Last night was a big goodbye dinner/shindig for my friend Anton who’s moving to Honduras on Tuesday to escape the icy cold slush that’s clogging up every inch of every sidewalk of every intersection in Montreal. I can’t blame him one bit. After an amazing Chinese dinner at an inconspicuous 2nd floor restaurant in a back alley of Chinatown, we went for drinks at a great new bar called Waverly on Saint Viateur Street on the corner of Saint Laurent Boulevard. After my second Jameson whiskey my friend Gerard told me a story that left me dumbfounded and wondering if I’d heard him correctly. We were having a long talk about our musical influences from our respective youths (his a wide spectrum of the most eclectic and diverse artists that any teenager could ever hope to be exposed to, and mine a pathetically stunted shortlist of country music stars mixed with whoever was playing on Rick Dees’ or Casey Kasem’s Top 40 from 1987-1995). When the subject of Prince came up, Gerard dropped a bomb on me: he told me how Prince is a Jehovah’s Witness and while Prince was living in Toronto not long ago he would often walk the streets knocking on the doors of strangers’ houses and sit with them for long talks about God and his faith. I was stunned and in complete disbelief. As it turns out, Gerard was bang on. Here’s an article from The New Yorker:
The thirty-thousand-square-foot Italianate villa, built this century by Vanna White’s ex-husband, looks like many of the other houses in Beverly Park, a gated community in L.A., except for the bright-purple carpet that spills down the front steps to announce its new tenant: Prince. One afternoon just before the election, Prince invited a visitor over. Inside, the place was done up in a generic Mediterranean style, although there were personal flourishes here and there—a Lucite grand piano with a gold-colored “Artist Formerly Known as Prince” symbol suspended over it, purple paisley pillows on a couch. Candles scented the air, and New Age music played in the living room, where a TV screen showed images of bearded men playing flutes. Prince padded into the kitchen, a small fifty-year-old man in yoga pants and a big sweater, wearing platform flip-flops over white socks, like a geisha.
“Would you like something to eat?” he asked, sidling up to the counter. Prince’s voice was surprisingly deep, like that of a much larger man. He picked up a copy of 21 Nights, a glossy volume of photographs that he had just released. It is his first published book, a collection of highly stylized photographs of him taken during a series of gigs in London last year. “I’m really proud of this,” he said. Short original poems and a CD accompany the photographs. (Sample verse: “Who eye really am only time will tell/ 2 the almighty life 4ce that grows stronger with every chorus/ Yes give praise, lest ye b among . . . the guilty ones.”)
Limping slightly, Prince set off on a walk around his new bachelor pad. Glass doors opened onto acres of back yard, and a hot tub bubbled in the sunlight. “I have a lot of parties,” he explained. In the living room, he’d installed purple thrones on either side of a fireplace, and, nearby, along a hallway, he had hung photographs of himself, in a Moroccan villa, in various states of undress. At the end of the hall, a gauzy curtain fluttered in a doorway. “My room,” he said. “It’s private.”
Prince has lived in Los Angeles since last spring, after spending years in Minneapolis, holding court in a complex called Paisley Park, where he made thousands of songs, far away from the big labels. Seven years ago, he became a Jehovah’s Witness. He said that he had moved to L.A. so that he could understand the hearts and minds of the music moguls. “I wanted to be around people, connected to people, for work,” he said. “You know, it’s all about religion. That’s what unites people here. They all have the same religion, so I wanted to sit down with them, to understand the way they see things, how they read Scripture.”
Prince had his change of faith, he said, after a two-year-long debate with a musician friend, Larry Graham. “I don’t see it really as a conversion,” he said. “More, you know, it’s a realization. It’s like Morpheus and Neo in ‘The Matrix.’ ” He attends meetings at a local Kingdom Hall, and, like his fellow-witnesses, he leaves his gated community from time to time to knock on doors and proselytize. “Sometimes people act surprised, but mostly they’re really cool about it,” he said.
Recently, Prince hosted an executive who works for Philip Anschutz, the Christian businessman whose company owns the Staples Center. “We started talking red and blue,” Prince said. “People with money—money like that—are not affected by the stock market, and they’re not freaking out over anything. They’re just watching. So here’s how it is: you’ve got the Republicans, and basically they want to live according to this.” He pointed to a Bible. “But there’s the problem of interpretation, and you’ve got some churches, some people, basically doing things and saying it comes from here, but it doesn’t. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve got blue, you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ Gay marriage, whatever. But neither of them is right.”
When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ”
Later, in the dining room, eating a bowl of carrot soup, he talked about an encounter that he described as a “teaching moment.” “There was this woman. She used to come to Paisley Park and just sit outside on the swings,” he said. “So I went out there one day and I was, like, ‘Hey, all my friends in there say you’re a stalker. And that I should call the police. But I don’t want to do that, so why don’t you tell me what you want to happen. Why are you here? How do you want this to end?’ And she didn’t really have an answer for that. In the end, all she wanted was to be seen, for me to look at her. And she left and didn’t come back.”
I have no problem with religious people so long as they keep their beliefs to themselves and refrain from being dogmatic about them. I am a deeply spiritual person but there is no room for organized religion in my life any longer — it’s too divisive and filled with antiquated (and immoral) beliefs like the one above that have no place in the twenty-first century. So I guess now I have even more reason to dislike Prince after reading his hateful comments: not only is his music unlistenable drivel, but he’s a prick too.
Dear Prince: it’s very cold in Montreal at the present moment, so if you ever dare come knocking on my door I won’t be able turn a hose on you because it will be frozen stiff. Instead, I will drag you feet-first through the freezing streets until I find the deepest slush puddle I can and dunk your head “1999” times until “The Doves Cry”. I will then leave you with nothing but your “Raspberry Beret” as you shiver in the cold “Purple Rain”. Then I’d force you to watch videos like these:
For Andrew Sullivan’s opinion you can visit The Atlantic.
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