My Name Is Prince & I am FUNKY…MY NAME IS PRINCE THE ONE & ONLY!
Call It What You Like, I’ma Call It How It Be!
I love Prince! His music grabs me at my core and always elevates my mood; those extra funky rhythms make me wanna snap my neck, twist my back and shake my ass. From the start, Prince’s in-yo-face persona and one-of-a-kind individuality gave me license to unapologetically do ME! His death is a huge loss for me, as his creative influence looms large over my lifetime. Many aspects of my life are inextricably connected to Prince and it’s hard to let him go. I look forward to experiencing what’s in the Purple Vault, but I can’t get over never again seeing him in concert. Prince has made an indelible mark on my life and I’ll miss him greatly…I’m devastated!
My First Exposure To Prince
My very first encounter with Prince’s music happens back in the late 1970’s, when my friend Randy Jacobs, introduces me to his first album “For You” by telling me his story while the LP plays. Later, Prince’s music goes into heavy radio rotation and I can’t get enough. Subsequently, Prince’s musical genius becomes a major part of the soundtrack of my youth and adult life.
1st Prince Concert
In March 1980, ex-boyfriend Cory Heath and I attend the Rick James, “Fire It Up Tour” concert at Cobo Hall, with special guest Prince. Our seats are pretty close to the stage and once the concert starts I don’t remember ever sitting down. Prince appears on stage in a full-length black trench coat, a black and white bandanna hanging around his neck, a pair of skimpy black briefs, black leg warmers and black high heel ankle boots; his longish hair is straightened, but wild and he’s wearing heavy black eyeliner.
As Prince enters and walks across the stage loud gasps, heckles and laughter reverberate. He takes a confident stance, glaring at the audience he signals and suddenly the atmosphere explodes into a high energy rhythmic force, wherein Prince flaunts his superior musical talent, haughty flamboyance, and penetrating charisma. By set’s end the crowd’s clapping, screaming, jumping up and down and calling out “PRINCE, PRINCE!!!”
He wins over the audience stealing the show from Rick James. The soul-shaking power of Prince’s music and high-octane performance is infectious and very impactful. I’m completely overwhelmed by this strange, yet enchanting young man and I think I’m in love!
2nd Prince Concert
I attend the “Controversy Tour” concert in December of 1981 at Cobo Hall in Detroit. Renita, a college friend, gets concert tickets for her birthday and I luckily take the place of our mutual friend who can’t go. My only contribution is to drive us there and back. Located on the front row, our seats are near the backstage entrance. I speak to a local concert promoter I know and Renita asks me to inquire about backstage access. He explains that only one can enter, so Renita goes backstage. She returns happy to have met the band but very disappointed about not meeting Prince. The concert is off-the-hook and I have a great time.
1st Prince Encounter & 3rd Prince Concert
In the autumn of 1982, boyfriend Kevin Lowery and I attend the concert debut of Vanity 6 with The Time at the Latin Quarter in Detroit. While waiting for the doors to open a high school friend Pam Brown approaches offering to take us through the backstage door and we gladly accept, her boyfriend is the concert promoter.
While standing backstage waiting for our ticket stubs, Prince suddenly appears with a couple other people heading toward the stage. I’m shocked by his diminutive stature and amazed by the piercing intensity of his beautiful brown eyes. He’s wearing a large black captain’s hat, a cropped black jacket with padded shoulders, tight bright blue pants, and high heel boots. He flashes a wide-eyed glare as they pass, giving me the once over, saying nothing. Stunned, I stand mute in a dazed stupor, I’m completely star struck. After Prince passes I gasp, “Oh my God, that was Prince…PRINCE IS HERE!!!”
Later, we settle in stage side seats and enjoy the show. Vanity 6 did a pretty good job, but The Time was off-the-hook! In December of 1982, we attend the “Prince 1999 Tour” concert at Masonic Temple in Detroit. This is a multi-date sold out event and I’d never seen so many white people at previous Prince concerts. I later realize that Prince has attained crossover status and now belongs to the world. Located on the mezzanine front row center we enjoy a birds-eye view of Vanity 6, The Time and Prince.
A Friend Who Knew Prince
During the late 1970’s, I’m determined to put together a girl group. I team up with model and longtime friend Pam Brown, who later introduces me to a cute Filipino girl named Analisa Trajano. Pam organizes a photo shoot that proves we’ve got a great look, but our voices don’t blend well. Later, I team up with Angel Keener who had previous studio experience and was best friends with Analisa. Together we become “Beautiful Bad,” while Angel and I look for a local music producer we begin writing lyrics, creating beats, vocal harmonies, and song melodies. Analisa had been romantically involved with Prince on and off for a little over a year and would sometimes talk about their encounters.
She once recalled arriving at a concert venue where Prince whisks her backstage sits her in a chair, then directs his hairstylist to cut and style her extra-long hair just like his. She described being somewhat traumatized, yet exhilarated and eventually transformed by the encounter.
One day Analisa presents a script for the film, “Purple Rain.” She was also given an old photo of Prince, Andre Cymone, Morris Day and others standing in front of a large tree next to a house; his first band Grand Central. Although they’re very young, it’s apparent that Prince is a budding star and Morris has much swagger.
Analisa claims to have gotten the script because Prince wanted her to play the part of a waitress and revealed that he’d written a soundtrack cut about her entitled, “Lady Electric.” Subsequently, Jill Jones got the part and the song was scrapped. Prince later releases the b-side, “Irresistible Bitch” also said to be inspired by the alluring Analisa.
Detroit Purple Rain Movie Premiere & Los Angeles Trip
On June 27, 1984, I attend the”Purple Rain” movie premiere with Angel and others at the Madison Theater in Detroit. It takes a while to get into the lobby, where we encounter Wally Stafford distributing “Purple Rain” movie posters. The place is packed and the only available seats are at the back of the small theater. The film is well received, as everybody is engaged while singing and clapping to the music and laughing at the antics of Morris Day and Jerome Benton. I wasn’t impressed by the acting but found Prince’s performance segments absolutely mesmerizing.
The next day we hop a flight to Los Angeles to hang out with Angel’s little sister Lisa who’s boyfriend is ICE-T. One day, he takes us to Venice Beach in his red Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera, a sometimes scary, but thrilling experience.
We enjoy the beautiful ocean view and white sand beach while walking the strip, star watching, and shopping. We approach the roller skating area where a crowd gathers begging ICE to rap, he spits several bars and everybody goes wild. Later, ICE encourages a group of kids and signs autographs. The next day, we visit Kelli Jo Minter and her sister to see professional photos of Lisa, Kelli Jo, and Jill Jones as a possible girl group. We gossip about Morris Day, Prince and Kelli Jo’s experience shooting the “Ice Cream Castles” video. Later, she tells of her efforts toward pursuing an acting career.
One night, we all go to the MIX Hip Hop Club for a battle rap between ICE-T and a local rapper. Kelli Jo introduces us to Jill Jones, who’s in disguise for some odd reason, wearing a black fitted mini dress, her head and neck wrapped in a black shawl scarf, a short black wig and black sunglasses. Upon introduction, she barely speaks to us and later tries her best to ignore our presence.
We cheer on ICE as he annihilates his opponent. Later, me and Angel venture over to the other side of the building, an extremely loud and raucous hard rock venue. While hanging out in front of the MIX club we meet the son of Gene Chandler, Defrantz Forrest who talks about his father, singing career and impending contract with Motown Records. Later, we dance with Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers and some other guys from the films “Breakin’ & Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” then mingle until it’s time to go. During our time in LA, we meet many interesting entertainment industry people, I dance on “Soul Train” and we party at some of the hottest clubs.
Final Prince Encounter & 4th Prince Concert
My most significant Prince experience happens after the “Purple Rain Tour” concert in November of 1984, at Joe Louis Arena. My ex-husband Shawn L. Jenkins and I are walking to the car when he spots and calls out to Wally Stafford, who works with Prince. Wally tells us to meet him at the hotel and he’ll get us into Prince’s after-party. After a long wait in the lobby of the Westin Hotel, Wally arrives to escort us up to the Presidential Suite. After a speedy elevator ride and a brisk walk to the door, we’re lead into a darkened living/dining room with a small kitchenette on the left and a powder room directly opposite.
Further ahead, on the right, is a large mirror and a table where I quickly check myself. I’m clad in an outfit my husband gifted me, as he often dressed me. Wearing black, I look like a chic motorcycle gang member wearing Shawn’s fitted leather motorcycle racing jacket, fitted black top, cropped linen high waisted trousers with knit leggings attached underneath a knee cover (complicated 1980’s high fashion, lol!), two black and hot pink scarves and a pair of Norma Kamali lambskin, split side, pointed toe booties. I truly believe… I’m that “Peach in Black” in Prince/Sheena Easton’s “U Got The Look.” LOL!
There’s a bar set up on the kitchen counter and a beautifully arranged dessert table just outside. The room is crowded and the whole band is present, including Jill Jones and a few others.
The room opens to my left where Prince is perched on a tall bar chair directly in front of a wide screen TV, his feet resting on the television stand, while seemingly engrossed in Marilyn Monroe’s “Some Like It Hot.”
Clad in his stage attire, with perfect hair and makeup, Prince watches us enter the room and we greet him, he doesn’t speak. Wally offers us dessert and I have cake with wine, while my husband stands in a dark corner behind the dining room table, in a bodyguard stance. I sit in the only seat left at the table, adjacent to Prince facing the room. Band members Lisa and Wendy sit on a couch at the back of the room sipping wine, whispering and laughing with others. Before leaving, Wally asks that we wait for his return, to take him home. Everybody’s drinking, talking and laughing while Prince watches the movie, but actually seems rather bored. Admiring a beautiful floral centerpiece, I glance at the attached card wishing Prince good luck and much love, from Vashtie. I also read a page of handwritten lyrics, laying on the table, that turns out to be from the song, “Another Lonely Christmas.” I finish eating and discard my utensils in the kitchen. As I sit down, my husband points out that my scarves have fallen under the table, so I sit and bend down under the table to retrieve them.
As I turn out to sit up, I see the most beautiful pair of paisley and floral tapestry shoes right in front of my face. My eyes slowly follow the intricate fabric upward until I lock eyes with Prince who is intensely peering down at me with a wide-eyed sultry gaze. I smile chirping hi, he doesn’t speak and suddenly takes off skipping into the bedroom, with a wide grin. I’m left somewhat flattered, yet perplexed and embarrassed.
My scarves re-draped, I glance back at my husband wincing and shaking my head. After Prince’s departure, we mingle as the mood lightens and everybody seems more relaxed. I strike up a conversation with Matt ‘Doctor’ Fink and Bobby Z, both lounging on the floor by a window overlooking the Detroit river. Suddenly, the door opens and a number of people flow in and out of the suite. Bobby Z points out who’s who as room service carts are rolled into the bedroom. He even introduces me to Prince’s manager, personal chef, and a couple others.
I attempt a conversation with Jill Jones, sitting beside us. I compliment her outfit, a beautiful silky sparkling 1920’s flapper style dress with matching headband and feather prop. I recount our previous introduction by Kelli Jo Minter and describe her disguise, but she seems unhappy and evasive. While intently peering at the floor she softly whispers, “I don’t remember.”
The chef sets up dinner in the bedroom as Shelia E. arrives to enjoy a private meal with Prince. I’m amazed at her diminutive stature, she looks like a living Barbie doll in a colorful sparkling rhinestone bustier, with a feathery mini skirt. Later, Prince emerges from his dinner date smiling and asks, “Anybody wanna dance?” He teases a few songs then plays a jazz cut, while a few people dance, I choose a glass of wine and my seat.
About twenty minutes later, Prince begins picking up empty wine glasses, dishes and utensils taking them into the kitchen, then abruptly announces, “the party’s over, I have to go record.” He turns off the music, turns on the lights and everybody quickly exits.
My husband asks, “What about Wally?” So, I approach Prince who’s shutting down his TV and stereo system. I introduce myself and my husband, thank him for allowing us to attend the party and explain Wally’s request. I ask, “Can we stay and wait for Wally or should we leave.” Prince faces me softly saying, “You’re welcome and you can stay, I have no problem with you two waiting here for Wally.” He explains that upon his exit security will enter, inspect the suite and lock the door as they leave.
After the security search, I’m compelled to go into Prince’s bedroom, I just can’t stop myself.
Just inside on the left is a white baby grand piano and beyond that comfortable seating. The piano is draped to the floor with yards of lavender purple lace, with a large colorful flower arrangement on top. The modern overstuffed chairs are draped and tucked with darker shades of purple satin and velour fabric, with beautiful fur pieces randomly placed on each. Beyond that is an extra large 3-panel clear acrylic room divider with yards of lavender purple lace and extremely long pearl strands draped over and puddled on the floor. At the back, is a king size bed with two large nightstands, on the left sits a set of large size designer toiletries and a telephone. To the right a closet, other bedroom furnishings and a large bathroom.
I return to the living room to look at the television and stereo system, as it’s rare to see a large box wide screen TV in 1984. We spend the rest of our time relaxing in the comfort of the Presidential Suite discussing our experience and what a special night it’s been. Later, Wally arrives and my Prince odyssey ends.
For a long time afterward, I’m walking on air and my head’s in the clouds. That unexpected encounter gives me the needed encouragement to forge through a very difficult time in my life. I owe my ex-husband Shawn L. Jenkins, Wally Stafford, and Prince a huge debt of gratitude!!!
5th Prince Concert
In October 1988, Shawn and I attend the “Love Sexy Tour” concert at Joe Louis Arena. The total experience is an overwhelming extravaganza of Princeliness. I’d made a little progress in the pursuit of a music industry career, as part of the George Clinton funk band, “INCorporated Thang Band.” A name I came up with after our original moniker, “The Tackheads” or “Tackhead” was not available due to legal issues.
I give a cassette of our LP to Quentin Perry a big-time entertainment promoter and longtime Prince promoter, whom I’d known for many years. He was located at a huge lighting and sound board station, near the backstage entrance. I ask him to pass the cassette to our label mate Prince, but his demeanor is dismissive at best, the cassette likely ends up on the floor.
Seated on the main floor, our immediate view is the undergirding of a monolithic stage, with a white Thunderbird in tow. The whole set up is a mind-blowing spectacle of color and lights. After an hour of tracking Prince skip, run, dance, play and sing over every inch of that mega playground I’m exhausted. I develop a neck cramp and a throbbing headache, causing us to leave early.
6th and Final Prince Concert
In October 1998, Amp Fiddler and I attend the “New Power Soul Festival Tour” concert at Joe Louis Arena. Getting to see Larry Graham and Chaka Khan, two of my favorite childhood music artists and Prince is extremely thrilling. Seated in the lower bowl, mid-stadium we have a great view of the stage.
Amp’s friend plays with one of the artists, so he goes to inquire about backstage access. On his way back, Amp speaks with another friend seated closer to the stage and main floor. I see Billy Sparks, longtime Prince promoter, and right-hand-man, exiting the backstage area approaching Amp.
Billy stands on the main floor trying to get Amp’s attention but fails, then quickly heads
backstage. Amp comes back and says, “There’s no backstage access.” I say, “Why didn’t you acknowledge Billy Sparks, who was trying to get your attention?” and Amp says, “I didn’t even know Billy was there.” I was a tad bit perturbed because we may have gotten special access with Billy’s assistance, as Amp had worked with Prince on the “Graffiti Bridge” soundtrack cut, “We Can Funk.” Anyway, Larry Graham opens the show playing all his funky hits, Chaka Khan steals the show, Prince is off-the-hook with hype man Doug E. Fresh and Mayte Garcia dances her ass off. This is one of the best Prince concerts I’ve ever attended. I had a wonderful time despite not going backstage, LOL!
For me, Prince’s death brings back a flood of memories. Some of them rooted in my dreams and desire for a music industry career and others the reality of a shattered life. Two weeks after my 3rd Prince concert, my mother suddenly died and my life drastically changed. I was thrust into the crazy cruel world and made a lot of bad decisions and grave mistakes creating confusion, heartbreak, much pain and major regrets. Just a few months before my final Prince concert, my sister suffered a massive stroke and died shortly thereafter. This recounting of the circumstances surrounding Prince concerts and encounters represents a catharsis of sorts.