The Great Gazoo

This is one of the first artworks I recall seeing in the Riley Creek tunnels outside of Paisley Park. It’s a favorite of mine, partly due to the sentiment of “Ride On,” which feels exactly like what Prince must be doing in the afterlife, and also due to the depiction of Prince not as a global superstar, but rather as a dude on a bike.

In the drawing, Prince is most emphatically not wearing a helmet. Instead, the silhouette of his Afro appears to be a kind of helmet. Why Prince disliked helmets isn’t clear, but what is clear is that I have never seen a photo of him wearing one. Perhaps Prince refused to put safety ahead of personal style. Or perhaps the helmet aversion was simply part of Prince’s nature as a rebel who resisted complying with rules.

Then a thought occurred: The dislike of helmets might have stemmed from a childhood nickname.

The Great Gazoo, from The Flintstones, was a tiny, green, helmet-wearing alien. Gazoo had been exiled for inventing a doomsday machine on his home planet of Zetox. On Planet Earth, Gazoo causes constant problems for Fred and Barney, even when ostensibly trying to help the two men.

“Hello, dum-dums.” The Great Gazoo arrives on planet Earth.

Terry Jackson, Prince’s childhood friend and the fourth member to join Prince’s teenage band, Grand Central, said the nickname was coined one day as a few friends were walking down the sidewalk of their Northside neighborhood. The sun at their backs cast long shadows in front of them. Prince’s shadow was particularly dramatic, given his huge round Afro and small body. Laughing, one of the guys declared Prince to be “The Great Gazoo.” Gazoo was small and seemed to float on air. Gazoo considered Fred and Barney to be clumsy and slow, and called them “dum-dums.” Like many nicknames, “Gazoo” had an element of truth, and had the effect of distancing Prince from the rest of the guys — something that would have felt (for lack of a better word) alienating.

According to Terry, the nickname “Gazoo” annoyed Prince. There’s an obvious reference to his stature that would certainly have provoked that irritated response. But on a deeper level, the nickname expressed the unspoken feeling that Prince was somehow different from the others. It was a feeling shared, at least at times, by Prince himself. “There’s so many reasons why, I don’t belong here,” Prince would write in his landmark 2014 song “Way Back Home.” The sentiment persisted throughout his life, and was echoed during a panel discussion at Celebration 2018, when dancer and photographer Nandy McClean referred to Prince as “a little alien.”

Prince was indeed a different breed of cat. As he moved beyond those early years on the Northside, he would learn to embrace that, and in doing so, would inspire others to value their own uniqueness.


Paisley Park (credit: the now-defunct “Paisley Park After Dark” Facebook page)


Welcome to my blog. I’m Laura, and I’m the author of The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988, a biography of music icon Prince Rogers Nelson.

Two years ago, my family moved to Minnesota. After arriving, I joined a fitness center and began taking a class that started at 6 a.m. As luck would have it, my route to the club was Highway 5. Driving west on that highway each morning, I noticed a white building lit up purple in the early dawn hours. I nearly drove off the road looking at it, day after day. Finally, I realized: This was the legendary Paisley Park, and somehow, we had landed only three miles away from my idol, the musician I’d loved ever since my teenage years — Prince. I was so excited to imagine my new life, where I would be able to attend the parties that he’d been hosting and to be part of the whole Paisley Park community.

Then, something awful happened. Only a month after we’d arrived in Minnesota, Prince died. Like millions of others, I was crushed. I was despondent. I had arrived too late to see Prince at his legendary compound. (The cry of “but I just got here!” wasn’t my first reaction to his death — although it may have been my second). Despite the fact that I was in a desperately busy season of life as a wife and mom of two boys who had just moved to a new state, plus a full-time director of communications for a company in New York, I knew I had to do something. I was a writer. I had somehow landed in Chanhassen, Prince’s home since 1986. He was suddenly, inexplicably gone. “There must be a reason I’m here,” I thought.

Through the magic of the fan site, I got lucky and managed to track down Alex Hahn, the author of Possessed, my favorite book about Prince. Together, we went on to write The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988We published the book in February 2017.

But, the story doesn’t end there. Prince stories kept coming to me. As I went about my day, I’d meet people who knew him, and who wanted to share their stories. It happened at the grocery store, at the Post Office, and even at the Verizon store, where the sales clerk who fixed my phone turned out to the adorable little boy from “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” video.

I knew I needed a place to share these stories with Prince fans and music lovers from all over the world, so I created this blog. You can come here to find all the latest Prince stories, direct from Chanhassen.


Celebration 2018 – Finale


As Celebration continued into Friday, Saturday and the Sunday finale, I started to think of the experience as Purple Summer Camp.

The first day, you run on adrenalin and excitement. This is going to be the best experience EVER. Around the halfway mark of day two, your energy flags. You look at your itinerary and all the activities you booked, and you realize you were insanely ambitious. You question whether you will survive the late nights, early mornings, crowds and nonstop activity. Maybe you need to go home. At summer camp, you’d send a whiny, plaintive postcard to your parents. At Celebration, you want to text your husband, but you can’t, since Paisley Park has locked your phone in a pouch. That’s a good thing, since your husband is already shouldering all of your daily family-related duties and doesn’t need to hear whining from you.

Day three dawns, and you have the best day ever. You are high on the experience and never want it to end. And on the fourth and final day, you feel sadder than sad and cling to your new friends while making somewhat unrealistic promises to visit them, no matter how far-flung the location may be.

I heartily recommend the experience. Like camp, it’s character-building.

In closing, I wanted to share two of the moments that will stick with me forever, like snapshots from camp.

DEAR PRINCE: I’m in line at the merchandise counter, waiting to purchase my overpriced-but-worth-it $50 Lovesexy tour shirt, which is so perfectly 1988 in color and design that I’m beside myself with joy. My other purchase is a purple notebook embossed with a gold love symbol. The cashier looks at the notebook and says, “I have one of these too. I call it my `Dear Prince’ notebook.” I ask her, why “Dear Prince”? “Because I write to him at night when I get home,” she replies. “I write stuff to him like, `Dear Prince, I was at your house today …'”

THE RED SUIT: The only time I saw Prince in concert was the Musicology tour. Bash me all you want for not being a true fan, but I’ve had hearing problems all my life due to a bazillion ear infections as a baby, and avoided concerts to protect the hearing I had left. Still, I was determined that I wasn’t going to go through life without seeing Prince. In 2004, when I saw Musicology, I had a two-year-old and hadn’t slept through the night in two years (or so it felt). As a result, my one, singular memory of that night is Prince, standing and facing the section where I was seated, in a bright red suit. I remember telling myself, “So Laura, that’s Prince.”

Imagine my surprise when we walked into Studio A to find that life-size mannequins had been set up, modeling several of his Musicology costumes. On one end of the display was a mannequin wearing the red suit. Chills shot through me, and as the tour guide talked, I have to admit that I checked out mentally. I went and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with that mannequin, inches away. I imagined Prince standing on the stage in that suit, frozen forever in my memory.

That mannequin and I, we had a little chat, and I told him all the things in my heart about being able to see him that one time, wearing the red suit.

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Celebration 2018 – Day One Report


On April 19, I took off my journalist hat and put on my raspberry beret to join fans at Celebration 2018.

Sitting amidst a sea of purple on opening night, in the massive soundstage inside Prince’s creative sanctuary of Paisley Park, the lights dimmed and a young, light-on-his-feet Prince appeared on the giant screen. As the iconic opening notes of “Nothing Compares 2 U” echoed through the sound system, we watched as the newly released official video of Prince’s never-heard (at least not by me) studio recording was unveiled.

Prince, a rising star in 1984 when the footage was shot at a rehearsal in an Eden Prairie warehouse, danced with pure joy and clowned with his band, exhibiting his patented brand of Prince impishness. Watching him, my mind flashed to the emotions I felt, when, as a 22-year-old cub reporter in a small town in Wisconsin, I received a job offer in Manhattan. The world was opening up, opportunities abounded, and I had a sense that not only anything, but everything, was possible.

I’m not sure I breathed for the full five minutes of the video. I was afraid that if I exhaled, Prince might vaporize, back into the ether. The shared longing in the room was palpable: If a thousand souls could will a departed soul back into human form, it would have happened in the Paisley Park soundstage that evening.

Later that night, we viewed the second show of the Jan. 21, 2016, “Piano and a Microphone” concert, held in the same Paisley Park soundstage where we were seated. In stark contrast to the 1984 rehearsal, there was no more dancing, and no more band. But there was clowning, this time with the audience. And there were tears. From listening to the audio of the “Piano and a Microphone” shows months earlier, I knew that Prince had left the stage a few times, but until I saw the video, I didn’t realize that he was crying. After playing “Purple Rain,” he left the stage, and when he returned, he set a wad of Kleenex on the piano. It was tough to watch. Still, his voice was clear and strong. What I will hold in my heart is the knowledge that his voice never left him.

The live concert that closed out the night was Sheila E., who sensed the somber mood (in our defense, it had been a rather sobering concert video), and gave the crowd a pep talk, insisting that after two years, the time for being sad was over. Amen to that. Seeing Sheila E. bring out her niece and nephew to play keyboards made me realize: They are the New, New Power Generation.

Sheila E. did wonders in lifting the heaviness of Day One. As it turned out, the grief of that night had served a purpose: It was driving us to where we needed to be.

Next: Day Two Finds Us Ready to Celebrate

Prince Gets the Academic Treatment

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Photo: Andrea Swensson of The Current gets a laugh with Prince’s reaction to host Dick Clark’s declaration on American Bandstand that “this is not the kind of music that comes from Minneapolis.” (photo credit: Emma Balazs) 

Full disclosure: I’m not an academic. Still, I eagerly anticipated the “Prince from Minneapolis” symposium at the University of Minnesota, held last week. Prince meets academia? Count me in! The symposium promised a glimpse into the inner workings of academia, as scholars began to process their thoughts on Prince’s legacy.

If the symposium is any indication, it will take a village of experts in a wide range of disciplines to do Prince justice. Psychology, theology, geography, musicology (and its cousin, geomusicology) were represented in the three-day event. Although Star-Tribune music writer Jon Bream expressed mixed emotions about the event, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing academics apply terms like “eschatology” to Prince’s work. (And yes, only through the good graces of Google did I manage to figure out that “eschatology” was the part of theology concerned with the ultimate destiny of humanity, and thus linked to Prince’s line of reasoning that we might as well party like it’s 1999).

Each morning, it was great fun to enter the hallowed halls of the Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs to the sounds of Prince bootlegs echoing through the atrium. In an only-in-Minneapolis scene, symposium speakers and attendees decked out in purple hugged each other in greeting while starting the day with coffee and starfish-shaped cookies. After a keynote and two days of panel discussions ranging from “Spiritualities” to “Gender and Sexuality” and “Celebritydom,” my biggest take-away was simple: It’s a big happiness boost to share a mutual, meaningful interest with a like-minded group of people. In fact, the event was such a boost that I hope that one day, after everyone catches their breath and catches up on sleep, organizer and University of Minnesota associate professor Arun Saldanha and his committee will see fit to host a second symposium, so we can see how far academia has come in its study of Prince.

Below, a few favorite moments:

Chazz Smith, Prince’s cousin, shared stories of Prince at age eight, already acting as a bandleader by dictating which kid would play which instrument in their newly created band, even though none of them had any experience with those instruments. Because Prince said they could do it, they believed they could, too – and they did.

Steve McClellan, the former manager of First Avenue, recalled that he barely saw the Aug. 3, 1983 premier of the Purple Rain material, because he was “battling guest list problems” caused by a massive array of lists and people demanding to be allowed inside. Still, he remembered the gift Prince made to the Minnesota Dance Theater as “profound” and the largest he’d ever seen. On being involved in Prince’s early years, he said, “I was saying good-bye to Prince in ’83 and ’84, when most people were saying hello.”

Rashad Shabazz, a geomusicologist from Arizona State University, discussed the relationship of music to place, and shared information on T.P. Giddings, supervisor of music for Minneapolis Public Schools from 1910-1942, who was hired when Minneapolis decided to invest in music training. As a result, working-class children got a top-notch music education. (Peripherally, that training apparently gave rise to a top-notch Twin Cities polka scene). Polka music aside, the legacy of that program included Prince, who notably never played the accordion (although I wouldn’t put it past him).

Finally, Zach Hoskins (who runs the essential blog), speaking on the “Place” panel, reminded us where Prince himself believed he resided, and it wasn’t Minneapolis, or for that matter, Planet Earth. In 2007, actor Matt Damon met Prince at an event and in an effort to make small talk, asked Prince if he was still living in Minnesota. Prince’s response: “I live inside my own heart, Matt Damon.”


In a Puff of Purple Smoke, Celebration 2018 and Prince from Mpls Symposium Are Done

Greetings from Chanhassen, a place that feels slightly less funky today as members of the Purple Army make their way back to their respective home cities after Celebration 2018. For me as an author, attending the Prince from Minneapolis Symposium, followed by Celebration, the past week was an opportunity to share our book with those who somehow hadn’t heard about The Rise of Prince (imagine that!). As a fan, it was an experience of camaraderie, warmth and good humor. I found everyone to be not only friendly and kind, but exceedingly polite and considerate of each other, given that there were a lot of us inside Paisley at the same time. Doors were held for others, garbage was thrown away, bathrooms were kept clean. I wish my own sons would take note!

While Celebration isn’t cheap, if you can swing it, I’d recommend doing it once, simply to soak in every possible emotion you’ve ever had about Prince in a giant soundstage full of people feeling the same way. We experienced everything from the ugly cry after watching Prince’s second performance of January 21, 2016, to joyous jumping and singing along to the Funk Soldiers (an NPG-derived group who did double duty in performing at the Target Center on Friday and Paisley Park on Saturday).

This week, I’ll be posting about some of the notable panels and performances, including “Prince: Live on the Big Screen” (potentially coming soon to a city near you, according to Joel Weinshanker of Graceland Holdings).

For now, as I begin to reflect on a week that was by turns exhausting and exhilarating, the strongest emotion I have is awe. It’s not awe about what Prince did musically, although of course that is awe-inspiring. I’m in awe of the way that Prince reached across every possible line that divides us to build an enormously diverse fan base. In an age when it feels like our leaders are working to divide us, it was striking to see Prince’s fan base demonstrate that diversity and unity can co-exist. The second feeling is one of gratitude to many of Prince’s associates, who turned out and made themselves available to fans, and in doing so greatly enriched everyone’s experience. Stacia LangKim BerryDonna GregorySteve Parke, Ingrid Chavez, Nandy and Maya McLean and many more were simply walking around Paisley during our tours, or hanging out at events with the rest of us.

Did anyone else go to Celebration or the Symposium? Any initial thoughts?

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April snow persisted at Paisley Park

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Hoping some of the fairy dust rubs off on me

Eminem Pens a Princely Song


In his latest, emotionally charged single, “Walk on Water,” Eminem and songwriter Skylar Grey manage to capture everything I’ve come to believe about Prince, the intoxicating power of holding a mic in hand, the pressure to keep up the facade, and the difficulty of remaining relevant during a long career.

Interviewed about “Walk on Water” by legendary producer Rick Rubin on his new podcast, “Broken Record,” Eminem admits, “It’s a very mortal song.”

Beyonce liked the song well enough to lend her voice to it. She sings in the chorus, “I walk on water, but I ain’t no Jesus … I walk on water, but only when it freezes … I’m only human, just like you.”

In the Rubin podcast, Eminem explains that when an artist starts out, there’s a blank canvas. By about the seventh album, he says, the canvas is filled, and there are fewer places to go that you haven’t already been. Yet, fans continue to expect something new from you. Or, as the song goes: “Take your best rhyme … and now outdo it, a thousand times.” Eminem then incorporates sound effects of himself ripping up paper and cursing in frustration while scribbling lyrics, something that Prince, as reigning king of the overly literal sound effect, would have loved (minus the cursing). How much more Prince-like can an Eminem song be?

The pressure to top yourself over and over again in a world where musical tastes blow like the wind is certainly a challenge that Prince faced during a 39-studio-album career. And perhaps, fans who still lament the break up of the Revolution after the Purple Rain tour will gain an understanding of why Prince made the decision to move on. Longevity in the music business means reinventing yourself, something Prince did constantly.

Even with reinvention, time moves on. “Am I lucky to be around this long?” Eminem asks, lamenting,“The crowds are gone.” While Prince was still selling out venues, he might have felt similarly in the latter years of his career, when the general public was disinterested, his songs were no longer played on the radio and he wasn’t selling albums in any significant number. Sadly, it was only after Prince’s death that a massive surge in record sales made it clear that he was a seriously under appreciated artist.

Despite waning public interest, it’s hard to let go once you’ve been on top. Eminem asks, “How do I ever let this mic go without a fight? As long as I’ve got a mic, I’m godlike.”

Yes, and people would much rather believe that Prince was a godlike, heaven-sent, flawless, guitar-playing sex idol than a mere mortal who worked relentlessly to master all aspects of the music industry. Let’s face it: if we conceded that Prince was human like us, then we’d also need to admit that we too could achieve that level in our own chosen fields, if only we worked hard enough. We all have enormous potential. But instead, we’d rather take the pressure off ourselves by placing Prince, or Eminem, or Beyonce, on a pedestal, and projecting all of our fantasies and wishes and dreams onto them. Problem is, no human being can bear that burden. Or, as Beyonce sings in the chorus, “I don’t think you should believe in me the way that you do, ’cause I’m terrified to let you down.”

The remarkably raw lyrics of “Walk on Water” are underlined by the production’s lack of vocal processing or doubling, a style that was incorporated on Prince’s final album, Hit n Run Phase 2, which was released two years ago this week. The album featured songs with dry vocals with no doubling, delay or reverb, which is in stark contrast to most of Prince’s earlier work. For artists with less vocal ability than Prince, the lack of processing reveals the limitations of their voice, which is certainly the case in “Walk on Water.” Still, there’s something admirable about letting your audience hear your voice, flaws and all. Although Prince began to incorporate a more pared-down style on his final album and during the “Piano & A Microphone” tour, he never allowed himself to fully let his guard down or expose cracks in the facade.

Near the end of the song, Eminem declares: “I’m not God-sent … And I’m not Prince.”

No, Eminem, you’re not Prince. But you’ve done something that fans longed for Prince to do and in doing so, you’ve bravely tapped into a vein that captures so much of what Prince experienced. Recording this song must have felt like undressing in public. In doing so, you’ve taken a first step toward opening a real discussion about the dangers of celebrity worship and fame. Best yet, you’ve given your fans an honest song in a dishonest age.

Listen to “Walk on Water” here:

Prince’s Greatest Legacy Isn’t His Music: It’s His Fans

Prince’s fan base is known for its loyalty, diversity and devotion, something that’s on full display today, with the reissue of the soundtrack to Purple Rain. What’s not as known is how much the loss of Prince affected the daily lives of these fans.

This week, we asked our Facebook group (created for our recently released Prince biography, The Rise of Prince: 1958–1988), to share how their lives had changed since Prince died. I imagined receiving responses such as: “I started exploring his back catalog”; “I finally went to concerts by Sheila E., The Time and Jesse Johnson”; or a lament such as, “I never miss a concert by my favorite artists anymore.”

As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong — or more superficial. What fans shared were profound stories of lives reinvented, acts of charity performed and feats of personal growth so enormous that they would make self-help gurus look unevolved.

I recognized myself in their stories. Like many fans, whether casual, lapsed or hardcore, the past year has found me consumed with Prince. Three weeks after my family moved from Chicago to Chanhassen, Minnesota, Prince died. We lived only a few miles from Paisley Park, but I had arrived too late to see Prince at his legendary compound. (The cry of “but I just got here!” wasn’t my first reaction to his death — although it may have been my second). Despite the fact that I was a wife and mom of two boys who had just moved to a new state, and a full-time director of communications for a company in New York, something inside me kicked in. I knew I had to do something. Then, I got lucky and found Alex Hahn, my co-author and author of Possessed, considered the definitive biography of Prince. Until I met Alex, I never knew I had it in me to work full-time and co-author a book while trying to figure out how things worked in my new state — but somehow, egged on by some force beyond me, and abetted by caffeine, I did.

Today, more than a year and one published book later, I’m equal parts perplexed and awed by my reaction to Prince’s death and the aftermath. I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes person and never wanted to be out front, but I stepped up to take a public role with Prince fan groups and the media. My 14-year-old son didn’t have any problem explaining it. He said to tell people that when Prince died, he said, “Laura, it’s your turn. Get up on stage!”

I’m only one of many who since April 21, 2016 have felt encouraged (or pushed, or shoved) by Prince to achieve their fullest potential. Here, in their own words, are the stories Prince fans whose lives are forever changed.

(Laura Tiebert is the co-author of The Rise of Prince: 1958–1988. The book is available on Amazon or at Electric Fetus in Minneapolis).

Rachel Kayla: From doom and gloom to acts of love for one another

(In the months after Prince died), the 21st of each month would hit me like a ton of bricks. In February, I decided that I couldn’t keep doing that. So, I started a new tradition …. Love 4 One Anothe(a Prince song) has become my mantra in life. I try to let it guide everything I do because I really do believe more love in the world would probably help with some of these problems. Beginning in February, I started doing random acts of kindness and/or charity on the 21st of each month in Prince’s memory. I feel like he did so much for the world along those lines that we need to work to carry that on. The first month, I bought breakfast for a homeless guy on a street corner and it led to an inspiring conversation with a jobless vet who really wants to contribute to his country. Another month, I donated supplies to a local cat shelter. I’ve gotten a few people in one of my Facebook groups to join me and we share our stories in the group. Now, instead of feeling doom and gloom on the 21st, we feel giddy and excited. We can’t wait to do something for someone else. I think Prince would really dig that.

Christine Trejo-Monson: A healer newly dedicated to helping those struggling with opioids

I have been a nurse for 28 years and two and a half years ago made a career change and am currently almost done studying Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture could have helped Prince. I wish I could have helped him with his pain, and addiction to opioids.

This is now my calling in life. I feel that Prince is guiding me in some beautiful way and giving me the courage to reach out to others who I would not have had the courage prior to 4/21. I have met key people in more than coincidental ways to help me from artwork and logos, to people who know how to negotiate contracts for leases, all guiding me along my way to opening my own practice within the next year …. This is a way that I want to give back. I hope and pray I can help prevent someone from dying from opioid addiction and help with their suffering.

Beth Regrut: Recovering from grief by putting one foot in front of the other

I can barely say it now, but (after Prince’s death) I didn’t move from my home unless by absolute necessity. My teen and my husband both begged me to get help, but I was hopelessly immobilized. I spent days and nights finding every never-seen video, reading threads, writing, and processing every “what if” imaginable. As an amateur singer and performer, I think I had an immense understanding of the absolute genius … As the days waned and I felt no better, I started to focus not on his music, but on his life’s journey. He had started his career writing songs with lyrics that pushed the edge; his music was so forward thinking and sexually charged ahead of its time that listeners were drawn like a moth to a flame … Future albums included openly a spiritual message. Future concerts removed the sexuality. He seemed, from an outsider’s perspective, to be trying to be a better man — no cussing, better relationships, etc. He evolved, he reinvented, he continued to grow, and personally he rose. Today marked day 68 of my rise; I am up, I am celebrating his life. I started my morning with a four-mile hike dance/walking to my exclusive Prince playlist. After, I stopped, got quiet, and very still, and I prayed. After all, this is how he’d want us to live.

Deena Gilbert Dyer: Learning to treasure oneself above all else

Prince was a beacon of hope and light to me growing up. I am an only child with a single mom, and I had health issues. Kids at school made fun of me, started rumors about me, and I felt very alone and isolated. Listening to Prince felt like I had a friend, a similar soul, and a constant companion. Through nine surgeries, many, many procedures, times of extreme pain or sickness, his words would uplift, give me strength, help the pain, make me smile, and help me heal. Prince became a part of me, just as much as my eye color, my freckles or my breathing. Since the time I was 11, he was there, showing me I was never alone, showing me that God is always the way, and eventually showing me that being me is the best, most unique and phenomenal part of life.

Since Prince has been gone, I have gotten stronger in trying to be authentic to me, and to stop trying to please so many at my expense. I have found comfort in complete strangers, who somehow feel like they were in my story all along …. I still feel disbelief that he is gone, and sadness for all the great things he could’ve accomplished, and the generations that might not get how special he was. Prince has once again taught me something; everyone is human, we are all flawed, but we should celebrate who we are fully, because `life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last.’”

Lisa Mahon Wechtenhiser: An intuitive who’s guiding others to reach their fullest potential

On the day Prince left, he came and talked with me. I sent him away because I just could not deal with it. A year later, I channel his energy for others to help them step into their fullest potential … What I’ve learned by talking to so many people over the past year is that most (if not all) of them have connected with him from the other side in one way or another. So many are truly guided by his presence even if it’s just to feel comforted … People who didn’t pay much attention while he was here … are often overcome with emotion and still, a year later, aren’t sure what’s going on. What he’s shared with me is he’s had soul agreements … with these people. Some, like me, are meant to take his work out in a bigger way, and some are meant to just use it for their own personal growth. But he’s around in a big way.

Tami Neubauer Foster: A Paisley Park tour guide working to honor Prince’s life

This past April, I was lucky enough to get a job at Paisley Park as a tour guide. I needed a part-time gig to help replace child support that I wasn’t getting for my daughter any more. I swear it happened so perfectly that Prince had a hand in it. One day, during my training, I was feeling very overwhelmed and doubting myself, and not sure I would be able to memorize the huge script for the tours. I wandered into the “Sign O’ The Times” room at Paisley Park … Immediately after walking in there, I felt Prince in there with me. I started crying. I felt him saying to me, “You can do this! And you can do it well!” I felt his encouragement and belief in me, even if I didn’t feel it myself. The next day I went back and nailed it. I did it perfectly. I started leading tours alone the next day.

I try my best to honor his name and his legacy every day that I work at Paisley Park … He deserves only the best, because that’s what he always gave to all of us. I also learned that I can do more than I think I can. I just have to set my mind to it — not be intimidated. Thank you, Prince!

The Beautiful Ones: Priscilla Presley and Mayte Garcia’s Parallel Lives

The other day, I received a text from a friend. She was reading about Mayte Garcia’s story of her life with Prince. “Have you read Elvis and Me?” she said, referring to Priscilla Presley’s memoir. “Uncanny.”

No, I hadn’t. And so I did.

Both Mayte and Priscilla were born into military families, and wound up moving to Germany from the U.S. as a result of their father’s military service. Priscilla was 14 and living in Wiesbaden, Germany when she met Elvis. Mayte was 16 and living in Wiesbaden, Germany when she met Prince. And here’s where things get uncanny: Priscilla and Mayte attended the same high school, General H. H. Arnold High School. In her memoir, The Most Beautiful — a sad, sweet story — young Mayte is cognizant of the parallels; after meeting Prince, she winks when passing the photo of Priscilla Presley that hangs in the school hallway.

Each girl was well aware of their respective global superstars, but say they were not fans. Physically, each represented their male superstar’s ideal of female beauty: Priscilla, with dark hair, pale skin and blue eyes, and Mayte, with her olive skin, big brown eyes and flowing dark hair.

As the stories progress, the modis operandi of the much older male superstar is this: Invite girl to visit hotel room decorated to superstar’s specifications; ditch the chaperone for alone time, being careful not to cross the line; and cultivate a penpal/phone buddy relationship that continues for years, while simultaneously sleeping with as many of-age women as necessary. Rinse and repeat.

In a way, the shared pattern makes sense. If you are a heterosexual male superstar who can have anything at any time of the day or night, an underage female is a logical attraction. She’s off-limits, and that forces you to wait. By virtue of her age, she is hard to get. What else is there to chase, when you can have it all?

Priscilla and Mayte, both sweet souls, experience their own version of the famous shopping scene from Pretty Woman, in which their superstar takes them on a whirlwind tour of high-end boutiques and a “buy anything” shopping spree that turns them into modern-day Cinderellas ready for the ball. Both men seem eager to mold the girls to their preferences, while simultaneously demanding total devotion. The men love movies and rent out theaters to watch them; they have strong opinions about clothing and shun blue jeans in particular. Both girls spend inordinate amounts of time waiting for a call or a visit or a letter. Both men seem well-intentioned, warm and sincere. They put their respective girls on a pedestal.

With the courtship/friendship well under way, each girl is invited to visit the superstar’s home in a small city far away from the entertainment capitals. The place turns out to be a fortress, and a world unto itself. The superstar is a nocturnal creature, and the girl’s life is turned upside down in a disorienting fashion, staying up all night, sleeping in the day and waking in the late afternoon. There is an entourage, and the entourage is wary of the girl. Why has she been inserted into the inner circle? Resentments build.

Drugs are a very clear and present factor in Priscilla’s story, when Elvis gives her prescription sleeping pills and takes them openly himself on a regular basis. Mayte’s story mentions possible drug use, but in a much more veiled way, and only in retrospect, as she never saw Prince use drugs. Unlike Priscilla, who eventually weaned herself from drugs, Mayte never gets in a regular habit of taking them.

At various points in their stories, there are touchpoints that feel similar enough to give readers an uneasy sense of deja vu. Priscilla and Mayte each have a moment when they are depicted with pills in hand, ready to end their lives. And, oddly enough, at various points in both Elvis’ and Prince’s stories, a man named Larry with a spiritual bent enters their life — Larry Geller, in Elvis’ case, and Larry Graham, in Prince’s case — and the two spend hours upon hours discussing religion and spirituality. Each Larry arouses suspicion in the wife’s eyes. Despite an effort to be included in Bible studies and the like, the religious/spiritual fervor leaves the wife feeling out in the cold. When confronted by his manager “Colonel Tom” Parker, Elvis cuts off his relationship to Larry. Prince continued his relationship with Larry Graham until his death.

After marriage, both women become pregnant immediately. It’s here that their stories diverge, as Priscilla and Elvis become parents to Lisa Marie, and Mayte and Prince tragically lose their son Amiir and a subsequent pregnancy. Readers get a glimpse of Elvis as a father, which turns out to be more of a disappointment than one might imagine. Elvis, like Prince, toured frequently. “Elvis was having an ongoing love affair with his audience,” Priscilla writes, and nothing could come between them for very long.

As their relationships begin to fall apart, both women struggle to stay connected with their husbands. Dancing is a passion for both, and a much-needed outlet. The men seem to have difficulty letting their guard down and being emotionally intimate. There is a feeling that they are keeping their wife at arm’s length, and compartmentalizing their marriage relationship while pursuing other interests. They begin living separate lives. After what feels like an inevitable divorce that is initiated by the wife, the woman never quite gets over her former husband.

As a woman, I felt compassion for Priscilla and Mayte — but especially Mayte, who had a much tougher time financially after her divorce, and who also had a child to grieve. Mayte’s book feels sincere and honest, and the portrait she paints of Prince is warm and vivid. I had hoped for more detail on Prince’s dancing and rehearsing and touring than Mayte provided, because of anyone, Mayte seems like the best possible source to speak more on that aspect of Prince’s career. Perhaps she will, in the future. As an author of a Prince book, I am 100% in support of Mayte’s book and believe there is a place for each of us in telling Prince’s story. I hope she found writing to be healing. In a strange way, Prince’s passing was freeing for many, and Mayte is no exception.