To Meet Prince 3/17/20

Opinion by Richard Bleil

The movie channel that I spend all-too-much time watching has Purple Rain on it. For those who don’t know, this is a semi-autobiographical movie starring the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince but then just became Prince again.

Personally, I’ve always like Prince. The man was very sexual, never trying to hide it and never apologizing for it, but at the same time, he never had a scandal surrounding it either. Other artists of his generation (who shall go unnamed here) were caught up in scandals with underage boys and others had drug scandals, but Prince himself was just…Prince. He did his thing, kept out of the limelight, at least off-stage, and died scandal free. Not everybody enjoyed his music, although I did, and frankly I think he did more for modern music than his contemporaries.

Before moving on, I feel it necessary to set the stage. When this all transpired, computers were just hitting the market. The internet existed, but not the web. It could be reached via dial-up modems; there was no social media sites, no cell phones (they were all wired to the wall), no texting (at least not common; as it turns out, the Unix operating system was designed specifically for networking computers and it was a natural part of this system, but it wouldn’t hit mainstream for another twenty or so years). Yes, you could call people, but communication was more or less restricted to one-to-one interactions. There was no mass texting hundreds of friends at once.

In the early ‘80’s, when I was attending college as an undergraduate, he was just becoming popular. My friend (and HUGE crush) Kathy was a big fan and introduced me to his music. I always wanted to be more than friends with Kathy, but she was into rugby players which, well, let’s just say that I never was. We were friends, and I just assumed that was all that I could ever be and counted myself fortunate to have her in my life at all even if only as a friend.

That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t looking for things that might pique her interest. A little bar near the college campus had an upcoming event that I thought she might like, a night with Prince. The idea was a night of Prince videos. The bar was a small venue, and while Prince’s popularity (or “purple-larity” as he might like it to be called) was on the rise, it was still niche, so I didn’t expect the crowd to be out of control. But, before buying tickets, I thought I’d check with Kathy first.

She surprised me. She suggested that she was no longer as big a fan, because as his popularity grew he was, in her opinion, becoming too arrogant. I don’t know; I think maybe she enjoyed having an artist that was a relative unknown, but regardless of the reason, she turned me down.

I thought for a time that maybe I would go anyway. After all, I still liked him, and videos were still relatively new, so it could be fun. Unfortunately, my usual depression kicked in, and I decided not to attend without her.

After the event, I came to discover that it was all a ruse. Apparently, they had a sheet up, and at the scheduled start time, they projected two Prince videos. Partway through the third, the video stopped, the sheet fell, and Prince and the Revolution stood on the stage behind the sheet and gave a live, very small and highly personal concert.

Apparently, they had planned to do this across the country. Cincinnati was not the first, but it was one of the first two or three, so nobody knew. After the Cincinnati concert, though, word finally started to spread (like I said, this was before texting and social media) and people started anticipating the trick. The events became crazier, more crowded and less fun. Eventually, the series was canceled.

A few of my students were talking about a formal on campus a couple of weeks ago. It was in lab, and as I’ve said earlier, if I can overhear a conversation in my lab, I will periodically join in. Two of the students were trying to convince a third to attend. I made the point that, once college is over, the opportunities to attend such events are gone. These events may be good, bad or indifferent, but the opportunity for the experience disappears (for the most part) on graduation.

Had I taken this opportunity, had I had the self-fortitude to attend, I would have had the opportunity to experience a live and personal event that few people will ever know. I may not have had the chance to meet the man in person, but such an opportunity to get so close and personal would never be seen again.

Experience life. The reality is that life is to be experienced. People speak of the difference between living (which I have never really done) and surviving (which I do to this day). The difference is in the experiences, the chances, the opportunities that we have the courage to grab.

Live. It’s okay. It really is.

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