STORIES FROM THE PARK
PRN Alumni Foundation is comprised of the former employees of Prince, Paisley Park, Paisley Park Records, PRN Productions, NPG Records, Love4OneAnother, any and all of Prince’s companies spanning his impressive nearly 40 year career.
There have been, quite literally hundreds of us in Prince’s employ. The Foundation represents our collective voice.
We are musicians, engineers, managers, lighting directors, wardrobe designers, stylists, makeup artists, drivers, bodyguards, admin staff, valets, drivers (and more!)
This ‘Stories From The Park’ chronicle is a way for our colleagues of all tenures and job types to share a little bit of Prince’s magic with you through our individual voices.
We hope you enjoy getting to know us…we feel as if we’ve known you, Prince’s fans (fam) forever <3
With love and gratitude,
PRN Alumni Foundation
Spotlight: Kimberly Arland
KIMBERLY ARLAND REMEMBERS HER "SEASON" OF FRIENDSHIP
Interviewed by writer: Tony Kiene
Ever since she was a little girl, Kimberly Arland was driven to immerse herself in a multitude of endeavors at any given time. Dance, music, acting, choreography, and writing were among her earliest passions. Additional interests included martial arts, boxing, and other sports.
Kimberly wondered if she was crazy for having so many interests while constantly juggling multiple projects. It was Prince Rogers Nelson who would be a significant voice in teaching her that she wasn’t, and he would do so without uttering so much as a single word.
THE EARLY DAYS
By the time she turned 13; Kimberly had established her own company and was fully engaged not only on the performance side of things, but on the business side as well. And, among the earliest highlights of her career was the opportunity to perform a tap routine at a birthday party for “Mister Show Business” himself, Sammy Davis, Jr.
Before she graduated high school, the budding playwright toured a pair of her own dramatic productions, taught dance and musical theatre, worked as a professional model, and acted in multiple commercials. As she continued to make waves along several artistic fronts, Kimberly would eventually capture the attention of some of the folks out at Paisley Park.
Toward the end of 1989, Kimberly was recruited to appear in a music video that Prince was directing. Prince asked Kimberly if she happened to have a twin because he wanted “book ends” for the video. Kimberly enlisted the services of her sister, Leah Marie Haugen. So, alongside The Game Boyz (Tony Mosely, Damon Dickson, and Kirk Johnson, with whom Kimberly had performed in a previous dance group), Kimberly and Leah were featured in the video for T.C. Ellis’ debut single “Miss Thang.”
“Prince and I got along right away,” notes Kimberly, who adds that she was neither star struck nor interested in a romantic relationship with Prince, something she thinks greatly benefitted their friendship. “He never tried anything or crossed any lines with me. I think he liked the fact that I wasn’t intimidated by him and maybe that was part of the reason he trusted me and, in his words, deeply respected me.”
During the shoot, when Prince discovered that “Kim Dionne” (as he called her) had experience as a dancer, choreographer, and was the director of a local talent agency, he insisted that they continue working together. And while the T.C. Ellis video remained on the shelf until the rest of his album (True Confessions) was completed, Prince would spontaneously come up with a plethora of artistic ventures to utilize and showcase her sundry talents.
Kimberly explains that “Right away, I began participating in a number of side projects and videos with him. It was such a whirlwind and some projects never saw the light of day—or at least, I never saw them. Then came Graffiti Bridge.”
Kimberly’s biggest scene in the film, was ultimately left on the cutting room floor (“thank God,” she proclaims). She and Prince rehearsed the scene for days, which called for her to crawl through his legs as he sang.
“He was so little there was barely enough room to make my way through. I nearly flipped him over each time we rehearsed it,” laughs Kimberly. “Prince kept yelling down at me, ‘Crawl lower!’ and I would yell back up at him, ‘Grow taller!’ During the actual filming, I remember him looking at me right before the crawl like, ‘Girrrl, you’d better not trip me!’ I didn’t knock him over but I did graze his legs!”
After filming the movie, Prince asked her to take part in the extended version of the “Thieves in The Temple” video, which she considers the most fun music video of his she’d done.
Kimberly’s first year working with Prince was adventurous and exciting. “After I completed one project, I never assumed there would be another,” she explains, “I knew I wasn’t the most talented or qualified person in any of the areas in which Prince utilized me, so I considered it a privilege after every call and project. And I continued to be surprised.”
THE NEXT PHASE
In advance of Prince’s next release, the multi-platinum Diamonds of Pearls, he decided to make a series of videos around the lead single “Gett Off,” which were ultimately included on a Warner Bros. home video release. In addition to the single’s standard video, which many likened to movie scenes from Barbarella and Caligula, other videos included “Gett Off (Housestyle),” “Violet the Organ Grinder,” and “Gangster Glam.”
Kimberly cast talent for many of the videos on this project and she was encouraged by Prince to appear in a few as well. And, just as she had for the “Miss Thang” shoot and Graffiti Bridge, Kimberly drafted friends and members of her family to be featured in the “Gett Off” videos. Among them was her cousin Austene Van, who has since gone on to become a legend in the Twin Cities theatre scene. “I had so many talented friends and family that I had to share this experience with them.”
After going through hair, makeup, and wardrobe (which included putting on a pair of pants from one of Prince’s suits), Kimberly had no idea what Prince would ask of her next. “All I knew,” she chuckles, “was that it took me a good ten minutes to squeeze my butt into those pants!” When she got on the set, Prince strutted over looking like he had something profound to say.
"Okay, I want you to dance crazy. Like, really crazy," he directed. Kimberly inquired as to whether she should dance with technique or in a certain style, to which Prince responded, “No. Just make stuff up. But keep it crazy. Wild-crazy.” He then threw her in front of the camera with Tony, Damon, and Kirk and as instructed she “danced crazy, wild-crazy.” After completing a full take (through a song she’d never heard before), Prince immediately pulled Kimberly aside and asked, "What are you doing? Not that crazy!" He then had Austene try it and Kimberly thought, "Yeah! Keep it in the family." To Prince’s approval, Austene proceeded to “knock it out of the park” on her first take.
Another one of Kimberly’s favorite Prince memories took place on the set for “Violet the Organ Grinder.” Kimberly loved to “razz” Prince. “Usually, he took it quite well,” she says, “I mean, he was the same way.”
Yet on this occasion, when Prince leaned against a pillar that he assumed would bare his weight (however slight he may have been), the prop immediately tipped over and he almost tumbled to the floor along with it. Instantly, Kimberly began to laugh and point at Prince and the rest of the cast and crew fell completely silent (Some might recall Prince famously had a similar episode after sharing the stage with James Brown and Michael Jackson at Hollywood’s Beverly Theatre in 1983).
As Kimberly reminisces about the moment, she says “I was doubled over laughing.” Prince seemed a little upset that she was bringing attention to it and it was the first time she’d seen him visually embarrassed—which to her, made it even funnier. “He obviously didn’t take it too seriously as our friendship continued and there was more to come” for Kimberly in the purple universe.
FINDING HER PLACE
Throughout her tenure working with Prince, Kimberly was drafted into what she calls “2 ½ bands”, which included being a last-minute addition to The Crayons, who notably opened Prince’s ABC television special “The Ryde Dyvine” in December of 1992. “He was more of a Creative Director than a technical one, and on multiple occasions, I witnessed his gift for teaching. It naturally flowed out of him,” remarks Kimberly, “I truly thought that he’d be teaching Master Classes in his golden years.” And yet, while Prince, the consummate professional, was often quick to lend his talent as a tutor, he was frequently playful.
There was one band rehearsal where Prince had Kimberly doing a litany of things all at once. On this particular occasion, Kimberly recollects, “He handed me this percussion instrument to play. I thought he would show me what to do but no, he just handed it to me as I sang, danced, and adapted to recently added choreography.” After she played only a bar or two, he snatched the instrument out of her hands and shouted, “Next!”
The first musical venture he recruited her for was her own solo album. “He didn’t even know if I could sing.” When Prince first asked her to sing, “I told him I can’t sing! I mean, I have a musical theatre background, but I’m no singer. But I am an actress, so I guess I can act like I can.” Prince persuaded her to sing a few bars and countered, “Yeah. You can sing.” And before she knew it, Kimberly, was recording the first song of her solo project at Paisley Park and doing pre-production for the music video the following day. “Poor Levi Seacer had to produce it through my terror.”
When she first heard the song, Kimberly did not like the words or story at all. She implored Prince to reconsider, asserting that this particular song just wasn’t her style. Prince insisted that she trust him. “He had a vision for me and I eventually gave into it.” says Kimberly, “I mean, really, how can you argue with Prince when it comes to music? I still never came to like the song though. Nor, whatever he heard in my voice.”
Kimberly's solo project was never completed and the song went unreleased. That project evolved into a two-girl group from which Kimberly quickly walked away. “It was raunchy. I mean, over the top raunchy.” The duo project evolved into an all-female band. She tried it for a while but none of those projects were in line with her morals and plans for the future so she bowed out of all them. But she was and is grateful to have learned and experienced as much as she did, no matter how strange or surreal it seemed at the time.
"HEY KIM! COME OVER!"
Kimberly recollects that “Prince did this odd thing where he’d bring a new woman into his life – whether for personal reasons, business reasons, or both – he would bring me in as the greeting party or what I came to call the ‘woman assessor.’” This role might require Kimberly to pick someone up at the airport and make conversation on the drive back to Paisley Park. Or, sometimes out of the blue, Prince would pull Kimberly out of whatever she was working on “to meet, hug, and talk with whomever,” before asking for her thoughts about that particular female.
Perhaps the craziest encounter took place after Prince called around 3:00 am. Kimberly arrived at Paisley Park and like so many other times, it was only her, Prince, and Red White in the building. On this occasion, after spending a good amount of time sitting with Prince in the studio while he worked on a song, Prince gets up and says, “I’ll be right back.” A few minutes later he comes back with a famous actress. Kimberly, still bemused to this day, says, “She had been there the whole time! Doing what, I don’t know. After only a few words to each other, she and I just sat there silently on the floor while Prince was at the mixing board. I know I failed miserably at that meet’n-greet, ‘cause I just couldn’t engage her in conversation. So I went back to writing. Prince hadn’t stopped working. The woman just sat quietly staring into space and that was the last I saw of her. Funny!”
Certainly, as anyone who has ever worked for Prince knows, those 3:00 am phone calls were considered routine and Kimberly received more than her fair share. “He would do most of the talking. And it was almost always deep, right off the bat. Anyone who thinks he was quiet, he wasn’t. Maybe in volume, but that boy could talk!”
A NEW LIFE
Kimberly left the Prince camp on good terms and eventually made her way to Los Angeles. Prince always thought she’d come back to Minneapolis (because he loved Minnesota so much) but L.A. is where she feels at home.
Kimberly currently makes her living there as an actor and creative producer while investing half of her time in Christian ministry and writing.
After leaving Minneapolis, Kimberly would run into Prince from time to time. She describes these occasions as “heartwarming and almost a relief. He’d see me and drop whatever he was doing to come hug and talk with me. He didn’t have to but in my experience, he was thoughtful like that.” She notes the one thing she could have never prepared for was Prince’s untimely passing. Almost three years later, Kimberly confesses “I cannot look at his picture or listen to his music. It’s just too painful. I’m not ready.” It’s even difficult for her to read about him.
In fact she says, "I was extremely reluctant to share any of my experiences with Prince. They're personal, and even bizarre. But I was encouraged by many to accept the invitation for this interview, especially for his fans’ sake. It can be a sort of therapy to hear all of these behind-the-scenes stories and humanize him a bit more."
“And that’s how I saw Prince, as a hu-man—a man searching,” reveals Kimberly, “Actually, I saw him as a child. Not in the negative sense, but as a child filled with the desire to play, learn, grow, and express his God-given gifts in the ways only he could. I saw him as someone who loved and helped the underdog, and a person longing for genuine connection—with himself, with others, and with his Creator.”
“Prince wasn’t perfect, but he was perfectly himself,” she concludes, “For that, he had my friendship for a season, and my respect always.”
To learn more about Kimberly Arland, visit KimberlyArland.com
Photo by Kremer Johnson Photography
Creative Director- Annie Deptula-Williams
© Tony Kiene & PRN Alumni Foundation