The Time I Snuck Into A Party At Prince's House
Remembering the legend via one night spent in his mansion.
Pop icon Prince passed away today. He was 57. Everyone has their own personal reasons for loving the diminutive musical genius, but mine comes from a very interesting night spent in his Beverly Hills mansion several years ago. Working as a gossip scribe at the time, I was just leaving a soiree at the Playboy Mansion when a friend called and said he was standing in Prince's kitchen and, if I hurried, he could field the call from the guardhouse of the gated community and sneak me in. You don't say no to that offer.
I floored my loaner car, a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, through the esses of Mulholland Drive in record time and, sure enough, upon reaching the security checkpoint to the exclusive neighborhood, my friend came through, and I was standing in the foyer of Prince's mansion in short order. The fete was to celebrate the launch of Prince's book, "21 Nights," and it was an intimate affair. Around his fabulous estate, less than 300 people milled, the bulk of which were supremely famous friends of the singer. I queued up for a libation, in between Charlie Sheen and Dr. Phil, who lived on either side of Prince, and listened as they joked about the convenience of being able to walk to a party in Los Angeles for once.
As one does when given access to a famous person's home, I snooped. I perused the photos in his kitchen, where Prince was squeezed in between Presidents, awards winners and a whole series of candid shots with Michael Jackson. I gawked at the priceless artworks adorning his living room. I peered closely at his collection of shimmering Grammys and his Oscar statute residing on a long shelf, resisting the urge to pick them up to feel the heft. Then I found an ornate staircase which led downstairs.
His basement was as extremely purple as you'd expect. The walls, the carpet, the sconces and the other flourishes were all done up in the hue. To the left was a movie theatre. I peeked my head in and found the massive room was drenched in purple velvet, the 50-plus chairs empty, save two seats. In those, Diddy and Cameron Diaz sat, deep in intimate conversation. I retreated before being noticed and went to the other side of the floor. Here I found the largest wine cellar I have ever seen, with several hundred bottles dotting the walls. Impressive as the crop of vino was, the star attraction in the room was dead center, lit with a spotlight from above: his motorcycle from Purple Rain.
The 1981 Honda CB400A looked astounding with that dramatic lighting effect. The Hondamatic's 395 cc air-cooled twin motor twinkled, seemingly beckoning me closer. My fingertips grazed the custom seat with those hot pink velour inserts, and reverently touched the purple fenders. As I traced the pink "Love Symbol" on the fairing, I could almost envision the pint-sized star overseeing the installation of the bike down here, making sure it was parked at just the perfect angle. As with everything else Prince did, he nailed it. I tried to take a photo with my crappy cell phone, but this was 2008 and the paltry camera resolution did not do the setting nor the bike justice.
Back upstairs, everyone had moved to the backyard, where a small stage had been erected beyond his ginormous, glowing swimming pool. There was a sudden eruption of cheering as the man himself emerged from his guest house and took the stage. He played for two and a half hours - minus a little for four costume changes - and you could stand as close as you wished. I found my way to the front and settled in near John Legend and Eddie Murphy to watch the show. Prince's music is incredible, however it's more so when you're within arm's reach of the man performing. He plowed through all his hits, including "Kiss," "Sign of the Times," and "When Doves Cry." It was the greatest night of my life.
Later, drenched in sweat, he closed the night with "1999," and there wasn't a soul there who didn't belt out the lyrics. Behind me, Sly Stallone gave a particularly impassioned performance. When the last note faded from the speakers, Prince simply whispered, "Thank you," into the microphone, barely audible over the roaring crowd, and strode off stage, back to his guest house. He never emerged and within the hour a security guard came around to let us know Prince was tired and he'd like us to leave now. Standing in his porte cochere, waiting for the valet to deliver our vehicles, a woman remarked, "Well, I can die happy now." Everyone murmured in agreement. While his passing was untimely and leaves the world with one less luminary, our indelible memories of the man and his music will be eternal.