By Jerry Honigman
I first met Prince in 1980.
Jamie Shoop, who I was seeing at the time, was part of the talent management company of Cavallo, Ruffalo, and Fargnoli, who handled Earth, Wind, and Fire, Little Feat and Weather Report, among others. Jamie was charged with handling the burgeoning career of Prince, and was involved in every aspect of his life and professional upbringing.
I moved into her house after my band, The Romeos, came off tour that year. It was a cute and neat home on Farmdale in Studio City – very comfortable and a total life-saver for me at that time.
Jamie was excited and proud to be working with Prince, mainly because she was a savvy and astute judge of talent in the music business and fully understood his unlimited potential. She wanted to turn me on to the Kid (as he was known by the firm), and first played me the video for “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” I dug it as it was apparent that this cat was something different.
Whenever Prince came to Los Angeles from his home in Minneapolis, he stayed at Jamie’s house as well. This, of course, was well before any fame or fortune could afford to put him up in any type of luxurious or extravagant accommodation. So, we were occasional “roommates.”
As 1981 came around, he released his “Dirty Mind” album, replete with the cover photo of Prince in black bikini briefs, a neck scarf, and short, leather jacket. He was introducing his overt sexuality to the world – dig it or don’t. It was a strong statement, and I loved the track called “When You Were Mine.”
It was the end of March, during his promotion of the record that I first saw him perform live. Roller skating was in vogue in 1981, and Prince and his band, not yet but soon to be called the Revolution, played a show at a West Hollywood roller rink called Flipper’s Palace. I was gob smacked. The guy was fantastic. As exciting a live performer as I’d ever seen, he was a magnetic presence with supernatural talent just emanating like sun rays from his being, while he danced like a whirling dervish and played guitar better than anyone. The Kid was going places.
One morning during this period, I was awakened by the sounds of vocal calisthenics and soaring flights of falsetto forays by an obviously free artistic soul who was deliriously unaware that he was not alone in the house. He was noodling at the piano in the den when I emerged and greeted him.
He looked up and replied, “Oh, hey,” before he immediately and sheepishly shut down and took his embarrassed and startled self back to his room. Did I mention he was an odd little dude?
Over that summer I had taken a part-time day gig with a company called Star-line Couriers. It was a mostly entertainment-business oriented delivery service. I would be given an address from which to pick up a package and an address to which it was to be delivered. With my trusty, two-inch-thick Thomas Guide street-map book of Los Angeles, I got to know, over several months, my way around the greater Los Angeles and Orange County area.
One morning, as I was leaving the house for work, a car was there to pick Prince up for his day’s efforts. One of my assignments involved a package to be delivered to A&M Studios. A&M Records was founded by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, and was located on the old Charlie Chaplin movie studio lot in Hollywood, which Alpert and Moss had acquired to house their record label.
I was to deliver my goods to Studio B. When I entered the studio, there was Prince. It was just him and an assistant engineer. We both smiled in acknowledgement at this encounter, at which time I suddenly felt like a fanboy looking for an autograph as I extended my clipboard with the receipt of delivery.
We both chuckled as we knew we would see each other back at the house on Farmdale later.
That August, the Rolling Stones released a video for “Start Me Up,” the first single from their new “Tattoo You” album, which they were promoting with a massive world tour. Prince, Jamie, and I watched the video in the den at Farmdale, and collectively enjoyed the display of wit and confidence of the Stones in their prime.
When the Stones tour was scheduled to play at the Los Angeles Coliseum for two dates in October, Prince was invited to be the opening act, along with George Thorogood and the J. Geils Band. This was huge. Prince was becoming a favorite to a rabid, but limited, fan-base (mostly through the R&B charts and black radio), and this was a great opportunity for him to “crossover” to the world-wide popular music market.
The shows were scheduled for Friday, October 9 th , and Sunday, the 11 th . On that Friday, I went with Jamie and her colleagues to the Coliseum where the backstage party was gathering outside the venue. Three or four rows of Picnic tables were lined up end to end, and the atmosphere was truly festive. At our table, piled high with food and beverages, sat Kris Kristofferson and Peter O’Toole. I was digging it.
When the show started, this crowd of 94,000, mostly male/macho blues-rock idiots who had been waiting all afternoon in the sun, drinking loads of beer and imbibing all sorts of questionable substances, were not pleased to see Prince, in all his Dirty Mind regalia, the thigh-high boots and bikini briefs.
As the Kid ripped into his torrid set, the crowd was having none of it. They uniformly booed Prince and his efforts while hurling horribly racist and homophobic slurs, as well as cans, bottles, food, and anything they had in hand. They got to him, and he cracked. By the fourth song, he was done, hurt and broken. He ran off stage, crying in his trailer, and vowing not to return for the Sunday show.
The concert, of course, continued, and J. Geils was terrific, and the Stones were in top form and just killed it. During their encores, I decided to make a break for it before traffic got insane. Jamie had to stay and continue performing her duties regarding Prince’s band and the situation at hand.
When I got back to the house, I found Prince on the couch in the den, curled up in the fetal position, quietly sobbing and facing the back of the sofa.
I felt I had to try to comfort him in some way, not that he was waiting for consolation from me. Patting him on the shoulder, I said, “Hey man, you were great. Don’t let those ignorant assholes get to you. They’re just a bunch of stupid rednecks. You’re Prince, and they’ll catch up to you one day.” Then I left him to his misery.
Turns out, Jagger called later and told Prince that if the Stones had quit in the early days when bottles and insults pelted them on stage, they wouldn’t be where there were today. Basically, he admonished him to “man up” and fulfill his commitment to his music and Sunday’s show. It worked. Prince played the Sunday show. This crowd wasn’t much more accepting, but he stuck to his guns and gave a blistering performance, solidifying the launch of his crossover attempt for world dominance.
And, the rest, as they say…