Prince’s Closest Friends Share Their Best Prince Stories
By: Chris Heath (GQ Magazine)
Date: December 8, 2016
Misty Copeland (principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre; appeared in a Prince video and live performances): He never called from a number you’d recognize, so you’d never know it was going to be him. Loved to speak in different accents—British and French…everything. Sometimes I’d be, “Who is this?” It would go on for a while, and then ﬁnally he’d laugh and it would be him.
Van Jones: (political activist; met Prince after he tried to make a sizable donation to Jones’s charitable organization anonymously): He always said the same thing whenever he was getting on the phone: “This is Prince.” Not “How are you doing?” Not “What’s up?” Kind of low: “This is Prince.”
“When people say about me that I live in a prison and don’t go anywhere, it’s just not true. I go to the store, I go to the video store, I go to ballets, movies, the park. I live like anybody else. But I play music every day.” — Prince, 1996
Jill Willis (Prince’s publicist, 1989–90, and co-manager, 1990–93): He was always dressed in what could look like show/stage clothes: a couture suit, matching handmade boots from a shoemaker in Paris, his hair done and full makeup. One time, I had taken the red-eye from L.A. to Minneapolis and went home long enough to shower, threw on a baseball cap, jeans, sweatshirt, and drove over to the studio. I went up the stairs and Prince was coming down the hall from his ofﬁce. “Going ﬁshing?” he asked.
Gwen Stefani: The first time I met him, this is my memory: He was wearing an all-purple velour jumpsuit with the collar that goes up, kinda like an Elvis jumpsuit. And high heels and makeup. He was such a cool, amazing guy that just never turned off. Like, he really was living that version of what you think he was—that was him.
Ian Boxill (engineer at Paisley Park, 2004–09): Even when he was dressed down, he’d dress like Prince: three-inch-tall flip-flops, or these heels with lights—they’d light up when he walked. That was his comfortable clothing. He had no pockets. You know, if you got people around that can carry phones and money for you, you can get away with that. No pockets and no watch. If he needed to use a phone he’d use my phone or a driver’s phone.
Hayes: We have a thing called Caribou Coffee in Minnesota, which is like Starbucks. He’d go over there, and he didn’t have any pockets. He didn’t have a wallet or any credit cards. He just had cash he’d carry in his hand—like, a $100 bill. And whoever took his order, they’d have a good day, ’cause he’d buy his coffee drink and then just leave the whole hundred. He doesn’t wait for any change because he doesn’t have anywhere to put it.
Van Jones: He was very interested in the world. He wanted me to explain how the White House worked. He asked very detailed kind of foreign-policy questions. And then he’d ask, “Why doesn’t Obama just outlaw birthdays?” [laughs] I’m, like, “What?” He said, “I was hoping that Obama, as soon as he was elected, would get up and announce there’d be no more Christmas presents and no more birthdays—we’ve got too much to do.” I said, “Yeah, I don’t know if that would go over too well.”
Tollefson: In the’90s he wouldn’t walk anywhere, even within Paisley Park, without a bodyguard. And then I’d say around 2010…I’m not going to say he stopped caring; he stopped being over the top. He just didn’t give a shit. He just walked around and he talked to people. He was always smiling. He’d bring people in, we’d have listening sessions at Paisley.
Hayes: I took him to the bike store and I bought him a bike because he said he wanted a bicycle. I got him all sized up for it, and then I told him, “Okay, Prince, I’m only buying this bike if you get a helmet.” And he said, “I don’t want a helmet.” I said, “Well, I’m not buying this bike, sir, if you don’t get a helmet—you have to ride with a helmet or else I can’t be responsible for you being on this bike.” He says, “Well, I don’t want a helmet.” I said, “I’ll get you a cool one—and I’ll get one, too.” So we got the helmets, but I found out later that he was riding the bike and he didn’t wear it.