It was Catherine's turn to host our book club, and she'd had to postpone it a week, because of a conflict. Instead of meeting last week, we would meet Thursday April 21st, at 7 P.M., which turned out to be a very sad day for Minnesota. By the time we all arrived, it was obvious talking about this months book would take a backseat to us processing our collective grief over the death of Prince. That hometown hero and legendary artist, who grew up in Minneapolis, and never forgot it. One of the things I liked best about Prince, is how loyal he was to us. I also liked the fact that he was truly private. The world would be a better place if more celebrities took a cue from Prince. He let his music speak for him, and it was eloquent.
In 1983 I heard about a casting call. They were looking for extras for a film, which turned out to be Purple Rain. We were told to wear rhinestones, lace or ruffles to the audition. We were also warned to steer clear of the ripped shirts and torn clothes that the movie Flashdance had recently made popular.
I've always liked vintage clothes and in my closet I had a beige rayon crepe dress from the 1940s, which was elegant and very fitted, to that I added two rhinestone necklaces, a pair of cream colored lace gloves and punishingly high heels. When I got to the cattle call there were hundreds of hopefuls waiting in a ridiculously long line. My feet were in such pain by the time I got home, from standing in those high, high heels. . . but I had been selected as an extra, and for several days I got to watch Prince perform all of those songs he played in the movie Purple Rain. We were all taught simple hand choreography for the song I Would Die 4 U. But apart from that, we were told to behave like we were at a concert. And we were, he was an incredible guitarist and ridiculously agile dancer. To see him perform at First Avenue was thrilling. We all saw up close, in take after take, the dedication and work ethic which was a hallmark of Prince's.
One day Morgan Fairchild visited the set, who was rumored to be the girlfriend of one of the camera guys. Having Hollywood come to Minneapolis was pretty exciting. The holding area for extras, was an old theatre that used to be across the street from the First Ave. nightclub. Hanging out there for hours on end (until we were needed on the set) was pretty entertaining too, since many of the extras were aspiring musicians and actors. There was more than one impromptu song or dance.
On the final day of filming the crowd scenes inside the First Ave. night club, an announcement was made, and all of the extras were told we could go home. People started filing out the door of First Ave., and most of them didn't notice that Prince had walked up to the microphone. He began thanking all of us for our hard work over the last few days. The room had cleared out pretty fast, most of the extras didn't stay to hear his speech, but I stood still and listened to every word. It was such a heartfelt gesture. There's not a lot of dignity in the extra work I've done. The days are long, the pay is small, and the food can be horrible. Production assistants can be rude and bossy, but that earnest thank you from an incredible artist gilds the days I spent working on Purple Rain, with a grace and beauty.
Being an extra in Purple Rain granted me all kinds of cache' and temporary coolness. Bragging rights. The soundtrack from the movie (on a cassette tape, of course), was the soundtrack of my life that year. Played constantly in a silver Chevette.
A few years later I was hired as an extra for some footage shot at Paisley Park, which was edited into the Prince concert film Sign O The Times. It was a huge treat to see inside his sanctum sanctorum. Since Prince was so private, all the extras were told repeatedly to not bring cameras. Those were the days before cell phones existed, and only secret agents had expensive tiny cameras. The only pictures I have are in my mind.
At last nights bookclub, we sipped rose and talked about how much Prince and his music mattered. It was Michelle or maybe Grethe who mentioned that First Ave. was having an all night dance party last night, and the street would be roped off for mourners to gather. All six of us agreed to Uber over to First Ave. to pay our respects, and it was a cool moment of book club bonding. Ann plugged her phone into the Uber cab on the way there, and we sang along to Let's Go Crazy. The closer we got to downtown Minneapolis, the more we realized the whole city was turning out for the party. Buildings and bridges were bathed in purple light. Traffic inched along. We found an amazing parking spot one block away from First Ave. and walked down to join the throngs of people, sharing the shock and the grief.
The crowd was eclectic, everyone seemed to be represented and everyone I saw was respectful. The Prince star on the side of First Ave. had a huge mound of bouquets beneath it. On the way home we all agreed that we were glad we had been a part of that huge crowd. We all need each other sometimes, especially when we're sad.