Editor’s note: This piece was originally published two years ago.
Prince is one of those rare and wonderful humans who’s surrounded by so much mystery and lore that you’re willing to believe almost anything you hear about him. Prince had doves sing backup on one of his albums? Sure. Prince doesn’t believe in time? Time is an illusion, anyway.
(In less fantastic, still excellent news, he just released two new albums: Art Official Age and PlectrumElectrum, the latter featuring his all-female backing band, 3rdEyeGirl.)
The thing is, some of the craziest rumors about Prince might not be mere rumors at all. Here are a handful of the weirdest, most delightful, and, in some — that’s some — cases, maybe even true pieces of Prince-ly gossip.
1. He Held Back an Album After Freaking Out on Ecstasy
Prince’s officially untitled 1987 “Black Album,” so called because of its all-black cover, was supposed to be his hardest and most aggressive effort to date. But days before its release, he withdrew the album, allegedly after having a bad ecstasy experience — one which supposedly led him to believe that he’d be committing an act of evil if he unleashed such dark-sounding music upon the world. Apparently, the trip wore off. The album was officially released in 1994. Life as we know it did not end.
2. He is a Renter’s Nightmare
In 2006, Prince rented a Hollywood mansion belonging to NBA player Carlos Boozer. Bad move, Booz. The latter’s former teammate Jay Williams told ESPN Radio that “Prince changed the front gate to the Prince sign … changed the master bedroom to a hair salon … changed the streaming blue waters that led to the front door to purple water,” and so on. Boozer filed a lawsuit over the unauthorized alterations.
3. He Went Door-to-Door for Jehovah’s Witnesses
Under the religious influence of his friend and mentor, former Sly and the Family Stone bassist Larry Graham, Prince knocked on doors, proselytizing on behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Sometimes people act surprised,” he told The New Yorker in 2008, “but mostly they’re really cool about it.”
4. He Took That Job Extremely Seriously
In 2003, Prince and Graham knocked on the door of a Jewish family in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. “Then they start in on this Jehovah’s Witnesses stuff,” Rochelle, a member of that family, told the Minneapolis–St. Paul Star-Tribune. ”I said, ‘You know what? You’ve walked into a Jewish household, and this is not something I’m interested in.’ He says, ‘Can I just finish?’ Then the other guy, Larry Graham, gets out his little Bible and starts reading scriptures about being Jewish and the land of Israel.” This all apparently happened, by the way, on Yom Kippur.
5. He Has a Truly Remarkable Pair of Roller Skates
In his book, Mo’ Meta Blues, Questlove shared his experience of being invited to go after-hours roller-skating with his Purple Majesty. Then he saw something he’d never seen before. “Prince had the briefcase out on the floor,” Questlove wrote. “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 … He took them out and did a big lap around the rink. Man. He could skate like he could sing.”
6. He Will Randomly Challenge You to Play Pickup Basketball
As immortalized in an episode of Chappelle’s Show, Charlie Murphy tells a story of partying with Prince in the ‘80s when the latter suddenly issued an impromptu pickup-basketball challenge. Prince didn’t even bother changing out of his “Zorro-type outfit.” Marveled Murphy: “This cat could ball.”
7. He Takes Bootleggers OUT
Prince fan forums are full of stories of his no-mercy attitude toward bootleggers. An oft-told tale has him showing up unannounced at a Manhattan record store, snapping up their stock of bootleg Prince albums, and leaving.
8. He Is an Extraordinary Multitasker
According to an old profile from Notorious magazine, during a concert in Montreal, Prince, a giant NBA fan, watched a Chicago Bulls playoff game on a TV positioned at the side of the stage, and would amble over to watch while he played his guitar solos. He also apparently tasked a wardrobe girl with holding up the score on cue cards for him to read.
9. He Fired a Crew Member for Making Eye Contact
In that same Notorious profile, an anonymous Prince employee said, “No crew members were allowed to look at him or talk to him. I literally saw him fire a guy for looking at him. He just said, ‘Why is that guy looking at me? Tell him to leave.’”
10. He Doesn’t Believe in Time
Again from the Notorious gold mine: “Your magazine probably won’t print this,” Prince said in response to a question about his youthful appearance, “but I don’t believe in time. I don’t count. When you count, it ages you.”
11. He Likes Speaking in Riddles
During a speaking gig, director Kevin Smith discussed being summoned by Prince to talk about a possible collaboration, only to be subjected to some Byzantine sermonizing. Example: “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.” Fair enough.
12. He Talked Trash About Michael Jackson’s Ping-Pong Skills
Prince’s former sound engineer David Z told a story about Prince’s attempt to play ping-pong with Jackson while the two were recording at the same L.A. studio. “You want me to slam it?” he recalled Prince asking MJ. He did not. “Michael drops his paddle and holds his hands up in front of his face so the ball won’t hit him. Michael walks out with his bodyguard, and Prince starts strutting around like a rooster. ‘Did you see that? He [Jackson] played like Helen Keller.’”
13. He Thought Being Asked to Sing on “Bad” Was an Insult
Was Jackson’s smash hit was originally intended to be a duet with Prince? Longtime Prince confrere Alan Leeds told Vibe, “Michael coming to Prince and wanting him to do ‘Bad,’ that really pissed him off. Prince was like, ‘Oh, he wants me to punk out on record. Who does he think I am, crazy?’ He probably couldn’t get outside himself enough to realize that it was the kind of thing that probably could have benefited both of them.”
14. He Staged a Funk Musical Based on Homer’s Odyssey
In August 1993, Prince debuted Glam Slam Ulysses, his musical interpretation of the Greek epic poem, at a club in Los Angeles. His then-protégé Carmen Electra was a featured dancer. It ran for 13 performances, and a bunch of its songs popped up on subsequent Prince albums. Variety reported, in very 1993 fashion, that Ulysses “featured enough phallic symbols and references to make even Heidi Fleiss blush.”
15. He Has a Giant Vault of Unreleased Music
Famously productive, Prince is widely believed to have a massive stockpile of unheard music. This is on top of the 32 studio albums he has already released.
16. He Took Out a Nationwide Personal Ad
In December 1993, ads in several national magazines showed an obscured photo of Prince accompanied by the text, “Eligible bachelor seeks the most beautiful girl in the world to spend the holidays with.”
17. He Doesn’t Let Reporters Record Interviews
“Some in the past have taken my voice and sold it,” he told Billboard. He’s not keen on having journalists take notes, either. Why? “That would be just like texting.”
18. He Believes Doves Have Beautiful Voices
On his album One Nite Alone … Prince’s doves, Divinity and Majesty, are credited with “ambient singing.”
19. He Hasn’t Cried Since He Was a Child
When he was a boy, Prince’s jazz-musician father threw him out of the house. (How Purple Rain–y!) The young Princeling then cried in a phone booth for two hours. According to a 1991 Details profile (now hosted on GQ.com), he claimed it was the last time he ever shed tears.
20. He Had a Private Hair Salon
In an interview with the U.K.’s Daily Mail, Prince’s ex-wife Mayte Garcia says that their Spanish hacienda came equipped with its own hair salon — which she was never allowed to use. “I always went out if I needed my hair done,” Garcia explained. “The salon wasn’t for me, it was for my husband. Prince needed his space.”
21. His Wife Wasn’t Allowed to Call Him on the Phone
“Even when we were married,” Garcia said in the same Daily Mail article, “I had to wait for him to call me. I’ve no idea why, he never actually said.”
22. He Released a Recording of Kim Basinger’s Sex Noises
In 1989, Prince put out a 12-inch single called The Scandalous Sex Suite, which featured vocal contributions from Kim Basinger, including some moaning and groaning that was rumored to be taken from recordings of a sex romp between the two stars.
23. He Kept a Lawn Ornament in the Bedroom
A 1985 Rolling Stone piece revealed the following after a visit to a pre–Paisley Park Prince residence: “The only thing unusual in either of the two guest bedrooms is a two-foot statue of a smiling yellow gnome covered by a swarm of butterflies. One of the monarchs is flying out of a heart-shaped hole in the gnome’s chest.”
24. He Enjoys Weird Food Combinations
An oral history of Purple Rain in SPIN revealed this curious dietary tidbit: “I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich,” said director Albert Magnoli. “Prince ordered spaghetti and orange juice, which was one of his favorite meals.” Spaghetti and orange juice? Sounds gross. But, as always, Prince probably knows something that we don’t.