Prince

Here’s my story of when I stood face-to-face with Prince.

Back in the mid-1980s, just a wee bit before I started living in New York, I would visit the City and hang out at Bill Everson’s place.  William K. Everson, if you don’t already know, was a renowned film historian.  I knew Bill because he was a patron of Toronto Film Society, but I didn’t become personally acquainted with him until I was more adult and volunteering for TFS.  Around this time, I was also friends with his son and daughter and would come and visit on a regular basis.

My uncle Allen—there was only five-years difference in our ages, so we grew up as friends—had also come to New York with me and we had planned to go shopping down to St. Mark’s, specifically to Trash and Vaudeville because that was about the only place at that time you could buy Doc Martens.  Allen really wanted a pair of these cool shoes.

On this day, and if the history I am going by is correct, I was in New York on March 20, 1985, although I remember it being a much warmer day than March would usually allow since I don’t remember wearing a coat.  And it’s funny how some things you can remember, while other things are twisted or totally forgotten.  I do remember what I was wearing that day; a vintage black dress, circa 1950s or early 60s.

It was mid-day, and the store was pretty empty.  Allen was being fitted for Docs while I was just flittering around the store looking at all the very expensive and rather impractical clothes, thinking that if I was a rock musician, these would be the types of clothes I would like to wear—although I’d probably have to be skinnier.  Feathered boas, shiny plastic pants, I remember; they weren’t meant for a secretary, which is what I was, except to wear to clubs on weekends.

By now Allen had gone up to the front counter to pay for his purchase.  Out of the corner of my eye, I registered that some people had come into the store, and as I turned towards the front to join Allen, who is standing not an arm’s length away from me but Prince.  He looks just like you would imagine—makeup, hair wrapped in a bandana, and wearing a long, attractive gold and light blue brocade coat that hung down close to the floor.  What also struck me was that he probably wasn’t much taller than me, and I am maybe about 5’4”.  We both kind of looked at each oddly, me thinking, “Is this Prince?”  I don’t know what he was thinking, but we walked past each other, and he headed down an aisle and started looking through the clothing hanging on the wall.  I’m pretty sure he came in with a woman who had already started making her way through the racks of clothing near the back of the store.

As I stepped up to the counter where Allen was paying, without looking at me he says, “Did you see who came into the store?”  I did, I said.  When the sale was completed, we headed to the exit, but there was a man in a suit with a walkie-talkie standing there and we realized the door had been bolted shut.  Nobody was getting in, but nobody was getting out either.  So, we had to stand there and wait until Prince had finished browsing.  We didn’t mind; we had heard on the news that morning that he was doing a benefit for the blind, maybe even the deaf (that might be just a funny, faulty memory), and so although we were surprised to run into him mid-afternoon, mid-week down on St. Mark’s, we were still kind of awestruck.

A few years later, I did see Prince in concert and it was a very enjoyable event.  I wasn’t a big fan of his music, never owning any of his records, but still, I liked when I heard some of his songs on the radio and also liked covers that other people did of some of his material.  Later on, he did purchase a home in my home town of Toronto on the Bridal Path—which houses the most expensive homes in Toronto—and where he lived with a wife at one point, but I never ran into Prince while we lived together in the same city.

But I did run into Norman Jewison at a wedding, which I will tell you about next.

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