Source for the images and content in this post was obtained from: The Beautiful Nights Blog
The “Cat Scat”… Oh my. I’ve been doing that dance since I was about five years old. I used to go to the library in Chicago, I would I walk up this big hill to get there and I would always check out African albums. I would check out anything with African music. There was a particular artist whose album I had for more than two months. I got in trouble for not bringing that album back to the library. It had these African drums on it. (Mimics drum sounds with voice). I would sit there and do the “Cat Scat” slowly. But, when the drums sped up, I started shaking. (Mimics drum beats faster).
Then, I started renting all these African documentaries, just trying to learn how the African culture came up with the spiritual dances that they do. I became attached to it and I’ve been doing it ever since—that dance and another dance I called “The Leg,” which no one knows about yet. I can’t explain it. Not the “Wooden Leg,” but, “The Leg.” Maybe you’ll see it soon. I grew up on the Westside of Chicago –which was really bad– and I remember the adults used to say “Do ‘The Leg,’ Catherine!” I basically grew up on African music as far as dancing. But, I listened to rock, heavy metal, punk and ska (music). Weird, right? Strange girl!
It all changed… I don’t know. If I stayed into punk and ska (music), I would still be “strange.” I would listen to Prince if I got depressed. I had this dream, from the very first time I saw Prince, from the first album he had. I said to myself “I’m going to meet him one day and I’m going to dance with him. Once he sees me, he’s going to love me!”
Now mind you, I didn’t know about beauty. I always thought I was just a human being; a person. I never looked at the women he worked with and thought “Ooh, I could never be (like) that.” I just thought “I’m Cat and I can dance. He’ll love me and I’m just like him.”
I remember when Vanity 6, The Time and Prince were on tour in Chicago. I was a dancer at this club called Dingbats. They stayed at the Holiday Inn right across the street and I went to his hotel. I had short, curly blue-black hair, I had on this tiger print blue shirt that I cut up and then I sewed zippers in it–don’t ask me why– and I wore leg warmers. I remember standing at the elevator pushing a button. I was trying to get up there to meet Prince. The door opened and he was there, standing with Susan (Moonsie) and couple of other people. I remember that he just stared at me. He looked at me from head to toe. I thought “Wow.” But, I still didn’t get to “meet” him.
They ended up in our club where Mr. T was the doorman. I had a fake ID. I didn’t know how to lie about my age, so, I think my ID said I was 28 years old and I wasn’t even 21! I remember that Vanity 6 and The Time came, but, Prince never showed up. I was a go-go dancer there. That club was so funny that I had to control my own disco lights. Ghetto! I was a starving dancer. There were only two of us, the other girl’s name was Michelle.
When it was my time to go up, I would flip the switch and put on the strobe light. Then, when I wanted to get really sexy, I’d dance over to the light and flip another switch to make it red. It was hilarious. But, everyone loved it. That’s like Flashdance ghetto style broke! But, we did it. Imagine being a dancer and not having a light man. Your lights are onstage and you flip the switch: “I want strobe light now,” “I’ll have a red light,” “I think I want a spotlight.” That’s how it was.
It was a 28-and-over club with so-called “sophisticated” people. They had no idea I was underage.
Sometimes I wonder why (Prince) chose me. Before me, I saw women like Sheila E. –gorgeous. Apollonia—gorgeous. Vanity—fabulous. Jill Jones—voluptuous. Then here comes me. Why? I literally asked Prince about that one day. I said ” On a serious note, Prince, why me?” He said “Why not you?” I said “Because, I’m Black.” He said “What? Why do you think I wouldn’t like you, because, you’re Black?”
I said “Well, let’s see: Sheila E., she’s mixed. Vanity, she’s mixed. I mean, come on. You have Apollonia. You have Jill Jones.” Most of us are Black, but, I think I was the “original blackness of Black.” I said something like that. But, he was very surprised. He was literally shocked.
I think that also let him know that I was very humble. All I wanted him to do was see me dance and I knew he would love it. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t that beautiful, so, I was never vain. Even though I grew up in Chicago and have been on my own since I was about 16 years old, I never knew what beauty or ugliness was. I just thought of everybody as a human being. I don’t say “Ooh, she’s cute,” you know? I never knew about insecurities or jealousy. All my friends were of every race in Chicago. But, things have sure changed now.
I used to think that everybody in this industry was exactly what I had imagined them to be. But, (whistles) boy was I wrong. Sometimes, it’s nice to admire an artist from afar and love what they do, because, meeting them can be a huge disappointment. I was very naive. Extremely naive.
I always wanted to work with Prince! So simple.
Laughter is life.
“U Got the Look”…funny story. Even though I was in Prince’s band, he asked me to choreograph the video. I said “Fine, but, you have to pay me. This is not for the ‘Sign o’ the Times’ Tour, this is an extra job.” So, I told him the money that I wanted and he agreed to it. He said “We’re going to film it in Paris.”
I did not speak any French. He had me audition about 300 dancers, and—excuse me for being ignorant or slow—but, I had no idea that Black people there didn’t speak English. I was there saying “Hello! Hello!” to all the Black people and they couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak French. Now, this is when I say I was naive.
The best education is to travel the world. There is no book that can teach about cultures. Luckily, there was an interpreter, I can’t remember her name, who was Prince’s assistant at the time. I was trying to call out their names and stuff like that. I narrowed it down to about a dozen dancers. I did the choreography for everyone and the video came out really well. It was exciting and sexy.
No one knows this, but, Prince and I both edited the “Sign o’ the Times” movie together. Even though it has the editor’s name (on it), we went picture by picture. We had pictures all over the wall of the editing room.
The “U Got the Look” video was amazing. Sheena Easton was funny. I told her “You have to be sexy and you have to walk backwards.” She said “But, I will fall! I will fall down!” I said “Just do it.” It was cold and I was freezing. I was about to blow off the stage holding on to Prince’s coat and she said “Oh, I can’t, I’m scared.” I said “Just do it!” It came out really well. I actually enjoyed that video.
Prince’s mom came (to the set). That was the first time I met her. She was so beautiful. A doll. Just gorgeous. I met Prince’s little brother. He was so cute and he had a crush on me. I was like “Bless your little heart.” I can’t remember his name, but, he was just adorable. He had green eyes and curly hair. Prince’s mom was really short like him and adorable, sweet, kind. Just awesome.