The flamboyantly talented musician Prince died on April 21 at the age of 57. In addition to his unsurpassed musical repertoire, the enigmatic superstar left a long trail of bizarre anecdotes in his wake.
Prince plays basketball and serves pancakes
Comedian Charlie Murphy famously told this one on Chappelle’s Show. Charlie and his brother Eddie were invited to Prince’s house, where the Purple One challenged them to a game of basketball: The Murphys and their crew against Prince and his band The Revolution, decked out in their full “Purple Rain” regalia.
The five-foot-two-inch-tall singer, who played basketball in school, proceeded to dominate the Murphy brothers on the court. Later that night, he served them pancakes. Prince confirmed the gist of the story in a subsequent radio interview.
He loved “Finding Nemo”
Questlove, the Roots drummer and bandleader for the Tonight Show, tells a tale about organizing a late-night Prince after-party. Eager to wow his musical hero, Questlove starts playing Nigerian afrobeat star Fela Kuti from the DJ booth. Prince sends over an assistant to ask him to put in a DVD of the Pixar movie instead.
He was an excellent rollerskater
Questlove has another anecdote from his autobiography, Mo’ Meta Blues, about the time Prince asked him to show up at a roller skating rink in the middle of the night:
Prince had the briefcase out on the floor. He clicked the lock and opened it, and took out the strangest, most singular pair of roller skates I had ever seen. They were clear skates that lit up, and the wheels sent a multicolored spark trail into your path.
That time he took the stage on piggyback with James Brown and Michael Jackson
Prince joined his fellow musical idols in 1983, with his longtime bodyguard Big Chick carrying him to the stage. Unfortunately, the appearance didn’t go that well, as Prince’s former manager Alan Leeds explained:
Prince went to a James Brown gig with Bobby Z, his drummer at the time, Big Chick, who was his security guard, and I think Jill Jones, who was one of his protégés. By now, everybody knows what happened at that gig. I don’t think Prince realized that Michael was going to be there. James looked a little puzzled in that video when Michael whispered in his ear, “Hey, bring Prince up.” And of course Prince didn’t really know what to do either. He went to the guitar first but he fumbles with that because it was left-handed. He played a few licks, did some dancing and knocked over a prop by accident. Now I always wondered if Michael intentionally brought Prince up to put him in that position just to say, “Hey, you think you’re on my ass? Well follow this, motherfucker [laughs].” Bobby Z called me and said, “Oh boy…he made an ass of himself tonight.” He said Prince didn’t say a word the whole way to the hotel.
He was not a great tenant
Prince rented a house in Los Angeles owned by NBA player Carlos Boozer and made some…alterations. Boozer’s former teammate Jay Williams told a radio station:
Supposedly, Prince changed the front gate to the Prince sign, he changed the master bedroom to a hair salon, he changed the streaming blue waters that led to the front door to purple water, he knocked out walls, he changed the molding on top of the ceiling. Booz was livid. So pissed off, so angry … He put his Purple Rain stamp on it … Booz was like, ‘I was getting ready to go over there and beat this little man down.’ And dude was just like ‘Here, Boozer, here is a little check for about a million, it’ll take care of everything, get it back the way you want it.’ And Booz was like, ‘This little man is cool as hell.’
He spoke in riddles
Director Kevin Smith has a long, hilarious story about being asked to Prince’s Paisley Park estate to discuss shooting a documentary. It defies easy summary, but the documentary never worked out, due to contractual wrangling, and Prince’s discursions into religion and philosophy:
“If a big snake gives birth to a little snake, what is that little snake going to grow up to be?” “A big snake,” Smith correctly answered. Prince’s point? “You gotta know who your father is.”