Last weekend, a friend and I meandered to Prince’s home in Chanhassen, Minn. The late musician’s home, Paisley Park, has been turned into a museum and recently opened for tours.
Even though I’m not the hugest Prince fan, he’s such a Minnesota icon that visiting his home seemed the thing to do on a weekend get-away from The Great White North. And I wanted to learn more about this musician who died so unexpectedly last April.
When I was in college in the early 1980s, other than his songs over the airwaves, my introduction to Prince was via a poster on the inside of my dorm neighbors’ bathroom door. When I ended up using their bathroom because the one I shared was occupied, there was Prince, lounging around nekkid as the day he was born, while I peed.
Hardly an auspicious introduction, but surely a memorable one.
Then there was the time I took my dormmate to a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis for her birthday. As we prepared to order our food at our second-floor table, our waiter arrived, breathless. “Prince just came in!” He gushed. “He’s seated at a table on the first floor!”
My dormmate and I looked at each other and shrugged, nonplussed, not interested enough to go downstairs and gawk. Our musical tastes then tended toward the B52s, Sting, and Dire Straits. As our waiter continued his excitement over the star, I, of course, was thinking of that bathroom poster. 🙂
Prince in Purple Rain.
Over the years, I watched Prince’s Purple Rain movie, enjoyed his music, and saw a few of his energetic and flashy performances on TV. I liked him, but not unusually so.
Then came last year. What was it about 2016 and the loss of so many musicians?! It was like they had a karmic bullseye upon them.
After Prince died, like many other people, I watched his past Superbowl halftime performance, relistened to his music, and rewatched part of Purple Rain. I couldn’t help but follow the news speculation about his death and the mess that is/was his estate.
I began to gain a greater appreciation for his talent and his style. That old cliché, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” fit for my belated appreciation, and was another factor that drew me to Paisley Park.
If You Go
The first thing you need to know about visiting the museum is that you can only buy tickets online in advance. The high interest and demand necessitates it. Guided tours leave every 70 minutes and they will be running at least through April of this year.
Another thing is that you can’t use your phone on the tour. You will be asked to turn it off, and the attendant will slide it into a little case, locked by one of those magnetic thingees similar to the anti-theft devices on jeans. They don’t want you taking pictures inside. But you can take photos after the tour in a tent that’s set up just outside the museum.
The first thing that struck me is how close Paisley Park is to the freeway. I’ve probably driven past it a few times over the years and never recognized it for what it was. With its bland white exterior, I thought it was an industrial park or something.
Once inside, I was struck by the symbolism of the murals. Blue sky and clouds decorate the atrium (the sky’s the limit?) along with white doves. We craned our necks to catch a glimpse of Prince’s pet dove, Divine, in its cage on the second floor. A velvet purple couch with paisley pillows sits underneath the atrium windows and a plastic box that holds a replica of Paisley Park and Prince’s ashes. Off the atrium, you can look through glass doors to see Prince’s dining area and television room. His office is off the other side of the atrium as well as several other rooms that are now filled with memorabilia from his concert tours.
I was struck by how small the furniture was. Prince seemed so larger-than-life on television, but in reality he was only about 5’-2”.
Our tour guide knew Prince personally. He explained that the connection was made through his wife, who was Prince’s babysitter when he was young. It was very cool to have someone guide us who actually knew what Prince was like and had an emotional attachment to him.
During the rest of the tour, we saw the motorcycle Prince rode in the Purple Rain movie and outfits he wore during concerts. In his sound studio we got to hear one of the unreleased songs (an instrumental) from his mythical musical vault. Most impressive was a full-size concert venue room where he could practice for his tours and hold his own concerts.
The tour ended in the room that was Prince’s private music club. A small dining area there serves food that Prince liked (vegan rice crispy bars?!), which are available for purchase. The gift shop featured a wall bedecked with memorials that people had placed outside Paisley Park after Prince died.
I left impressed by the way Prince built Paisley Park to foster his creativity. It’s truly not a place that anyone else could just purchase and live in. Like Graceland is to Elvis, Paisley Park holds Prince literally and figuratively. It’s a monument to a Minnesota icon — one who some Minnesotans like me didn’t fully appreciate until it was too late.