Prince Story #1: How I Almost Played Ping Pong with Prince

in entertainment •  8 months ago

When you’re presented the opportunity to meet with a legend, you do pretty much whatever it is that you have to do. For me, that meant flying to what felt like the middle of nowhere (in an industrial park) for a meeting with the royal purple icon in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Working in the music business as a music publisher / label the past 25+ years, well, occasionally you have an opportunity to meet some of your heroes.

Meeting Prince was a dream come true. I actually couldn’t believe it was happening. So when I was invited and flew into Minnesota with my 2 colleagues for a 3 pm meeting, we had all pretty much planned a flight back home for that same evening. But as fate would have it…I couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous when after arriving in Minneapolis, I was told Prince couldn’t make it, and that he needed to reschedule. Of course, if Prince wants to reschedule, you freaking reschedule. But to be honest, after seeing all 3 parts of Kevin Smith’s amazing YouTube describing his Prince experiences, I have to admit I was prepared this might happen. Except for underwear. I needed to buy more underwear LOL.

Anyway, the next day, we’re ready to meet Prince. (And good for me I also had new underwear that I got at a very strange anomaly of a place called Mall of America. This is the biggest mall in the USA apparently, and yes— it’s so big they have an amusement park inside including two roller coasters and a mini golf course). However, right when we were about to leave, we got another call. Prince needed to push the meeting back…again, but we assured that the meeting was indeed definitely going to happen. After going back and forth, we were set to meet at Paisley park, and in a few hours we were there.

Upon arrival, I wasn’t sure where the heck I was. There were no cars, no people— just an empty industrial park. Seriously…Prince’s place (the legendary Paisley Park) is like 25 + miles outside of Minneapolis. The setting is nothing glamorous. Like I am SURE that next door or across the street they make precision cast parts and maybe next door there’s a multi storage facility, etc.

Prince's famed Paisley Park. Photo by Bobak Ha'Eri

Anyway, I thought I was nervous before, but this moment had me internally freaking out. Our colleague called Prince’s manager saying “Hi…we’re…here?? There are no cars, and we’re not sure if we’re in the right place,” but she assured me Prince was rehearsing and she would meet us shortly.

Eventually, his manager greets my two co-workers and I. And by the way, I should clarify that I was the third wheel here— I was tagging along for this meeting…and my input for the meeting was nominal…and I’m actually glad I didn’t have to do much talking. But…I remembered a few things from that Kevin Smith video. So, before we got out to the car, I reminded everyone that Prince is a Jehovah’s Witness, meaning to be on guard not to swear in front of him, but also not to swear at all. Seriously, not even in remote earshot. Why? Prince allegedly had his entire place wired for sound. You could be in the kitchen completely alone, but Prince could be listening in. I didn’t question it. I heard Michael Jackson had the same thing at Nederland so he could listen in on what you were really saying about him when he left the room.

As we follow the manager in, and we’re led to a basketball court— which, if you’ve seen the Dave Chappell skit, yah…this was the basketball court. Apparently, it also doubles as a rehearsal space. Then holy shit, there he was, standing six feet away, nodding at each one of us walking in as to acknowledge our presence. Prince was practicing with his band, but I immediately noticed that Prince wasn’t “practicing” with his band per say— he wasn’t singing. The band practices, while Prince leads them, taking them their paces and the songs. Perhaps to preserve his voice or because he’s Prince and he doesn’t need to practice. Either way, it was one of those moments you just don’t ever forget.

After three songs, he came over to us and started talking for a bit, extending his hand humbly making sure we all had a moment to connect. That was probably one of the most amazing things I realized about Prince— he was humble, charming, and definitely wearing the biggest high heels covered by a long robe, which was absolutely awesome.

Shortly after, Prince asks us if we want to hear some new music. Um…no thank you, Sir. Hell yes we did! So, we go up to the studio where all the classic songs were made. If that wasn’t enough, he started playing some new tracks for us. Everything was going amazingly, when someone in the room started sharing a story. Prince was into the story…it was about a movie they both saw that they loved! My friend was quoting a movie line that uses a swear word, and as soon as the the word “fuck” was said. Prince bolted upright and sternly said “There’s no swearing. No swearing in the house. You might disturb the doves.” Um, yeah…we then found out that there actually were. Doves. In. The. House. Well at that point, you could feel the thickness of the air. Fortunately, it quickly passed, as Prince started sharing some new artists and music he was really into, which he had found on YouTube. Yah…it turns out Prince was also a great A&R scout, but you knew that already. Oh, and Prince could also do a “spot on” Clive Davis impersonation.

After watching some YouTube videos in his office and checking out new artists he was excited about, Prince surprised us with a dinner he made for us (yes, it definitely felt like we were in a Chappelle show skit at this point). Turns out Prince had thought of us and had a nice little buffet for us with some delicious salmon salad (though i really REALLY wanted those pancakes LOL). Prince then had to go and rehearse more, which then meant we were alone in the kitchen with his manager. After finishing dinner, we were talking and sharing stories. 45 minutes went by, and out of the blue, Prince’s manager abruptly interrupted whoever was talking to let us know Prince was now ready to see us again. Hmm…that was wild. There was no earpiece the manager had, nor was there a phone call— but she just knew. It was very mysterious. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Prince had telekinesis powers). But then referencing Michael Jackson again, I have heard from several sources that Michael would have a way of just “materializing” and “dematerializing” in and out of a room. I’m serious. Maybe if you get to a certain level of musicianship…you get sorcerer powers.

Oh and BTW…for something epic…just dive into this clip of Prince, Michael Jackson AND James Brown all on stage.

OK where were we. Right. We go to back to the rehearsal space to find Prince, and there he was…just free-forming, making a blues song on the spot. As we walked in the room, Prince turned to us and asked “so, do any of you play ping pong?” Of course, we all did. Wait. Was Prince challenging us to ping pong ? We eyed the ping pong table and then made eye contact with the manager, basically trying to get a sense if that was a smart decision. She somewhat shook her head no with a smile, followed by her saying “No, it’s not a good idea. He will destroy you.” We were so close to taking Prince on, but I think we were all pretty nervous about that. But I always thought, that would’ve been an all time best Linked.In profile picture to have.

Prince finished his rehearsal with the band and that was about the end of our 3 hour visit.

So what can I say, it was the most epic meeting I’ve had in my entire life. I also got to meet an incredible icon and be in his presence— which was no doubt a HUGE presence— but at the same time, humble, charming, and actually very dryly funny. I’ve also heard stories about Prince and how he’s very uncompromising and “difficult” he was to work with at times. But just being in the same circle as him for three hours…I get it. Sometimes if you’re a real artist and know exactly what you want, along with not being bullshitted and sticking to your vision, you can get the stigma of being “difficult.” Well, I think we all know Prince definitely was uncompromising.

And that’s what a true artist is all about.

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A story well told Benjamin!
Amped to see you tomorrow (!) when I can tell you about his 1999 New Year’s party at Paisley Park I was invited to nearly 20 years ago...
It was a pay-per-view “Live” concert with George Clinton and other stars performing on stage.
BUT!
It was pre-recorded several days before New Year’s Eve and he was chilling in Hawaii (in case the apocalypse hit, as predicted with the Y2K tech issue, perhaps?)
Re-Steemed, as always - can’t wait to kick it with you brother! 🤜🤛

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That's amazing...I never knew that was the case but makes sense. I remember Y2K and freaking out myself. Great to see ya.

Great story! Glad you shared it. Hilarious and mysterious. RIP Prince!

That story was epic.

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Thanks it was fun recalling those moments. I think there is 1 more story coming too : )

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What a great story. Thanks for sharing!

nice post

I'm not gonna lie, I would have died to have a chance to play ping pong with such an icon such an interesting story (but man I am so curious on how he woulda played)

Thanks for the entertaining story. That's definitely a meeting to savor.

Prince the legend. I was lucky enough to see him in concert twice, one of which was a secret (tiny) concert where no one knew who was playing until he came on stage (of course people had their suspicions) and I was in awe of the man. But your story is something else. I would have definitely played ping pong with him. Maybe he didn't like to lose and the manager was afraid of that happening? Of course you could have let him win...But what an experience to have. Wow.

You have a way with words! This was so enjoyable to read! Thanks for sharing such an awesome experience with the Prince!