By the time I arrive at Paisley Park, my fingers and toes are numb, having just climbed a twenty foot mound of snow on all fours over a fence and into Prince’s sacred recording compound. There's a fifty degree below zero wind chill and my stark white faux fur jumpsuit does nothing to keep me safe from the elements. It's Minnesota…in March.
When I reach Prince’s mud room, there's nothing but bags of salt, rubber boots and enviably separated recyclables. At least one hundred bottles of Yoo-hoo in one bin. Guitar Center, Target and Ulta Beauty plastic bags in the other, a Costco sized cardboard box of Altoids.
“Take your shoes off” a tall black man with a bow tie tells me.
“Are you Jerome?” I ask.
The guard just rolls his eyes, annoyed, returning to his crossword puzzle and continuing to sip a Red Bull.
“Take your shoes off. Prince just polished the floors.”
I delicately place my snow boots next to a pair of high heeled purple cowboy boots my toddler might fit into.
At the end of the mud room there's a door, with hanging white beads. Behind those beads is a purple light. I think, why not “Blue?” You know, like the song? It doesn’t matter. The purple light...like a moth to the flame... I...must...go...there...
“Where do you think you’re going?” the man, refusing to admit he's Jerome from Purple Rain, asks.
I point toward the beaded doorway.
“What’s the password?”
“Yes, the password”
Although still trembling from the cold, dressed in a purple satin negligee, I take a deep breath and smile. I've got this.
“What,” I answer.
“The password is what.”
"The password is what! You know, like you told Morris Day in the movie Purple Rain!" I yell.
“I told you I'm not Jerome. Are you trying to mess with me? Are you even black?”
“Not that I know of!"
“Are you Latin?”
“Si, Si. Ciao Bello! Come sta?” I answer confidently.
“You're speaking Italian.”
“No, Hablo espanol! Taco, burrito, Corona. Tony Orlando?”
“You’re not Spanish.”
Like an MI6 agent, I changed accents quickly.
“That’s because I’m from Scotland and I’m the great love of Sonny Crockett from Miami Vice. You’ve Got The Look, Jerome!”
“I’m NOT Jerome! Do you even play an instrument?”
“Are you kidding? Of course, I can play an instrument! I'm a percussionist.”
I tap my lilac painted nails on Not Jerome’s brand new IPAD screen. He is not happy.
“Do you believe in God?” he asks, seriously.
“Oh, absolutely. I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior. Can I save you? I forgot to ask you when I first walked in the door. Thanks for reminding me. I forgot my pamphlets.”
“You need to leave Miss, and you know what, you don’t look 29!”
I grab my white fur snow suit and bend over to place my foot into the first pant leg, preparing to leave. I hope Not Jerome is looking at my backside while I have time to come up with something. I notice that he's still frustrated by his crossword.
“Wait, wait, I don’t want to leave yet. Being in Prince’s entourage is on my list of things to do before I turn forty, I mean thirty! I swear I will cleanse my naked body in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. You’ll just have to drive me there. I’m afraid I told my cabbie to go.”
"You're a dreamer and a fool," the man denying that fact that he is Jerome tells me.
"Yes, I do dream a lot. I'm always so brave in my dreams; sexy, witty, a problem solver. I usually wake up in the morning slightly melancholy and exhausted." I respond.
“I’ve heard enough, you’re outta here. You could never be in Prince’s entourage.”
"I thought admission was EASY here, remember?" quoting song lyrics that made me hopeful.
I spy the crossword with my third eye for a quick second and I thank god for having fed my brain meaningless bits of pop culture since infancy.
“Rhoda” I scream.
“What?” In denial he is Jerome asks.
This is when being the daughter of a white Baby Boomer mesmerized with television becomes an asset.
“Spinoff of the Mary Tyler Moore Show? Thirty Across.”
Not Jerome hesitantly writes the word in.
“Fine, you’re in," Jerome concedes, happy to have beaten his all-time best record for finishing the Friday New York Times crossword. He couldn't wait to regale Prince with his victory tale later that morning over pancakes. Prince, a virtuoso since early childhood, was rarely impressed.
It's even more beautiful than I could have imagined, once I saunter through those white beads and into the heart and soul of Paisley Park.
I hear from afar, my most favorite lyrics of all being sung.
Girl, you got an ass like I’ve never seen……
Weak, I tell you, weak in the knees, I was, trying not to slide across the freshly polished floor.
I’m drenched in purple light and follow what looks like the yellow brick road into a large Drawing Room, with a dance floor, and mirrors on the walls. I am reminded of the Kiss video.
At the end of the yellow brick road there is a giant pedestal, with a golden throne atop. There he sits, in all his purple glory, Prince, in tight black pants, and a purple paisley satin scarf around his neck, drinking Yoo-hoo, and with tiny feet dangling off his chair(I'm envious as I wear size 11.) A young girl dressed as a belly dancer stands beside him with a hand held mirror. Prince turns his head toward the mirror to fix his hair every few minutes or so while he speaks.
“And you are?” his royal highness asks.
“Yes, like Sheila E. She's my cousin.”
"What's your style?" Prince asks.
"Oh, you know, Nasty Girl/Sex Shooter living in an Erotic City wanting a Love Bizarre."
“Do you believe in God?” he asks. This line of questioning is getting old fast.
“Yes,” I answer,” when I bought your album, for the first time, with your picture on it, I thought I was looking at the face of Jesus. The older girls made me memorize and recite the lyrics to Dirty Mind at slumber parties or else they would put my hand in warm water while I slept so that I would pee myself"
“I’m flattered, but you didn’t answer my question. Do you believe in God?”
Then I try to throw him for a loop, “Only when I hear your music, Prince. Your songs, the dirty ones.”
“The Dirty ones? But you know I stopped playing those in concert. I'm a man of God now.”
“You were a man of God when you wrote those songs. At times, those lyrics, those melodies, well, they make me have…visions. You have indeed provided me with numerous religious experiences...and, of course...orgasms.”
“I’m glad my music affected you so, Cathy B., but unfortunately I can’t play those songs anymore.”
“I'm deeply saddened by that decision, Prince. I'll never be able to take a bubble bath and not think of The Ballad of Dorothy Parker. Pure poetry. And It from Sign O' the Times, well, way to put it out there! Slow Love and Adore can’t be on that list. They’re just too damn beautiful - precious works of art, really. I could live without Head, since when it plays, it sets up, well, and you know, probably from experience, expectations for an evening? I don’t want to disappoint or vice versa. And the line All good things they say never last, and love isn’t love until its past from the song Sometimes it
Snows in April, from the album Parade? Well, I hate the month of April, you and T.S. Eliot are on the same page for that one. April is truly, the cruelest month. The critics, they really tore you a new one over Purple Rain’s follow up film, Under The Cherry Moon, didn’t they? So unfair!
And Sexy Mother Fucker I can’t even begin to tell you…that should have sealed the deal with the Kennedy Center honors as far as I'm concerned..."
“Okay, okay, so you like my music,” Prince says, trying to shut me up. I'm wasting his time.
“I think you are a musical genius,” I tell him looking into his seductive and all-knowing brown eyes.
“Tell me, Cathy B. Why are you here?”
“Why am I here?" I ask back, "Great question, Prince! Well, one of my items on my to do list before turning thirty is to be in your entourage.”
“Yes, thirty. All I need are a few sit ups and a spray tan and I am good to go. My biracial heritage slows the aging process...”
“You can’t be black.”
“But my soul is. And you let Sheena Easton in and she’s not black!”
“Sheena can do the splits!” Prince screams back at me, with a fire in his eyes.
“Listen, Prince. If you want to see an ass shake, then I’m your girl!” straight out of the Purple Rain playbook, that one.
“Fine, but make it quick. My mani/pedi starts in a half hour!”
First Prince asks me to sing.
It was just like my American Idol audition, all over again:
I ain’t saying your helpless but sometimes, sometimes, those are the things, that being in love’s about…
Prince winces at the sound of my voice and opens his mouth wide for some Lutefisk that is hand fed to him by the teenaged belly dancer. The Patchouli incense burning throughout the room does nothing to diffuse the smell of the stinky fish. In the purple light, Prince begins to resemble less like my idol, and more and more like Brando at the end of Apocalypse Now. He puts on black mascara in front of the hand held mirror while chewing loudly on the white jelly like substance. No wonder Paisley Park has a fence around it.
Then Prince asks me to dance.
But, I’m wearing black fishnet stockings, and he just got the floors polished, and…well, I slip and fall right onto my back, hitting my head, hard. I hear my Wendy and Lisa inspired hair spray hair crunch against the wood. I see stars until I determine it’s just a disco ball hanging from the ceiling above me. I pull myself back onto my feet quickly, just like my personal trainer always tells me to. I need to demonstrate quick reflexes. I fear Prince might question my age again...
“How white are you?” he asks me, giggling. The Yoo-hoo Prince was just drinking shoots right out of his nose.
“A Daughter of the American Revolution, actually. Do you like crust less finger sandwiches?”
“I need you to be exotic, Latin, bi-racial, a musician, a singer. I only work with the best.”
“I mean I am Mediterranean. I can put a curse on your friend in the mud room, you know, the one who is pretending he is Not Jerome. I just need a goat…and a switchblade.”
“Enough!” Prince is getting kind of pissed now, I’m wasting his time, and he needs another Yoo-hoo.
“Jerome!” Prince yells from his golden throne.
I knew it! I heard from the Paisleyvineearlier that day that Morris Day of The Time loaned Jerome out to Prince in exchange for paying off some of his gambling debts to the Minnesota Mob. Another life ruined by a fixed Pakistani Cricket game.
“Get this girl out of here! She’s CRAZY. And get me another Yoo-hoo, Dammit!”
Jerome strong arms me now, wearing a bow-tie is not indicative of being a nice person, I determine. He drags me by my giant feet while my satin teddy slides across the shiny, sparkling dance floor. I feel like I am about to drown in quick sand. My dream of being in Prince's entourage before turning forty has been ruined by my parent's lack of paying for song and dance lessons as a child. I couldn't wait to blame them in person and of course, tell my therapist all about this "breakthrough."
“You’ll regret this Prince!” I yell. “You suck Purple Ass!” I scream mid-drag. “And so do the Vikings!” "I could never root for Brett dick pic Favre!" "Even for you, Prince!" “I’m glad Warner Brothers took your money!”
A Pool Hustler's Daughter grows up in subterranean America. She dreams big, hustles daily and loves her Daddy. With empathy, fascination and grace she navigates and inhabits every tier of society; sees beauty and hope and magic in all things; respects and lives by the "mitzvah."
A Pool Hustler's Daughter calculates the trifecta payout at the racetrack, hides money on three parts of her body, has an arsenal of "Uncles," and keeps a baseball bat by the front door. She values friendship, loyalty and experiences over "things." Like her father, she seeks to learn "The secrets of the universe" and believes "Life ain't on the square." She applauds the self-made and those who learn to "overcome" their circumstances. Her door is always open for a sofa to sleep on, a hot meal, or an eager listener for a life story.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
An essay on my late father, Freddy 'the Beard' Bentivegna, David Mamet, Helaine Garren and the pool room that inspired Walter Tevis to write "The Hustler" - Bensinger's Billiard Academy
"Tell me, the dream , again..." "Well, it's night, and New York is particularly quiet. It's not necessarily late at...