RIGHT ON (1979)

A Rendezvous With A Prince!

By Cynthia Horner

MIDNIGHT — MY PLEASANT SLEEP WAS DISTURBED BY THE PERSISTENT RINGING OF THE TELEPHONE IN MY EAR. Sleepily I answered it still dazed at the lateness of my call. “Hello,” I said exhaustedly. “Hello,” a quiet familiar voice replied. “This is Prince. I want to talk to you.”

Only the deepest of slumber would prevent me from instantly knowing which Prince was on the other end of my hotline, “Prince who?” The nineteen-year-old recording artist mimicked my puzzled tone. “How could you ever forget me?"

Awakening suddenly, I was able to think more clearly. I decided that it would be best to talk to Prince in my office in the morning. I hung up and fell probably into a deep slumber.

The next morning, true to his promise, Prince called me and asked me to meet him at Farmer’s Market, a well-known fruit and vegetable mart where meals are served and gifts may be purchased. Who but Prince would think of such an unusual meeting place, I thought.

I arrived at our destination a little early. There was no sign of prints anywhere. After making a few phone calls, I was advised by people who didn’t know Prince very well to go back to work. This is what I did.

I set down at my desk and frustration wondering what to do and if this was all a joke. The ringing of my phone interrupted my concentration and I answered it impatiently. “Hi! I’m down here at Farmer’s Market waiting for you,” Prince exclaimed. “Hurry up; someone’s going to stab me in this phone booth if you don’t.” I decided to try again and speed down the street hoping to find him this time. If not, or one-year friendship will be at an end.

I stand out on the street corner searching high and low for a short, green-eyed teenager with an Afro. No one fits the description. Oh, well, he’s playing tricks again, I thought resignedly. Maybe I should go back to work. Then, for the second time that day my busy thoughts were interrupted—not via telephone since I’m outside, but by hands clasping tightly around my vocal chords. It was impossible to scream to the amazed onlookers so I whirled around and a mischievous impish young man with sparkling green eyes lets go of my throat and squeals, “I gotcha.”

Prince spent the next few minutes getting the bawling out of his life while a gas station attendant nods approvingly. After that with that winning smile he says, “Come on, let’s walk around and talk.”

It isn’t easy to interview someone walking around with a tape recorder through aisles packed with tourists, but at Right On! we learned long ago to get our stories the best way we can. Like my original interview with Prince in the January issue, it was conducted in a very unorthodox manner with him asking me just as many questions as I asked him. Thank goodness he’s becoming more talkative and gives me more than one-word answers.

The first piece of good news Prince laid on me was that his new album would be in the record stores by the time you read this and the single is called “I Wanna Be A Lover.” “You should have brought me a tape so that I could hear it,” I tell him. “I have one right here.” He pulls out an imaginary tape from his pocket. As he does so I take a real good look at him. He’s so different now, I never would have known him. Dressed in a pair of torn red satin shorts with a white tie-up shirt and suspenders, a pair of leg warmers and cowboy boots complete his unusual costume. Gone was his gorgeous Afro and in place was a new image. He’s not pretty anymore—he’s very handsome. His many fans would readily attest to that.

"Where were you earlier?” I asked him.

"I was walking around. I came here yesterday.”

"Are you ever going to move to California?"

He shakes his head no. “But I do like it a little better here than before.”

Have you experienced the loss of privacy at this point in your career?"

"Not that many people know who I am.” He considers and continues, “Well, I suppose they do but I don’t come out outside much so I don’t see too many people.”

"Have you gotten a stage act ready yet?"

"It’s ready but I won’t say what it’s like!"

Suddenly my calmness deserts me and I speak to him sharply, “Why not? Why do you constantly put me through all these changes about your life?"

"Shh.” He puts his finger over his lips and look around at a casual group of people who have joined us on a bench. They probably weren’t even listening but Prince never take chances.

"OK,” I say, lowering my voice two octaves. “Why?"

"If I told you, you wouldn’t be surprised when you see it.”

"If I guarantee you that I’ll be surprised, will you. . .”

"You’d say, oh, I knew that was coming the same way you would if I told you the end of the movie.”

"Why are you so mysterious?” I asked.

"I’m not mysterious. You’d like me to tell you the end of the movie?"

"If I were curious I would.”

Prince picks up my glasses, studies me intensely and remarks, “Have you always worn glasses?"

Refusing to be sidetracked, I continue, “Is this a publicity gimmick you planned in advance. . . You're mysterious, I mean.”

Prince looks exasperated and says in a controlled voice, “I am not mysterious.”

"I never read any articles on you.”

"You know I don’t like to do interviews.”

"But you have to so that people will know you who you are.”

"Why do they have to know who I am?"

"So that they will want to buy your records.”

"Why wouldn’t they buy them anyway; they did last time!"

"People like to have the inside scoop on the artists.”

"But they bought my records last time and I didn’t do a lot of interviews,” he persists naively.

I explain how important publicity is. Even Teddy Pendergrass is aware of its importance.

"How can we continue to publicize you if we don’t know where you are?” I shied him, changing my tactics.

"I thought you knew. . . Minneapolis. It’s small enough. You could find me.”

"I don’t even know your real name,” I remind him.

Laughing, he replies, this is my real name, Prince.”

"You don’t have a last name.”

"I do but it’s sooo ugly. It’s hard to remember and . . . well I’m not going to say it’s ugly but it’s long.”

"When did you stop using it?"

"When I couldn’t think of how to write it. That’s when I was younger.” He changes the subject this time. “Look,” he commands, showing me a great big hole in his satin shorts. It’s as if he’s a little kid pointing out his crime. “My manager’s cat attacked me. I gave him some chili and he got sick.”

"Why did you do that?” “He kept begging for it so I gave him a whole bowlful. This morning he attacked me.”

"Well, the cat probably had indigestion. Shame on you.”

"Guess what? This time my album cover as a photo of me on it.”

"That’s great!"


"Why are you so uninterested in attention and recognition?” I wonder.

"Would you like to have attention and recognition?"

"I’m not in your position so the question is irrelevant. I would like to point out though that our readers really like you.”

"I like them too so then I should give you more pictures and stories, shouldn’t I? But wouldn’t we run out of things to write about?"

"Let me worry about that. There are still things about Jacksons that the public doesn’t know.”

Don’t people get sick of reading about the same people all the time?"

Rather than wade in water over my head, I change the subject once again. It’s hard to keep Prince on one subject because he’s taking advantage of the opportunity to tease me and play jokes. He’s a kid, a darling little elf that you’d like to take home.

"What do you expect to get out of being a recording artist?"

"That’s a deep question.” Silence. “Well, it’s because it’s what I do best. It’s a job. I can’t pump gas or nuthin’ like that.”

"You didn’t have to be a recording artist you could have been such a position. It took initiative for you to land at a wreck A record company.”

"Well, when I got bored, I changed careers. I got tired of playing in a band. Besides, I didn’t find a record company, the record company phone me. Remember?"

"This must’ve been a goal for you to strive for,” I insist.

"Goal?" He repeated the word as if he had at never heard it before. “I kind of got into this because. . . You get paid for doing this and if I’m going to have a job, I might as well do something I like. I haven’t set any long-range goals for myself because I’m not ready to yet.”

The Big Ben clock strikes on the half hour but Prince and I ignore it as we get deeper and deeper into his philosophy of life revealing his innermost thoughts.

"How do you spend the rest of your time?"

"In the bathtub,” Prince smiled.

"No, you don’t.”

"A lot of it I do,” he says seriously.

I decide two can play his game. So in a straight face I quietly ask him, “Do you put bubbles in the bathtub?"

"Do I put bubbles in the bathtub?” he repeats with little comprehension. Suddenly it dawns on him what I’ve asked and he gives me one of those exasperated Prince looks. He turns his attention to peeling bark off a tree. Having nothing better to do, I try to join him. “I think I’ve started something, “Prince comments. “I’m not peeling the bark off really"; “I don’t have any nails,” I say. “Why don’t you have any nails?” Wonders Prince, “I have some. Are you jealous?"

After I answer some of Prince’s questions about what it’s like to work at a magazine he asks me, “Are you trying to start a romance between Patrice Rushen and me?"

"No. People should learn to read between the lines.”

"Some people think that you were starting a romance but I never did. I knew you wouldn’t—not intentionally. But that’s the reaction people had.”

"What else do you do in your spare time besides sit in your bathtub?"

"I ride my ten speed.”

"Do you have anything else that you’d like to say about your album?"

"This one’s a lot nastier.”

"Do you have any girlfriends at the present time?"

"I had one but she left me. I wrote some songs about it on the album.”

"Prince, I can’t imagine anyone leaving you. Do you know how many young ladies would love to fill her shoes?"

"That’s why she left me. Am I really that popular?"

"Yes, you are You’re not taking advantage of the situation, are you?"

"No, How could I? You mean if I went out and bought a used car and use my name?"

Laughing at his jokes are pursued intriguing topic of Prince’s girlfriend. “So she felt your instant stardom was too much to handle?"

"I don’t know, Prince shrugged his shoulders morosely. “There were other reasons too. I wrote about some of them in my songs.”

"Do you feel that it is too difficult to have a girlfriend under the circumstances right now?"

I’ve really only had one. I am not going to say she left me,” he said in thinking it over.

"We had discussions about it. Listen to my songs and you’ll understand.”

Prince went on to say that although he liked having a girlfriend, it’s really not very lonely because he has a bet to share his bachelors hideaway.

"What do you have for a pet?” I wanted darker curiously. Prince never had seemed like the type who even want one.

"I won’t tell you because you’ll just say I’m strange.”

I won’t say you’re strange. I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be mean to you. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings before,” I apologize.

Prince watches me very thoughtfully for a few minutes and says, “I’m sorry I scared you by grabbing you by your throat.”

"Now, let’s see.” I close my eyes and I try to imagine what that Prince bought. “I know it’s not a cat or a dog. . .”

"It’s both,” he says abruptly with a straight face.

"What do you mean, it’s both?"

"I crossbred ’em. It’s a dog and a cat. The face looks like both animals. It’s black,” Prince joked. “What made you cross breed them?” I asked, playing along.

"There are some things I don’t like about cats and somethings I don’t like about dogs, so I got some of both. It made some of the bad things go away with a little prayer, of course.”

Prince’s sense of logic can’t be beat. It can’t be understood either, so I swiftly change the subject to a safer topic. “Would you like to become rich someday soon?"

"Who wants to be rich? “He asks scornfully. "That only means more problems. I’m not rich and I don’t want to be. I learned how to drive, but I don’t have a car,” he illustrates his point. “I like my bike better.”

"Did you really hitchhike to this meeting place?” I ask in an attempt to find out exactly how he got to his destination without accepting a ride from a friend and without driving a car.

"Yeah. It only took 45 minutes. That was fast. What’s wrong with hitchhiking anyway? You must come from a rich family. I didn’t. I ran away when I was twelve. I went to my father’s house since he wasn’t living with us at the time. Then I ran away from him a year later. Guess how many times I’ve change addresses. Twenty-two times!” he exclaims proudly.

My face colored with embarrassment as I realized what a fuss I had made over his hitchhiking earlier. My concern for his well-being and safety had fallen on deaf ears. “Well, if you’ve done all that, you must have laughed when I was worried about your hitchhiking.”

"Not out loud, I didn’t. I was respectful. Don’t worry: it’s not my time to die.”

"When did you decide to stop running away and stay put?"

"I haven’t yet. I told you I’ve moved three times since last year. It makes me feel older when I run away, like I’m achieving something.” "I remember last time you told me your favorite food was Bubble Yum. Is that still true?"

"Yes. Bubble Yum is food. It’s nutritional. It strengthens the muscles. I’ll bet you never thought about it that way, have you? Not only that, chewing Bubble Yum is exercise. I also like Virgin Pina Coladas (a coconut fruit drink without the rum).”

Well, Prince, it’s time for me to go back to work so I’ll say goodbye for now.”

"No, I don’t go. I’ll buy you a banana.”

"No, thank you.”

"How a bout a dress?” He looks around at the store surrounding us and points out a shop. “Here’s a place.”

"No thanks. . . . See you later.”

Prince and I part ways as the readers of this conversation probably wonder what’s wrong with both of us. I’m turning down a free gift from the famous celebrity and he’s wondering off to hitchhike back to his secret destination. You know what’s wrong with us? We are both individuals.