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: Craig Rice
“IT’s PRINCE’S PARTY… I WAS JUST INVITED.”
Filmmaker and Entertainment Executive Craig Laurence Rice Reminisces on his Time in the Purple Universe and all that Prince did for Him
By Tony Kiene
In December of 1983, shortly after completing his duties as Production Assistant on the set of Purple Rain, Twin Cities native Craig Laurence Rice made his way back to the bright lights of New York City. It was in New York where Craig had begun to establish a name for himself in the arenas of theatre, film, and television, including stints at a pair of Manhattan’s most storied artistic institutions; the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and the famed Off-Broadway venue The Public Theater, founded by Joseph Papp.
Although he may not have recognized it at that precise moment, as the calendar turned to 1984, the future would only grow brighter for Craig. Before he even left to work on Purple Rain, Craig had served as first assistant director on the John Sayles subtle, but nonetheless subversively comedic science fiction classic, The Brother from Another Planet, starring Joe Morton.
Yet by the time The Brother from Another Planet was released to critical acclaim on September 7, 1984, Craig already had another rather notable film credit to his name; Purple Rain debuted at number one at the box office six weeks before. Along with its soundtrack, which was in the process of holding down the number one slot on the Billboard 200 album chart for six months (and included two number one and four top ten singles), Purple Rain and its progenitor, Prince, pretty much dominated the better half of 1984.
Craig was undeniably happy for Prince and he was no doubt pleased to have participated in such a successful endeavor. However, he saw his future in New York and didn’t anticipate leaving his new home, or for that matter working with Prince again, at least not anytime soon. And then, the phone rang… It was Prince.
“He asked me to be the road manager on the Purple Rain Tour,” Craig explains, “I was not the least bit interested in doing that so I said ‘No.’” A few weeks passed before Prince called again, “I would really like you to do this,” he said. But again, Craig respectfully declined the request.
Then, two-weeks and three cities into the tour, Prince reached out once more, this time from Landover, Maryland (just outside of Washington, DC). “It was the Monday before Thanksgiving,” recalls Craig, “By then, the television show I’d been working on had just ended. So, at the moment, I didn’t have anything else to do.”
That week on the tour, as it so happened - in between a pair of stops and seven total shows at the Capital Centre – was a three-night stand at the Philadelphia Spectrum (a mere 94 miles from New York), scheduled to kick-off Thanksgiving night.
“Yeah, yeah, okay… I’ll do it,” said Craig, who added that he’d join the tour the day after Thanksgiving. “No,” Prince matter-of-factly informed him, “You’ll be here tomorrow,” and then he proceeded to hang up the phone. Indeed, Craig showed up the very next day.
Surrounded by Art from a Very Young Age
The arts were always elemental to the Rice household. “My mother loved to draw, and as a result, so did the rest of us,” Craig says of himself and his eight siblings. Yet there was much more, including regular trips to local museums; both art and history. Plus, the Rice children were all introduced to their parent’s favorite music while growing up, which was jazz.
Still, in addition to many jazz concerts, the family frequented the symphony, and Craig, along with the rest of his brothers and sisters, had the good fortune to witness additional forms of live music as well. The influence this had on them was unmistakable. “Most of us went on to play a musical instrument of some sort,” he reflects. For Craig’s part, the drums, and later the bass were his tools of choice.
While music proved to be instrumental in his early development, it was the cinema that instantly inspired Craig’s lifelong dreams. Since his parents didn’t see much use in children’s movies, the young Craig was exposed to much headier motion pictures such as Cecil B. DeMille’s retelling of the biblical tale Samson and Delilah. But it was the Billy Wilder film, Stalag 17, an adaptation of a Broadway play about a World War II prison camp, that really blew Craig’s mind.
Sitting in a movie house - captivated by it all as William Holden, Don Taylor, and numerous other Hollywood legends move across the screen - the five-year-old Craig asked his parents, “Who does this?” Aware of the basic ins and outs of the filmmaking process, his mother explained to him the role of a director.
Thus, it was settled. “That’s what I want to do,” exclaimed Craig. Of course, as the self-aware youngster would soon learn, “There was this whole black in America thing. So how exactly, does that (becoming a filmmaker) even happen,” he wondered.
The Beginnings of The Minneapolis Sound
Societal barriers would not deter Craig from at least attempting to follow his chosen path, and as he got a little bit older, he would stage plays in his own basement along with some of the kids from the neighborhood. “We went all out,” he remembers, “We would write scripts, create sets, make costumes. It was a full production.”
Although he would never lose his passion for the dramatic arts, by the time he entered St. Croix Lutheran High School in West St. Paul, Craig saw music as a viable route into the entertainment industry. And, with that in mind, he decided to put his skills on the bass guitar to use by working with a few bands around the Twin Cities. Among those whom he played with were Fred Anderson, Jr., Eddie Anderson, and some of their cousins.
In the five years or so that Craig made the rounds in the local music scene, he would become familiar with Fred and Eddie’s talented younger brother André along with a new addition to the Anderson household; the teen-aged Prince Rogers Nelson. “Even though I didn’t really get to know him at all back then, that was my initial connection to Prince,” notes Craig.
When he fondly ponders on the days he spent around the Anderson family, Craig is quick to point out the indelible impact made on the lives of so many young people by the woman some have come to call The Matriarch of The Minneapolis Sound – the one and only Bernadette Anderson. “Not to take anything away from her, but I don’t know that it was so much about the music itself,” observes Craig, “It’s just that she wanted to make sure black kids had something constructive in their lives. And, if that meant she had to give up some peace and quiet in her home so that us kids could rehearse and stay out of the streets, then it was worth it to her.”
Sure, it’s doubtful that anyone, with the possible exception of Prince himself, could have foreseen the musical phenomenon and subsequent fame and fortune that was (to a considerable degree) spawned in the Anderson family basement where Prince and André shared a space.
Nevertheless, the role that Mrs. Anderson or “Queen Bernie” as she was affectionately known on the North Side cannot be understated. In fact, as Prince was composing his memoir The Beautiful Ones, he sent notes to his co-author Dan Piepenbring, stating, “She was a big community figure. I think I’ll have to add a whole chapter about her. Whenever there are documentaries about North Minneapolis, they bring her up before they bring me up.”
Chasing his Dream
In spite of the fact that Craig was well immersed in the local music scene, he did not find it fulfilling. So, when he learned that one could actually go to school to learn about film, he resurrected his childhood dream and sought the path to make it a reality.
After starting off at the University of Minnesota – followed by brief detours to both Minneapolis Community College and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) – Craig ultimately matriculated to the University of Southern California where he earned a full scholarship to the world famous School of Cinema and Television. Consistently ranked as one of the top institutions of its kind, USC’s film school admits only 2% to 3% of its applicants each year.
Although it was a challenge to be so far from home, not to mention in a place where he wasn’t sure he’d fit in, Craig’s ambition, faith, and talent won out in the end. Three years after arriving in Los Angeles, Craig, now a college graduate, started to launch the career he first envisioned nearly two-decades before. After staying put in Hollywood for some time – where he worked as a Production Assistant, Assistant Director, and producer – Craig made the nearly 3,000 mile journey eastward to America’s other entertainment capital; New York, New York.
“Prince is Making a Movie?”
As he was now busy charting his own course in the entertainment industry, Craig was nonetheless profoundly aware of what had been happening since he left Minneapolis a few years earlier. By the summer of 1983, Prince had five albums under his belt along with a handful of hit singles. And, after playing sideman to Prince for those first three records, André Cymone ventured out to release two albums of his own, Livin’ in the New Wave and Survivin’ in the 80’s.
It was clear to Craig that The Minneapolis Sound was starting to soar. And, considering that he’d been around in those early days and knew most, if not all the folks associated with that scene, Craig thought everything going on back home was "pretty cool.”
Then came a call from a former classmate at USC, Albert Magnoli. “I think that Al vaguely remembered I was from the Twin Cities,” says Craig. But when Magnoli explained that he was directing a film starring Prince and asked if Craig wanted to be a part of it, his initial response was, “Wait. What? Prince is making a movie?”
Such a notion seemed out of left field to Craig. “Sure, I knew Prince was getting bigger and bigger. But a feature length film?” And since a project like this was unprecedented for a musical artist who was not quite yet a household name, particularly an African American artist, Craig knew he had to be involved. Plus, it gave him a chance to come back home, if only for a while.
On the Set of Purple Rain
As shooting started November 1, 1983, Craig’s principle duty on set was watching over the talent. “I was responsible for making sure everyone was exactly where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be there,” explains Craig, “So I was always close to the members of The Revolution and The Time. Then of course, there were Apollonia, Clarence, Olga, Dez, Billy, Jill, Kim, Susan, Brenda, and so on.”
With the exception of Morris Day, who was sometimes hard to pin down (a quandary Craig famously recaps in Season 2 of the Cinemax documentary series Mike Judge Presents: Tales from the Tour Bus), keeping an eye on most everyone proved rather easy to Craig. That said, he was also required to know where Prince was… at all times.
“A lot of the time it was just Prince and me alone in a room, waiting on his call time,” muses Craig, “I didn’t necessarily have a need to talk to him, which I’m pretty sure he appreciated.” Even so, the two did talk from time to time (about “music, life, the news, whatever”). Of the six weeks or so they worked together on Purple Rain, Craig states, “We got along really well.” All the same, when filming wrapped, it was back to New York for Craig.
“The Things that He did for Me”
Having twice turned down Prince’s offer to serve as Road Manager, Craig jumped at the third request and on Tuesday, November 20, 1984, he joined the Purple Rain Tour for the 13th of what would ultimately be 98 shows. Craig’s introduction to the tour was especially memorable as that night’s performance of “I Would Die 4 U,” was filmed and later released as an official video on MTV.
As the tour visited 30-plus cities over the next four-and-a-half months, Craig catalogued a multitude of memories. Yet among those that stand-out most came during a week-long tour stop in Houston, not only because of how inconceivable it seemed at the time, but for what it taught Craig both about Prince and about himself.
“It was easy for those of us in the Prince’s universe to think in terms of what we did for him,” observes Craig, “But I often reminisce about all the things he did for me.” One case in point was Prince helping Craig to better appreciate the music and meaning of Joni Mitchell.
On the way from Atlanta to Houston, Prince asked Craig what he thought of the Canadian-born singer-songwriter. “Of course I’d heard of her,” Craig reflects, “And I knew a few songs, but I really wasn’t that in to her.” Prince’s response, “She’s really good, you should check her out.” Craig didn’t give it much more thought, thinking to himself, “What do I care about another white folk singer? There are plenty of those around anyway.”
After Thursday and Friday night concerts at The Summit, Saturday was a day off before a string of four consecutive nights would close out the run in Houston. That Saturday evening, Prince mentioned to Craig that Joni had a new laserdisc out titled Refuge of the Roads (a companion piece to her most recent album Wild Things Run Fast). Prince was interested in a copy and Craig said he’d look into getting him one first thing Monday morning. Prince flatly replied, “No. I want it tomorrow.”
“I’ve Been a Joni Mitchell Fan Ever Since”
Since the stores were already closed and likely wouldn’t reopen until Monday – after all, this was the bible belt – Craig knew there was only one option. By this time, Joni had left David Geffen’s Asylum label for his new Geffen Records, which was still under the auspices of Warner Bros. “I called the warehouse at Warner’s,” he says, “Fortunately it was a couple hours earlier in L.A. and someone was still around to answer the phone.”
Having procured a copy of the requested item, Craig now had to find a way to get it to Houston. The problem being, overnight delivery in 1985 wasn’t quite the same as it is today. So he improvised and bought the laserdisc a seat on the next flight out of Los Angeles.
Once he had the disc in hand, he still needed something to play it on. And being that it was still Saturday night, and rather late to boot, Craig had to devise yet another ingenious plan. “I started thumbing through the yellow pages, looking for a video store that had a proper surname attached to it,” he explains, “I found a listing for an Anderson Video right away.”
Accordingly, Craig shifted to the white pages and one by one proceeded to dial listings under the name Anderson, while humbly asking “Do you by chance happen to own a video store?” Before too long, by divine grace perhaps, Craig found his man. “I explained the situation to Mr. Anderson and that I would happily and handsomely pay him if he could bring a disc player to the hotel Sunday morning. Thankfully, he obliged.”
And still, there was another problem. “I didn’t have the right equipment to properly set the machine up,” laughs Craig. So he went to one of the tour buses, took and amplifier and some additional cords to get everything ready for Prince. When asked by another crew member if he knew how to properly hook everything back up (on the bus) once Prince was finished, Craig responded, “What can I say? One crisis at a time.”
With several hours to go before the show that night, Craig had everything in place and called Prince into the room. Seeing that the laserdisc is ready for viewing, Prince looks at Craig and says, “Good. Now sit down and watch it,” before he turns and walks out.
Although taken aback at first, Craig soon realised that “Prince felt there was a deficit in my life that needed to be filled. It didn’t matter that I was a black man in America, I still needed to know what Joni Mitchell was all about.”
Naturally, Craig watched Refuge of the Roads that Sunday afternoon in Houston, and remarks that he has “been a Joni Mitchell fan ever since.” He further adds that “Prince knew that if I thought I was doing all this for him, then it would certainly get done. Moreover, what it ended up teaching me is that I could make anything happen. Prince was able to impart wisdom like that on so many of us.”
Craig Rice… Artist Manager
Soon after the Purple Rain Tour, Prince began making plans for another motion picture, this one to be filmed in the South of France. “He asked me to be involved in Under the Cherry Moon,” Craig reveals, “but there really wasn’t a defined role for me. I didn’t want to just hang around the set so I passed on the chance.”
But it didn’t take long for opportunity to knock once again. Having permanently relocated back to Minneapolis, Craig was now living next door to
none other than Brownmark, who in turn asked Craig if he’d be willing to manage Mazarati. “I’d never managed a band before,” he confesses, “But back when I played in band myself I always paid attention to the manager, so I sort of had this working theory of what management entailed. So I said yes.” And, since Mazarati was about to sign with Paisley Park Records, it was as if Craig never left the Prince camp at all.
Not too long after Paisley Park Studios officially opened for business in September of 1987, Prince brought Craig on board to help run the facility where he worked closely with the likes of Gilbert Davison, Jill Willis, Alan Leeds, Karen Krattinger, Rob “Cubby” Colby, Tom Tucker, Sr., Richard “Hawkeye” Henriksen, and Mark “Red” White among several others.
“In those first few years, we thought of Paisley Park as this kind of battleship of creativity, if you will,” says Craig. He credits much of that vision to Harry Grossman, who led the design and development of Paisley Park (just as he’d done years before with Earth, Wind & Fire’s “The Complex” in West Los Angeles, which was the inspiration for Prince’s to build Paisley Park). In 1989, when Grossman left to become Director of Operations for the Walt Disney Company, he invited Craig out to Burbank. That visit proved critical as it further motivated Craig (and his colleagues) to think of ways to keep Paisley Park a “working building, a place that would always be profitable.”
“When I was still around,” Craig chuckles, “I even charged Prince to record in the building.” To be sure, Paisley Park was a hub of activity, even when Prince was somewhere else. “There were so many artists who came through to record or rehearse,” affirms Craig, “Kool & The Gang, Barry Manilow, Jeff Beck, Neil Young, R.E.M., you name it.”
Likewise, the soundstage was used by television and theatre enterprises that included Bear and The Big Blue House, Muppet Babies Live, and the Sesame Street Touring Company. And, there were scores of television commercials filmed at Paisley Park in those early days as were scenes from major motion pictures like Bill Pohlad’s Old Explorers and the romantic comedy Grumpy Old Men.
But alas, The Park was still Prince’s playhouse and Craig directly partnered with Prince on a number of creative projects, several of which brought him back to the world of filmmaking. In addition to his Producer credit on 1990’s Graffiti Bridge, Craig directed music videos for Patti LaBelle’s “Yo’ Mister” and Prince classics “Scandalous” and “Thieves in the Temple.”
Craig also oversaw production rehearsals for The Nude Tour and worked with Prince to curate the original NPG Radio Show, which was broadcast on KMOJ in December of 1989. “Prince and I did a lot of things together that ultimately would never see the light of day,” adds Craig, “We even collaborated on a movie script that would have featured New Kids on The Block.”
As Craig eventually assumed the role of president of Paisley Park Enterprises, Inc., he was working to expand the company’s production presence in Japan. But as Prince’s relationship with Warner Bros. began to sour, it became clear that the label he established in 1985 was not long for this world. As with Prince now looking to go in a different direct, he and Craig mutually agreed to part ways. To Craig’s mind, “It was always Prince’s party. I was just invited.”
Quite the Résumé
Indubitably, Craig knew that he could go return to the world of filmmaking and immediately did so helping out on 1993’s Untamed Heart, filmed in Minneapolis and starring Marisa Tomei, Christina Slater, and Rosie Perez.
That same year, he also lent his talents in the role of Music Supervisor to the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries Laurel Avenue, written by Michael Henry Brown and directed by Carl Michael Franklin. Filmed on location in St. Paul, Laurel Avenue’s soundtrack included contributions from Miki Howard, James Brown, the New Power Generation’s Morris Hayes, Mint Condition, and the St. Paul Central High School Band.
Apart from his screen-related endeavors, Craig continued to expand his reach into the music industry signing on with MCA Records where he came to manage newlyweds Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston. After leaving MCA, Craig began directing music videos for the three-time Grammy Award winning gospel ensemble the Sounds of Blackness, which this year is celebrating 50 years since its founding at St. Paul’s Macalester College. Altogether, in addition to even more Twin Cities icons such as Alexander O’Neal and the vocal collective World Voices, Craig has worked with a number of international legends including Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and Taj Mahal, among others.
Back on the filmmaking side of things, Craig achieved a long-time personal goal when he partnered with Denzell Washington, Cecil Cox, St. Clair Bourne, and Robin Hickman to produce the award-winning documentary Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks. As both the film’s executive producer and director, Craig was granted the extraordinary opportunity to chronicle the artistry, activism, and cultural significance of one of history’s most notable renaissance men.
It is relevant to mention that Craig also worked with two-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright August Wilson, who, like Parks before him, birthed his professional career in the heart of St. Paul’s historic African American community.
Consequently – in Parks, Wilson, and Prince – Craig has worked directly with three of the most celebrated artists, African American or otherwise, to have ever come out of the Twin Cities. Come on now, who else can put that on their résumé?
Sharing with Others
Just as Craig was thankful for all Prince did for him, he too made the decision to share his knowledge, experience, and good fortune with others. Among the many ways he has given back was helping to establish the St. Paul-based Music Tech (which later became McNally Smith College of Music), where in addition to his role as department head and instructor, Craig created the school’s music business curriculum. Later, in 2004, when the school opened a European campus in Lübeck, Germany, it tapped Craig to teach there as well.
Craig went on to become executive Director of the Minnesota Film and Television Board and for the past eight years has been the senior programmer with the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival where his responsibilities include identifying and curating both Minnesota-made and African American entries.
Today, Craig spends a lot of time on his old stomping grounds at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where he is professor of advanced filmmaking. All told, Craig’s work has been nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards, an NAACP Image Award, and the Tree of Life Award among numerous other honors.
And while Craig was perpetually carving out his own niche in the pantheon of Twin Cities entertainment, he kept in touch with Prince, which included working together with him from time to time.
Dr. Prince Rogers Nelson
During the last few years of Prince’s life, never once considering that his friend wouldn’t be around, Craig embarked on a couple of important projects, which through his eyes, were unequivocally befitting of Prince’s legacy. He collaborated with Robyne Robinson (a local icon in her own right) and a few others to resurrect a previous plan for the University of Minnesota to confer an Honorary Doctorate to Prince. “That effort entailed getting people to write letters of support and such,” says Craig, “I believe that when I mentioned the idea to Prince, his response was ‘Great.’ That was it.”
As he worked to coordinate the event with some of the officials at The U of M, Craig sensed that they were a little out of their depth when it came to Prince. “Their idea was that they would invite Prince to the spring commencement ceremony and present his honorary degree at the end.” So, Craig had to explain exactly why that just wouldn’t work.
“He’s not going to sit there for two hours. After thirty minutes or so, Prince is going to get bored and walk out,” he told them, “Next, those who came with him are going to follow suit. Then, everyone’s attention, if it’s not already, will turn to Prince as he leaves. It’s just not fair the students who are graduating.” [Although he didn’t live to experience the moment himself, Prince was posthumously awarded the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in a public ceremony at the university’s Ted Mann Concert Hall on September 26, 2018.]
In 2015, another idea that Craig approached Prince with was the notion of playing in China. “It’s one of the places he’d never performed and since I had some contacts there, I thought let’s try to make this happen.” Prince was immediately taken with the idea, but obviously, one can’t just say “I’m going to play China.’”
It required approval from the Chinese government, a painstaking process in and of itself. “It had taken almost a year to near an agreement. By then, Prince was hoping to take the Piano and a Microphone Tour over there,” reveals Craig, “But they wanted more. They wanted Prince playing the guitar, dancing. And with a full-band behind him.” As negotiations continued, Prince eventually acquiesced and told Craig, “Go forward. Make it happen.”
“A Death in the Family”
In mid-April, the approval came, Prince was going to tour the world’s most population nation for the first time ever. “I called Prince as soon as I found out,” says Craig, “He wasn’t available so I left him a message. After all the time and effort we put into this, I was really looking forward to his reaction.”
Then, on the morning of April 21, Craig received a telephone call from Gilbert (Davison). Various media outlets were reporting that Prince had died inside Paisley Park at the age 57. “It’s not true,” Craig declared to Gilbert, “No way. That can’t be. This has to be a mistake. He’s not dead. I just left him a message.” But then it dawned on him that the message hadn’t been returned. And as it became clear that the news was indeed true, Craig “fell into a fog.”
“I always told him that I couldn’t wait to see him turn 60. I know he didn’t celebrated birthdays anymore, but I wanted to be there that day. To see him as an old man.” How did Prince respond to this? “He would just tell me that I was crazy,” says Craig, “A common retort of his.” But now that he was gone, Craig was beside himself, unsure how he would ever come to terms with the pain. “It was so surreal to me. I just cried and cried.”
“For so many of us,” Craig affirms, “Prince was like family. Sure he could be difficult sometimes, but he was still family. That’s this was, a death in the family.”
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