The elusive and reculsive Prince is having a big year. Three nights at The Dakota. Relaunch of his shuttered website. A high-profile appearance at The Grammys. A performance on Jimmy Fallon this Friday.
Even though he's re-emerging on the national scene, Prince has been generating buzz consistently in Minnesota for well over 30 years, with rumors swirling about a surprise local Prince performance at least once a year. This MPR News story from the now-defunct 1986 Minnesota Music Awards gives us an idea of how little has changed.
When Gopher State glitterati turned out in all their splendor last night, it was for the sxith annual Minnesota Music Awards. Almost as soon as audience members arrived at Bloomington's Carlton Celebrity Room, they were swept up in the excitement and expectation generated by rumors that Minnesota's funkiest favorite son might honor the crowd with a surprise concert. Morning Edition's Jim Bickal reports:
A parade of limousines pulled up in front of the Carlton Celebrity Room last night and out of them popped some outrageously dressed people. Women with huge hairdos and shockingly revealing evening gowns were escorted by shirtless men wearing floor-length white robes and sunglasses.
A small crowd waited outside the hall watching for celebrities. The one they were especially looking for was Minnesota superstar Prince. Limousine chauffeur Cameron Smith was out there and he knew what to look for: "Oh, most likely he sneaks in in a yellow Thunderbird with very blacked-in windows or a black BMW with very blacked-in windows. Or he does have his own limousine which is a blue Lincoln. It's pretty easily identified. It has cut crystal headlights and such."
Prince never made his grand entrance but there were rumors he had snuck in a back door.
Inside the Celebrity Room, Don Powell was the master of ceremonies. The show was broadcast live on UHF channel 23. The awards were based on the newly formed Minnesota Music Academy. The Academy is made up of the 300 people who paid $5 to join. Their votes determine the winner in every category except one: Entertainer of the Year. In that category, anybody could vote, but only 50 non-Academy members did. Pop rock band Limited Warranty won the balloting as Entertainer of the Year; Westside was voted best funk band; The Jets won several awards as the best Rhythm and Blues band; Paul Metsa was selected as the best folk artist; and Slave Raider was selected as the best heavy metal band.
Gov. Perpich, who could have easily won the balloting for most conservatively dressed presenter, gave out the Connie Hechter Award to long-time record distributor Amos Heilicher. Most of the recipients who attended the ceremony seemed pretty pleased by the honor, but the band Soul Asylum, which was voted best garage band, didn't quite know what to make of it. They said they didn't know they were a garage band.
"I think it's kind of interesting we haven't been in a garage for, oh, about three years. But it's still kinda nice. At least somebody's paying attention. We were here and we played so they knew we were going to be here so I think they had to give us something so they added this category just so they could do it."
When asked what they thought of the award ceremony, they said, "I think it's not going so well, but what do I know? This is the only one I've ever seen so I can't compare it to anything. I think it's kinda bogus but then I probably shouldn't say that."
As the evening wore on, rumors were circulating that Prince was there and that he was going to play. About an hour before the end of the program, a security officer told guest Angela Watley that she couldn't return to her seat near the stage. He told her that Prince would not perform unless she was removed from the audience. Watley was a bit miffed.
"I'm apparently a threat to The Revolution. I'm not sure how. It's an absurd mix-up." What did they tell you? "Just to leave my table. I was sitting at the Governor's table. To leave my table and that I was a threat to the group." What are you going to do? "I'm going to find out exactly what is the problem here. Because this is a really ridiculous mistake. I've never been so embarrassed in my life and I really deserve a very good explanation."
Finally, after all the awards in the program were handed out, Academy Chair Byron Frank was introduced. It was the moment that everyone was hoping for. Frank announced that Prince would be the first charter member of the Minnesota Music Academy. Prince appeared and he was greeted with a huge ovation. Dressed in a conservative blue suit, he told the crowd he wasn't expecting the award.
"A while back I wrote a line to a song and I said 'I don't care to win awards.' But it was easy to write a line like that because I wasn't up for any. And I won a couple awards since then, but in all honesty I want you all to know that the ones I get from you are the best."
After the award ceremony was over and the television cameras were off and those of us with tape recorders were told not to use them, Prince and the Revolution returned to the stage. For 40 minutes, his royal badness sang, pranced around the stage and threw pieces of his clothing into the audience. It was what everyone was waiting for and they weren't disappointed. I'm Jim Bickal reporting.