I don't recall the very, very first time I heard of Prince. Or what the song may have been that I first heard on the radio. It was 1984 and I was nine. Not old, but old enough.
What I do remember? With burning, vivid clarity?
The movie Purple Rain.
It was rated R. And it was going to be on TV. At 10:30 pm, when they showed the rated R movies. Me and my brother stared at the listing in the TV guide.
We knew what RATED R meant.
Naked people doing things they do when they got naked. I wasn't quite sure what, exactly, (not discuss gas prices or the Dow Jones industrial average or if butter was better than margarine. Answer: YES! that's for sure). But I knew I definitely wanted to find out!
I wasn't interested in "adult language" because at nine I could already curse with the best of them. Preferably under my breath, out of my parent's hearing.
No, no, no. It was the nudity.
No way in hell were my parents going to let me and my 10 year-old brother watch a RATED R movie. I usually had to be in bed by 8pm anyway. I wasn't even allowed to watch Dallas or Dynasty or Falcon Crest (The Love Boat was apparently tame enough, though).
Then we solved the problem.
We would watch it when we stayed over at my grandma's house. Something we did often on Friday nights so my parents could be alone or something. Ugh. I now just realized why. Maybe not to discuss gas prices....
Anyway, our grandmother pretty much let us do what we want. Stay up late? Sure, why not. Watch TV? No problem. Eat ice cream for dinner? I'm not stopping you.
We knew our 80 year-old gramma didn't know who Prince was, or what the movie was about. Didn't matter that my brother and I didn't really know, either.
Because did I mention before? NUDITY.
So after Johnny Carson and ice cream sundaes I bravely suggest watching a movie. I was hoping my grandma would say, "Okay, I'm going to bed."
She didn't. She said, "Oh good. What's this nice movie about?"
"Umm. Music, I think."
So the movie starts. It's a little weird, but cool. My brother and I are sitting on the sofa, tense as criminals in a holding cell. Something, we knew, was going to happen.
Then it did.
The scene. Apollonia must "purify" herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.
I still remember the outfit. Black leather jacket and pants.
Then she ripped it off.
I actually screamed. (I was so mortified)! Also, it was sorta of awesome in a thrilling way.
But mainly I was mortified because I was sitting next to my grandma.
My brother had his mouth open, silent. Amazed probably.
But I had to make it stop. I was terrified what I might (and my grandma) see next.
In the fastest I ever moved (Mach 2 at least) I jumped up, ran, and turned the TV off. It was an old TV, with knobs. I turned it so hard I heard a weird crack.
My grandma seemed stunned. "Why did you turn it off?"
It was then I realized that she might have nodded off and hadn't even seen the gorgeous naked lady standing nakedly in front of Prince.
"It's a bad movie!" I screeched.
My brother, to his credit or stunned stupidity, was still motionless and silent. Like he had had a stroke or something.
And then it was over. The end. We went to bed.
I finally saw all of Purple Rain when I was twenty-one and living in Minneapolis. I had met my soon to be husband at the world famous music club First Avenue, and of course Matt had his own VHS copy and let me watch it.
I stand corrected.
It was a great movie.
Thanks, Prince. You were definitely one of a kind.