It was extraordinary to witness how Prince transformed Minneapolis in the 1980s. His untimely death has prompted me to reflect back on those early years, and how our paths briefly crossed. In 1984, Rosie and I were booked to perform at Prince’s 26th Birthday Party, which took place after a concert at First Avenue, celebrating the official release of his hit single “When Doves Cry.”
Prince loved mime and so producer Jeffrey Siegel arranged booking us for the gig. Our job was to wait by the front door to greet Prince, and present him with a bouquet of purple roses. Rosie and I arrived at midnight, but Prince didn’t show up til 3:00am. With our feet aching from standing for three hours we stepped forward and presented the purple roses. Prince casually tossed the flowers to his bodyguard, Chic who stood twice Prince’s height. The large purple bouquet was dwarfed by Chic’s huge gorilla size arms. After briefly shaking our hands, Prince and his entourage breezed into the party that was just getting started.
With our main task finished, we began mingling as mimes with all the party guests. I remember Jeff Siegel nervously pulling me aside, and warning me that Rosie is in the other room messing around with all the major stars, like Jimmy Jam, Morris Day, and Bobby Z. If you know Rosie, you know that she’s fearless when performing, but at the time she had no idea who anybody was at that party. She had just moved to Minneapolis, and was new to the whole Prince phenomena. When the movie Purple Rain was released later that year, I enjoyed watching Rosie sit on the edge of her seat, with her mouth open, dumbfounded at all the faces that she recognized from the party.
As I reflect on the day after his death, I now regret turning down a role in Prince’s film, Purple Rain. I auditioned and was cast as a mime. Unfortunately, when the film was scheduled to shoot I was booked on a tour performing my one-man show. Partly due to this conflict they chose to cut the mime entirely out of the movie.
I guess the truth is that I was conflicted about how the mime character was portrayed in the script. In my major scene I was going to be thrown into a trash dumpster by Prince. Even though I knew that Prince was a fan of mime, I felt that this depiction was riding a 1980s wave of mime bashing. On a deep level, I didn’t want the hot glare of what I knew was going to be a huge pop culture event, shine a negative light on my chosen profession.
But to this day every time I hear his music… it brings me back to a golden era, when Prince ruled Minneapolis, and Rosie and I danced to 1999 at our wedding.