I can’t believe it’s now been 35 years. In many ways it seems like yesterday because the memory is still so strong. Prince was not yet a household name at this point. He had a few R&B hits and was getting rave reviews as a performer and recording artist but mainstream America hadn’t caught on yet. April 4th, 1981…Dallas, Texas…SMU McFarlin Auditorium…PRINCE played the third to last show of his Dirty Mind Tour and I was there.
First a little history, I entered the musical world of Prince starting with his second album from 1979 that had the big hit; ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover.’ I LOVED the whole album. This made me curious to get his first album ‘For You’, released one year earlier. That album was off the hook as well. At this time I knew I would like every Prince album the future would hold.
Prince released his third album, ‘Dirty Mind’ in the second half of 1980. I purchased it immediately and was totally blown away by this modern masterpiece. It was funky, soulful and raunchy. I’d never heard lyrics like this at that time. However, it was the music that stood out over any racy lyrics. For me the lyrics were fun.
When news of the SMU concert became public I was among the first in line to get a pair for my cousin Lynette and myself. You could actually afford a concert ticket and wait in line and get good seats, which is what I did. I scored tenth row center seats to see Prince in a small theater!
Back in those days I did many pencil drawings in a 9x12 sketch pad with rings at the top of each page. One of the many drawings in the book was one of Prince, taken from his 1979 album cover. I had been sketching and taking the results to concerts if I had a drawing of the performer.
Occasionally I would be invited backstage to meet the star. I also took to bringing along an album cover in case I could get it signed. So I took this simple sketch (and album) with me to SMU and I gave the drawing to a friendly looking Roadie and asked him if he would give it to Prince. He kindly took the artwork wrapped in a PLASTIC sleeve and said, “Sure I will.”
It was all very unpretentious and straight forward. After giving the crew member the drawing I said to my cousin, “That’s it. Prince will never want to meet me.” He just seemed so untouchable already. I was in for a wonderful surprise when a few minutes later the roadie came to my seat and told me Prince wanted to meet me after the show! I was super excited! My cousin and I were both ecstatic! Then a sobering thud, only I could meet Prince. No one else would be allowed. Suddenly I was heartbroken for my cousin. How NOT fun for her.
Five minutes later the show started and out came a tiny creature wearing a military style jacket, a bandana on his head, in a G-string and leggings, wearing high heel boots and PLAYING a guitar. One of the most dazzling and electrifying performances I have ever seen by anyone had just started. Prince sang, danced and played for two hours that night to a very enthusiastic, near sold out crowd. He earned his applause that night! He was everything we wanted. His performance was often erotic and at times down right blatantly sexual. All of it done with swagger and confidence. He didn’t rely on any kind of prop other than his guitar which became a phallic symbol throughout the whole show. Needless to say, everyone in the audience had a very satisfying evening based on the standing ovations and many curtain calls.
I was told where to stand to wait for the Roadie to come out and get me now that the show was over. My cousin was very gracious and told me not to feel guilty or worry about her not getting to meet Prince. I’ll always be grateful for her attitude. Within fifteen minutes the roadie appeared and told me to follow him. I pleaded once more to allow my cousin to come with me. I remember saying to him, “She’s very quiet and won’t say a word.”
Glory Hallelujah, he told me they WOULD allow her to come back with me after all! Now is an experience I had never had before this and have never had since then. I had to go through three pre-interviews with road manager, publicist and personal assistant. I was interrogated as to why I liked Prince and why I did a drawing of him and told I could not take a picture with Prince because Warner Brothers Records would not allow it. I was also instructed on the proper etiquette when Prince was in front of me like “don’t ask him anything personal”, or really anything. Just tell him how much you liked the show.
After all were satisfied that I wouldn’t embarrass them or make a fool of myself they took us to a tiny hallway by a dressing room door. In a matter of moments the door opened and there stood the tiny creature. He was shirtless, still in his G-string, leggings, heels, minus the bandana and jacket. I must admit he looked even smaller up close.
When we were introduced, Prince told me he really liked my drawing. He then told me he could tell I was a gentle being based on the drawing and he wanted to meet whoever drew it. I asked him if he would autograph my album and he was so humble and kind. He then crouched on the floor and used his knees as a table to sign the album. That was pretty much it. Everyone involved seemed suddenly more relaxed. We said our good-byes and thank you. My cousin never said a word other than hello and a big smile.
That was just the first of many Prince Performances I attended throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Prince only got better and better each time I saw him in much larger stadium shows. Every time I saw him on stage, television or the movies I always felt a kinship from our brief and sweet meeting. He was precious. R.I.P. Sweet Prince...I look forward to the music you left behind in your famous vaults!