Saturday, April 23, 2016

in the presence of royalty

I have no idea how I got Prince's 1999 cassette, but I do know that it immediately became my favorite album. Favorite very secret album, playing directly only into my ears through the headphones of my knock-off Walkman whenever I strolled to the beach, mowed the lawn, or tried desperately to get a tan lying in my backyard. 

I felt subversive listening to it; for 1983 small town me the songs were unbelievably naughty. But for all its overt sexiness, Prince never made me feel uncomfortable [except when I thought about my parents hearing the lyrics]. So I knew then for sure that sex was supposed to be a good, fun thing [that I would never ever discuss with my parents]. A couple years later I spent my babysitting money on the Purple Rain LP and fell in love.

Riding the bus home Valentine's Day in 1985, I heard on the radio that they had added another Prince concert for the next night at the Tacoma Dome, and there were still tickets available. I bolted from my bus stop to the kitchen phone, frantically found the number for our local ticket shop/t-shirt printer and called. They said one of their employees might have a couple of tickets to sell, check back in 15 minutes. My heart was pounding - the possibility of seeing Prince was 15 minutes away. Fifteen minutes plus whatever the cost was, a desperate phone call to my mom asking not only for permission but for her to drive me and my best friend 2 1/2 hours each way on a school night, and my best friend's ability to come with me away. I don't think I have ever been so blindly optimistic again in my life.

The tickets were $25 each. They were front row. My parents said okay. My best friend's parents said okay. It was a miracle.

Regardless of our love for Prince, my bff and I were hardcore stereotypical teacher's pet-type girls. So naturally we wore our purple sweatshirts. Over purple polo shirts. With our Normandy Rose jeans and loafers. I am not making this up; I feel slightly embarrassed and very sweaty just remembering our outfits.

It didn't matter how out of place we looked (seriously, no one else was wearing a sweatshirt. Of course.) - WE WERE GOING TO SEE PRINCE FROM THE FRONT ROW. Sheila E opened like a goddess, tied an audience member to a chair and danced & drummed around him in her sheer bodysuit, then it was time. Purple smoke covered the stage and filled my unsuspecting, willing lungs. I have a memory of Prince crawling across the stage at some point but I'm not sure when that happened. He changed clothes a few times, and I'm pretty sure he was shirtless at one point. My stomach felt wiggly, my breathing shallow, and not just because I was on the verge of heat stroke. We were pushed against the barrier fencing for two hours and I thought many times I would lose one of my shoes (honestly, what was I thinking? Loafers.) but didn't really care. It was the best night of my 16-year old life.

For the past 31 years, I have felt like I actually know Prince because of that concert. I believe he made everyone in that arena feel like they knew him. Each time I saw Prince in an interview, on an awards show, with The Muppets, I believed we had a connection. 
Because he was miraculous


Anonymous said...

I felt the same way you did when I secretly listened to 1999. "Darling Nikki" gave me a lot to chew on...

stephanie said...

That came on in my classroom Friday (because of course I had to play the Prince tribute station all day) and I turned it down a bit....

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