I’m not one to get too sappy over the passing of celebrities. I even cringe, when I see people crying on TV over some actor or musician. We don’t know these people, so how can you be upset? Yesterday changed all of that for me. I’m simply heartbroken at the passing of PRINCE. I never thought I’d see the day. Mainly because he seemed of another world — mysterious and immortal.
My first experience with his music was when my older brother, on break from the Navy, brought home a cassette of “1999” for my middle brother. I commandeered it and fell in love with it. Next, that same middle brother took me to see “Purple Rain” (just a few months later) at the Villa Italia twin theater in Lakewood. In those days, the rules were much more lax because it was R-rated and we still got in, even though I was only 13 and my brother was 17. Much like every teen, I played “Purple Rain” a thousand times that summer — never skipping a track. (I still get emotional every time I hear “The Beautiful Ones” and the title track.)
I knew from a deep place in my soul (even at such a young age) that I would be a lifelong fan. I was obsessed with PRINCE in junior high and high school. I even signed every yearbook, “Bryan & The Revolution.” The love affair never wavered in the succeeding years — I bought every album on release day, saw every movie on opening day and joined every official fan club.
If you knew me, you knew I was a devoted PRINCE fan. (I have a PRINCE playlist on my iPad with more than 50 songs. I could listen to it all day and love each track just as much as the last.) I was fortunate to see him in concert every time he stopped in Denver. The first show was on July 3, 1986 at McNichols Arena, part of his Lovesexy tour. And, sadly, the last was just a few years ago at the Ogden Theatre on May 13, 2013, part of his Live Out Loud tour. (There were a few rumors he might perform at Red Rocks this summer, as part of his very well-received Piano And A Microphone tour.)
I even traveled to see concerts in Boston, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. (I’m definitely a cheapskate, but, when it came to getting a ticket to see PRINCE, money was a non-issue. That’s what credit cards are for, right? Emergencies.) As a super fan, I was lucky enough to have three interactions with the man. Albeit each brief, but each special and unexpected:
1. I was on a business trip in Detroit and at the right place, at the right time. (I definitely believe in serendipity.) I was right there, when he stepped out of a limousine for his then wife’s dance performance at the Detroit Opera House. I shouted, “Prince!” (Okay, it was probably more of a scream.) I reached out to touch him and was pushed back by a bodyguard. I distinctly remembered he smelled of flowers and had sparkly hair. I was on walking on air for days, never thinking I would be so close to the icon again.
2. A few years later, I went to see PRINCE in Las Vegas at the Aladdin Casino. In a strange twist of fate, I ended up sitting a few rows back from the stage — even though I was near the end of the queue to get in. (The show was basically “festival seating” — first come, first served, but with seats. I got my time mixed up and showed up late. I was devastated.)
To my benefit, I was traveling solo and they needed to fill a single seat up front. The stars must have been aligned because I was plucked from the back of the showroom and moved to the front. I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful to be “alone.” It gets better. Toward the end of the show, PRINCE asked if there were any “dancers” in the audience. Now, I’m not a dancer, by any means. However, somehow, without any thinking, my hand shot in the air.
Again, I was plucked from the audience and brought on stage. The only directive was a brief mention by a big, burly security guard not to touch him. Next thing I know, I’m moving my hips and pretending to dance. I was in shock. (For the record, security pulled several audience members on stage — mostly young, beautiful women. I must have stood out for sure, as a pudgy Mexican with no rhythm!)
As the show ended and PRINCE was leaving the stage (on my side!), I unconsciously stuck out my hand to shake his. Admittedly, he gave me a slightly weird glance. He, however, gave me a fist bump. I touched PRINCE! Again, I noticed his sparkly hair and air of flowers. I only wish I could have shared my gratitude with him for his artistry and music, but, of course, I was tongue-tied and our interaction lasted mere seconds.
(FUN FACT: My shiny face is on the official DVD release of the show — “Prince Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas.” By which I mean, the actual physical DVD itself — right there near the right-side at the bottom. I’m the one wearing glasses!)
3. My finally meeting with PRINCE was in Boston, as part of his Musicology tour in 2004. Luckily I was in the front row, thanks to the New Power Generation Music Club — his official fan club, at the time. As the concert was about to begin, there was some hustle and bustle, right in front of me. Lots of people with flashlights and all whispering on walkie-talkies. Next thing us fans knew, a small black curtain opened up from underneath the stage and out popped PRINCE.
Of course, those of us to witness this magical event went ballistic. With bodyguards at his side, he methodically went down the front row and handed each of us a copy of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Watchtower magazine. I was the last one to get a copy because his presence was causing too much commotion, so security whisked him back beneath the stage. He said something to each person, but I couldn’t hear him because of the shrieks and shrills — some of which were coming from me. (I’m not a religious person, but I keep the magazine in a special place.)
No one ever expects to have an opportunity to interact with or meet their idol. Not even once, let alone three times. I know my experiences with PRINCE were brief and even, some might say, inconsequential. However, to me, each one meant the world. One of my all-time favorite PRINCE songs is “Sometimes It Snows in April.” Sadly, it does.
Thank U, PRINCE. Your music brought me so much joy and will for years to come…and for so many others, too.
Are you a PRINCE fan? What’s your favorite PRINCE song? Do you have any PRINCE memories?