practice.

“We would rehearse a show for weeks,” a musician in one of Prince’s last touring units told me. “Rehearse until we “got it”, rehearse until it felt good [to the band] and then rehearse past the point of it being fun anymore, until it felt like a job. But that was the secret to our shows. Everyone knew their parts so well, that onstage you could…well, not relax, but you could be confident that if something went wrong in a show, it was going to be something technical, like lights or sound. It definitely wasn’t going to be us, because he worked us until we could play that shit in our sleep.”

Continued the musician, “I learned one way to keep my job—-other than hittin’ it every time—-was to pretend to be into rehearsing as much as he was. After playing a song into the ground, he’d say, ‘I think we got it.’ After rehearsal, I said to him, ‘You know, I think we can do that one better.’ The next day, after we played the song until it died and rose again, he said, ‘You were right, it’s tighter now. I appreciate your work ethic.’”

Prince and NPG played the show right through, with no pauses or stop-and-do-overs, which meant they’d been rehearsing weeks before I got there and the set was road-ready.

During rehearsal, I discovered a secret: in a Prince show, there were very few spontaneous moments. The show’s entertainment value was in making “spontaneous” appear spontaneous.

Example: at some point, during the long, instrumental segment of a song, Prince seemed to suddenly change his mind about playing guitar; outwardly seemed so overwhelmed by the groove that he threw his guitar to a roadie offstage, and ran to the piano to play. I could see that the move was anything but an afterthought, tightly choreographed to look spur of the moment.

Even addressing the hosting town was rehearsed. “Good evening, Chicago!” he yelled to the empty soundstage, referring to the city in which the band would be performing in a few days.

Even in rehearsal, the ever competitive Prince seemed to give it his all. The charismatic gestures, the subtle, seemingly impulsive funky move, the mid-air split as he jumped off the piano—-he gave me all that. By the time he ended a rip roaring “Purple Rain”, I half expected an encore; I sure applauded enthusiastically enough for one. A roadie looked at me like I was crazy.

With that last note, the whole stage went dark. When the house lights came up, the band was still there, but Prince had vanished, apparently having made his exit through a trap door at the back of the platform.

“Hey, do you have to leave for L.A. this evening?” inquired the PR man, as tech people began to split. If I didn’t have to leave, he suggested that I stay overnight. That evening, he said, was Funk Night at Glam Slam, Prince’s very own night club there in the city—-he also opened Glam Slams in downtown Los Angeles, Miami and Yokohama, Japan—-and Prince would be there. If I wanted, I could go, hang out and perhaps talk to Prince again for my story. Cool.

Had dinner at the hotel and got a cab to Glam Slam. It was early—-five or six in the evening—-and the place was empty but for bartenders stocking their stations and wait staff preparing to open that night. It was known that Prince often played on the club’s sound system tapes of unreleased music from his infamous demo vault, and sure enough, as I climbed the stairs to the second level I heard an oh so funky jam new to my ears.

I found the publicist at a long empty bar nursing a drink. “There’s Prince over there,” he said cheerily, nodding to a section of tables across the room, vacant but for Prince and Medina, the Warner exec, sitting at a small table behind a velvet rope. Standing sentry at the velvet rope was a really large, well-dressed Black man.

“Hi’ya doin,’ I said to the bodyguard. “I just want to say hello to these guys….”

“I’m fine, sir. I’m sorry, Prince is having a meeting right now.”

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Prince (2014)

Perhaps they were. But what I saw was Prince and Medina, just sitting there, so close to me that I literally could have reached around this man…over that velvet rope…and touched them. The two sat there in silence. Looking at me.

Strange. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t simply say something to the bodyguard, or, for that matter, to me—-Hey, we’re busy right now, brother, etc. Instead, they just sat watching me as I pondered which action would deplete me of the most dignity—-to continue standing there or slink away. During the excruciating seconds that I had this thought, the large man blinked–simply stepped aside—-and unlatched that ridiculous velvet rope.

“What took you so long?” deadpanned Prince.

“Mannn,” I said, lowering myself onto a seat at the table while pointing to the ceiling to signify the music–getting past that rope, you’d think I’d just gotten into heaven–“whatever that is playing right now, sure is funky-—what is that?

“None of your business,” said an expressionless Prince, quick on the draw. I managed an uncomfortable chuckle. “No, seriously, what is it?”

“You know,” Prince said, ignoring the question and turning to Medina, as if I wasn’t there, “this guy has written some really messed up stuff about me….”

Ain’t this a bitch. I knew it, I knew it, I fucking knew it. After that gentlemanly exchange earlier in the day, Prince was about to go dark on me. I’d heard he could be two different people. Now, I was getting the other Prince. The one who’d been laying for me for years.

“Really?” I said, through another uncomfortable laugh. “Prince, you gotta be kidding. I’m your biggest fan.”

“You coulda fooled me, brother,” he said. He turned back to Medina. “One time he was interviewing somebody and [in the article] they both ganged up on me….” Medina smiled uneasily.

I was mystified by what he was saying. That never happened. Never wrote a piece where the act being interviewed knocked Prince.

He seemed to calm down; asked if I’d seen or spoken with a mutual friend. Then I asked him if “1999,” which he didn’t play during rehearsal, would be added to the show line-up. “1999 is the past,” he snapped. “Here’s how this works.” On the table, Prince drew an imaginary line.

“This is ‘1999’ over here,” he said, tapping the table with his left index finger. “Over here is where I’m headed,” putting his right index finger at the other end. “To get to that side, I have to create new music. And to do that, I have to let go of ‘1999’ and all that music. So if you wanna hear old shit again, I hope you got the record.” (He would play ‘1999’ on the Diamonds and Pearls tour.)

I understood what Prince was saying. In order for the Beatles to go from “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to “Eleanor Rigby” or for Stevie Wonder to go from “I Was Made To Love Her” to his landmark Music Of My Mind, both acts made the choice, at the risk of alienating their audiences, to move forward artistically. For his part, Prince was always willing to take that risk.

“Why ain’t you out on the dance floor, slick?” Prince impishly inquired. Boy, was he having a ball with me. I can’t remember what I said to that one.

However, my response must have pushed my man over the edge, for after that, without comment he rose, walked several tables away and took a seat there. Alone. In other words, We’re done. He could have simply left the room entirely, but being the consummate showman, by sitting in plain view, Prince was milking this diss for its full dramatic worth.

As soon as he split, I turned to Medina with words along the lines of What was up with you guys leaving me standing there behind that damn velvet rope? Medina replied with a shrug and something like, Hey man…Prince.

We chatted for a minute or so before I decided to head back to the hotel. In leaving, I made my way over to Prince. Seeing me approach in his peripheral, I imagined him thinking: Dude, leave me alone. I bent down and leaned into his left ear.

“Hey, brother, I’m outta here,” I said. “But I just want to say how much I enjoyed myself.” Prince never looked at me, staring into the distance, a yellow flaired pant leg crossed. Pelulant. “Seeing Paisley, getting the chance to watch you rehearse, even hearing this music playing at your club-—man, it’s been great.”

“I’m just trying to do my thing,” he said introspectively, still gazing straight ahead. No attitude, no mean-spiritedness. Vulnerable.

“Prince, you’re not trying, you’re doing it. And that’s what I’m going to write.”

He looked up at me. A childlike blush. “Well, I’m gonna be reading it, so…” It was a mock threat, as in I’m watching you.

The story shared here is pretty much what I wrote back then. One morning a week after his cover story hit the newsstands, I arrived at the office and, as usual, checked my phone messages.

Among them was a cryptic communiqué: “Hello Mr. Ivory,” said the cordial female voice. “He said it was all right. And he said you didn’t stay because you probably can’t dance.” Click.

“All right.”

Coming from Prince, that was a compliment.

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Steven Ivory

Steven Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]