By Chris Riemenschneider
He liked to get his hair done before going to bed. You could often tell his mood by how well he was dressed. And he once wrote a script for a New Kids on the Block movie that never came to be.
Those were some of the revelations in the loving but refreshingly loose and not-100%-reverent “PRN Alumni” panel at the University of Minnesota’s “Prince from Minneapolis” symposium on Wednesday.
Moderated by “Purple Rain” assistant director and tour manager Craig Rice, the candid discussion was put on in conjunction with the PRN Alumni Foundation, a charitable group of former Prince and Paisley Park employees, who are currently selling T-shirts to raise money for the ailing Rosie Gaines.
The panel featured Prince’s former wife and dancer Mayte Garcia for its main draw, but the real stars were some of the people who worked random jobs for him for many years, including his hilarious hairdresser Kim Berry. Here are some of the highlights.
On his late-night hair-styling: Berry once dared to ask the boss why he had her up at 5:30 a.m. doing his hair. “Are you going somewhere?” she asked. “No, I’m going to bed,” he flatly told her. In conclusion, Berry said, “The flyest man in the world even had to go to bed looking fly.”
On his coats of many colors: Bodyguard Harlan Austin is the one who claimed he could gauge the little man’s big assortment of moods/personalities by his wardrobe that day. “If he was dressed down, you knew it was going to be cool,” he said. “If he was sharp, watch out.”
On his movie busy-ness: Prince worked with the filmmaker-trained Rice on many movie projects after “Purple Rain,” including the rather incredible to hear about project for NKOTB around the height of their teenybopper fame. “He didn’t want every movie he made to be about him,” Rice explained. As for a movie that did get made, he recounted the boss telling him to toughen up as they stayed up for four nights straight to get through the editing process of “Graffiti Bridge.” But it was Prince who finally caved. Said Rice, “Mid-sentence, he fell asleep, and I said, ‘I did it!'”
On his many specifications for Paisley Park: Also the first manager at Prince’s Chanhassen studio complex, Rice remembered some of the many extraordinary requests Prince had during construction. “You could record in the bathroom if you wanted,” he recalled. “And you could hang a semi [truck] from the ceiling. Why? I don’t know. ”
On his literally nonstop songwriting habits: Berry remembered sitting next to Prince on a flight to Hawaii for a “vacation,” during which he never stopped working. Throughout the flight, Prince kept scribbling song ideas on pieces of paper. When Berry told him it was time to relax and quit working, he told her, “I can’t. When one song stops in my head, another one begins.” Added Berry, “I actually felt sorry for him.”
On his unforgettable Super Bowl XLI performance in a rain deluge: Berry once again had the best insight. She said he wanted to look his best for the big gig in 2007, and as they got ready for it, “His hair looked flawless.” But then the downpour started. “He said, ‘Find me a scarf! Find me a hat!’” They found the now-famous black doo-rag wrap, which he cooly tossed aside at the end of the flawless set. “When he threw that doo-rag in the audience,” Berry gleefully recounted, “I said, ‘That’s show biz!’ That’s the coolest brother in the world that can dance underwater.”