Purple Rain

A Graffiti Bridge to Nowhere

It has been seven hours and way too many days since Jehovah’s sexiest witness left us with a major case of the sads. The world is a whole lot less interesting, Minnesota in particular, because now all we have left are 10,000 lakes any of which I would gladly give up if we could get the little guy back. (Not Lake Minnetonka though, we gotta keep that one for obvious reasons.) Prince was of course much more than just a genius musician he was also a bonafide MOVIE STAR. At one point in 1984 he had not only the number one album (Purple Rain), but the single and movie to go along with it. Like everyone else on the planet in 1984 with a heartbeat, five bucks and a driver’s license I saw Purple Rain at the time but had not seen it all the way through since. So in honor of the late, great Purple Yoda I decided to go on a Prince-a-thon to revisit and recap his cinematic career from best to well, let’s just be kind and say less best.

1.) Purple Rain: I loved this when it came out. I loved it because it was filmed at the club where I spent my formative years (thanks to a real fake ID), it starred the most famous music dude in town and the songs were amaze-balls. I am pretty sure that even with the purple-tinted sunglasses (Oakley of course) I had on at the time I knew it wasn’t exactly a Casablanca or Segei Eisenstein’s Potemkin level of celluloid greatness before me (I was a film minor FFS) but I did not care then or now. The electrifying musical performances more than made up for any of the gaping plot holes, the ridiculous amount of misogyny and the fact that Steve McClellan was somehow no longer the manager of First Avenue but had been replaced by some guy from Detroit named Billy. Whatever Prince. (iTunes, and some theaters)

 

2.) Under the Cherry Moon:  I did not see this movie when it came out and sadly I was not alone in my indifference. UTCM was both a commercial and critical flop, winning a whopping five Golden Raspberry Awards and beating out the completely ridiculous Howard the Duck for worst movie of 1986. (Interestingly enough that movie also starred a Minnesotan, Lea Thompson.) But now that I have seen it twice I can honestly say those golden raspberries were completely undeserved and I am not alone in that assessment.

Prince and The Time’s mirror man Jerome Benton play cousins who spend their days and nights on the French Riviera scamming rich ladies trying to earn enough dough to get back to Miami. Kristin Scott Thomas (in her film debut) plays their latest and richest mark yet who is proving to be a bit more of a challenge than their usual suspects. Originally shot in color, it was switched to black and white prior to its release which was a great call  because UTCM is drop-dead gorgeous to look at.

Prince dances, prances and lays the doe eyes on extra thick but he and Benton have great on-screen chemistry and their silly screwball routine about going to the wecka stow is classic. Between the clothes (Chanel, pre-Kunty Karl), the scenery (Nice) and the songs (Kiss, Sometimes it Snows in April, Mountains),  UTCM is more than worth spending three bucks and some of your extra time on. (iTunes, Amazon)

 

3.) Graffiti Bridge: I am not gonna lie, Graffiti Bridge is pretty bad. So bad that I was regretting not having my iPad with me so I could surf the web during the dull parts and there were lots of dull parts. Ostensibly a sequel to Purple Rain it has absolutely none of the charm, hit songs or performance magic of its predecessor. According to the plot line, fake First Avenue owner/manager Billy has gone to the great nightclub in the sky and left another club called Glam Slam (also RIP) to the Kid (Prince) and Morris Day. I do not know who got First Avenue (Apollonia, perhaps?) or how Glam Slam got moved to Seven Corners (WTF?) but at least fake dead Billy had a will. Just let that one sink in for a minute.

Even though money-grubbing Morris allegedly owns half of Glam Slam he somehow wants to destroy it which makes no sense but neither does this movie so there you go. I think Prince hit peak Prince-ness with Graffiti Bridge (he wrote, directed and starred) but seemed utterly bored by the entire process. Mostly shot on a sound stage at Paisley Park his ennui shines through loud and clear. It’s a bloody mess but it could have been much, much worse. According to one-time Prince dancer extraordinaire Cat Glover, Madonna was supposed to play the Angel role that ultimately went to Ingrid Chavez. Watch it if only to say that you have seen it and then go rewatch Purple Rain any of the awesome performances that have cropped up on YouTube while you can. (iTunes, Amazon)

 

4.) New Girl Prince episode: Here is your chance to see Prince show Zoey Deschanel just how adorkable is done. I probably should rate this television appearance above Graffiti Bridge but New Girl is only 20 plus minutes long minus commercials and Prince is not in all the scenes so demerits must be given. On the plus side you hear a snippet of one of my all-time-favorite Prince songs When You Were Mine, there are pancakes involved and he made the producers remove all traces of a certain reality show family that were set to appear. Prince was the sensei of shade and man am I going to miss his not-at-all-subtle ways with the side-eye. (Season 3, episode 14, Netflix)

 

If you still need more Prince in your life (and who doesn’t?), check out this fantastic podcast with André Cymon. Recorded a couple of years back after Cymon released his first album in about a hundred years this interview offers great insight into the makings of the Minneapolis sound.. Cymon and Prince were childhood friends and lived together for years after Prince moved in with Cymon’s family. André was also Prince’s bassist during the pre-Revolution days and was known for his uncanny ability to pull off wearing clear pants and not looking like a total try-hard twat. He recorded a few albums in the 80’s but then went on to became more known as a songwriter and producer. Cymon is a great story teller and you won’t be bored for an instant which is good because this podcast clocks in at over two hours, something I wish I’d known when I started listening at 11:30 on a school night.

http://podcastjuice.net/the-prince-podcast-andre-cymone/

 

 

 

Purple Reignia

Minnesota, the land of 10,000 Prince stories. Pretty much everyone has one, including me. The last few days have been harder than I ever could have imagined and yet oddly comforting. The shock of his loss is palpable and everywhere but the outpouring of grief has been offset at least a little bit by the many public memorials, street concerts and all night dance parties that have happened across the city in his honor without any incidents because we’re classy like that up here in the north country. Forget Kevin Bacon and his six degrees of separation. No one in the Twin Cities has to go any further than two degrees of Prince separation. Everyone knows someone who either had an encounter with Prince at the state fair eating Tiny Tim donuts, or was in one of his many bands (two peeps from my high school for sure), or was an extra in Purple Rain (I’m just saying, if everybody who said they were in this movie really were than the credit list would be twice as long).

Unlike Dylan, the Coen Brothers or just about anyone else with an iota of fame, Prince never left us and for that he earned our eternal love and respect. He was a Minnesotan through and through. He went to sporting events (he loved the Minnesota Lynx), showed up at clubs (he had a permanently reserved table at the Dakota) and rode his bike around his Chanhassen neighborhood as if he were just a regular guy who worked at Target or Best Buy corporate. There was no drama with this one and there certainly could have been because he was a mega-genius wrapped up in a neat little pixie package.

The mid-to-late 80’s was a magical time to live in Minneapolis and be into the local music scene. Bands like the Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Walt Mink, Trip Shakespeare and Soul Asylum meant you could go out just about any night and not regret the loss of sleep (well maybe once or twice if the ‘Mats were having an off night). Thanks to Prince, Alexander O’Neal, The Time and the Flyte Time crew, the Minneapolis sound was getting huge and gaining world-wide attention. Then Purple Rain came out and suddenly we were cooler-than-cool, and not in the expected winter-weather kind of way. Prince put our city, First Avenue and the mind-boggling purification benefits of Lake Minnetonka on the map and for that we are forever grateful.

There are and were many reasons to love Prince. He was an icon musically and sexually for a generation that needed some guidance during the just say no years. He spoke out about HIV/AIDS when the president at the time could not even acknowledge its existence. He could wear a puffy shirt like nobody’s business and didn’t mind a little black lace or shoulder pads, mainstays of 80’s fashion mostly reserved for Limited Express shoppers. I love the fact that Prince was a devoted Joni Mitchell fan and I especially love the fact that he wrote Purple Rain the ballad, as a direct response to the in-concert popularity of Bob Segar’s We’ve Got The Night. With a 1% African-American population in Minneapolis when he was growing up Prince had to find his inspiration somewhere and it certainly wasn’t going to be by watching Soul Train since the market was too small for it to even air here.

I had many Prince sightings throughout my formative years, usually at First Avenue where he was either tucked behind the glass of the VIP section or blocked by burly bodyguards. One time I saw him as he was coming up the stairs and I was coming down. There was no one else around and I could feel myself holding back from wanting to say something lest I blew my whole “we’re cool” persona. When we both stopped on the same step I realized that I was finally taller than someone in Minnesota and that someone was Prince. We both had on heels but his were much taller than mine. I was doing my happy dance on the inside when our eyes locked and he gave me that sly, pants-meltingly sexy smile he had. Let me tell you Prince was HOT up close, scorching really. I about died right then and there and hadn’t even been to a high school reunion yet. I lived and would run into him occasionally after that, usually at the grocery store, but we would never have meaningful eye contact again. Thanks to a job I had at the time I was lucky enough to be invited to the grand opening of Paisley Park and that is one piece of direct mail I will never, ever recycle.

Sometimes unfortunately it does snow in April in Minnesota and sometimes, just like Joni Mitchell said, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Prince’s charitable donations were many and not widely publicized, partly because of his faith and partly because he was not that kind of guy. There are people with solar power in Northern California thanks to him and a charter school in Minneapolis would not exist without his financial support. He bankrolled school music programs across the country and probably bought more boxes of Girl Scout cookies than you or I could ever imagine (hey, it very well could be true). The Carver County sheriff said it best at the press conference last Friday. To the rest of the world he was a celebrity but to us he was a neighbor and a friend, and we will miss that friend terribly.

Four Made in Minnesota Movies and not a one has the word purple or rain in the title

There have been scads of movies filmed in Minnesota throughout the years. The 90’s were particularly rife with them thanks to the super generous tax rebate given to Hollywood production companies to get them to use some of our very talented natives as both supporting cast and crew. A few of those movies were both critical and commercial successes like Fargo (hated it), some were successful only at the box office like Jingle All the Way (see the then new, now gone, Holidazzle parade) and some even became cult hits like Mall Rats (see Eden Prairie Shopping Mall in all its Contempo Casuals glory). These four movies are none of those and span more than a few decades besides the prolific 90’s but the one thing they have in common is that they were all filmed, at least partially, in the land of ten thousand lakes.

Airport: The movie that launched an entire genre of disaster films like The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake,Towering Inferno, and The Swarm to name just a few. Think of disaster movies as Hollywood’s valiant attempt to keep their golden era stars employed for a couple more years until their SAG retirement benefits kicked in.

Lincoln International Airport, located somewhere near Chicago yet surprisingly not called O’Hare, is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It’s a major blizzard, a big huge plane is stuck in a snow bank blocking a much-needed runway, an adorable 70-year-old stowaway (Helen Hayes, who won an Oscar for the role) is on the loose, the married pilot (Dean Martin, as the least believable airline pilot ever) has knocked up his WAY TOO YOUNG for him stewardess girlfriend (Jacqueline Bisset) and there is a mad bomber on board (Van Heflin, in his last movie role) who just wants his wife to get a little life insurance money.

Based on Arthur Hailey’s best-selling book Airport was a major box-office success and although it was a simpler time and movie expectations were rather low, it’s actually worth the whopping three or four bucks it could cost you to watch it. Between the airlines that no longer exist like Western, TWA, Pan Am, Northwest Orient (RIP little red tail) and the fact that you actually got REAL food on REAL plates in coach, it’s a nice little reminder of the way air travel used to be.

I had a teacher who had a bit part in this movie and told all her students about it for the six years we were stuck with her. Sort of like I always mention to everyone and anyone my being the first American rock journalist to interview Radiohead (according to their publicist at the time), except my claim to fame is way cooler, obviously.

Radiohead trumps reservations agent it part every time

Radiohead trumps reservations agent bit part every time Miss Engebretson, every time

They filmed the movie at MSP International because of our usually reliable snowfall but guess what? God decided to mess with their minds and it did not snow so they has to use colored sawdust until finally Mother Nature had pity on those poor Hollywood peeps and produced a good old blizzard just in the nick of time (it’s always the ladies who make it happen, AMIRITE?), see if you can spot the difference.

Most Minnesota thing about it: the snowstorm, duh. Just like in real life when all the other sissy airports in the country are closed due to a spot of bad weather MSP International just turns the lights on high and throws a little more salt on the runways.

Least Minnesota thing about it: it’s supposed to be some fictional airport in Chicago called Lincoln. Lame. (Amazon Instant, iTunes, Comcast On Demand)

Untamed Heart: Caroline (Marisa Tomei), an unlucky in love coffee shop waitress meets a dishwasher named Adam (Christian Slater), who thinks he has a baboon heart, they fall in love and you probably know the rest of the story because it is not at all original, except for the baboon heart part which is of course not true. However, every time this movie is on TV, which is a lot, I tend to watch it and sometimes even get teary eyed, and not just because of what happens to poor Adam and his all-too-human heart.

Between the cuter-than-cute-coffee shop that I never went to before it closed (insert sad Panda face), the old retail version of City Center back when it was chock-full of stores instead of chock-full of Target employees not considered hip enough for HQ, and all the lovely shots of northeast Minneapolis, I can’t ever say no to this movie. Don’t miss Minnesota’s own Vincent Kartheiser in a bit part as an adorable little orphan boy who later grew up to be that not-at-all adorable little twat Pete Campbell on Mad Men.

Most Minnesota thing about it: The North Stars hockey game that Caroline and Adam attend at the old Met Center. Sorry Minnesota Wild, no matter how very hard you try and no matter how very fancy the Xcel Center is, many of us (me in particular) will never love you like we did our Stars. Never.

Least Minnesota thing about it: Marissa Tomei’s allegedly Minnesota accent. The only Minnesotan’s that talk like that are fictional and come from a faraway place called Hollywood, see Marge Gunderson in Fargo. (Amazon, Comcast On Demand)

The Very Thought of You:  if anyone has seen this movie besides me I will be very much surprised. Originally called Martha-Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence (gee, I wonder why they changed it?) TVTOY is the story of one woman Martha (Monica Potter doing her very best Julia Roberts imitation), and three childhood friends, Daniel (Tom Hollander), Frank (Rufus Sewell)  and Laurence (Joseph Fiennes), who Martha meets separately in a single day only to have them all fall in love with her despite Martha not being a manic pixie dream girl since thankfully that character had not yet been invented.

I don’t think this movie ever played in a single theater in America. Between the crap title and lack of promotion the only reason I saw it was because of boredom and a little thing called channel surfing. This movie isn’t great but it isn’t terrible and I have spent two hours watching worse. The soundtrack is better than average and the fact the three male leads were at the peak of their combined hotness did not hurt this movie at all. Round up a few friends, order some pizza and take bets to see which one Sweet Martha ends up with in the end because I am not telling.

Most Minnesota thing about it: Once again MSP International’s star shines brightly even if we don’t see too much else as the film mostly takes place in London.

Least Minnesota thing about it: Linden Hills does not have high rises and is about as bad of a neighborhood as Beverly Hills is. (Amazon, iTunes)

Young Adult: Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a divorced, quite possibly alcoholic YA author with probable sociopathic tendencies. Struggling with writer’s block, Mavis decides to ditch Minneapolis and her fantastic apartment with its million dollar views of the Mississippi River and go back to her hometown of Mercury not only for creative inspiration but also to rekindle a relationship with her high school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson), not letting a little thing like the fact that he is married to someone else (Beth, played by Elizabeth Reaser) and has a new baby get in the way of her plans.

Mavis lets fellow classmate Matt (Patton Oswald) in on her crazy-ass scheme and he of course tries to talk her out of it. Because this movie was written by Diablo Cody, it has major hipster vibes tattooed all over it, most noticeably in the fact that Beth is in a mommy band called Nipple Confusion. Don’t let that stop you from watching this though, Charlize Theron is so good as an evil bitch that it’s almost like she wasn’t even acting or something. Maybe we should just ask former Sister, Sister star Tia Mowery about her SoulCycle experience with Ms Theron?

Most Minnesota thing about it: Mavis has excellent taste in music, anyone who has Teenage Fanclub and the Replacements on the same mix tape does have one redeeming quality, just the one though.

Least Minnesota thing about it: Mavis is definitely not very Minnesota Nice. It’s bad enough she thinks it is perfectly okay to break up a marriage but it is totally not okay to be an irresponsible dog owner, ever. (Amazon, iTunes)

Doctor My Eyes

There are a lot of little signs along the way to middle-agedom. The first time a bag boy at the grocery store calls you ma’am, the first time you don’t get carded trying to buy a drink at a cool club, the first membership invite from AARP you get in the mail a good twenty-five years before you could even possibly imagine retiring and horror of horrors, when you suddenly realize that your arms are no longer long enough for you to read the menus at trendy restaurants any more.

There used to be a cute little trattoria that shall remain nameless in Minneapolis that was so very dark inside that you had to borrow the teeny tiny votives from all the people at the tables surrounding you just so you could make out what was on the appetizer list. Not to be mean but thank God the restaurant burned down a few years ago because I am not sure there were enough teeny tiny votives in the whole dang place for me to be able to see anything on the menu now. In fact, I would probably need night vision goggles and I think those are kind of expensive and not very attractive and I am kinda shallow that way.

Spending seven hours a day looking at screens of various shapes and sizes does not help a whit with the failing eyesight situation so what’s a poor formerly almost perfect vision person to do? Find a lovely magnifying glass à la  Little Edie of Grey Gardens* fame? As much as I admire Little Edie’s eccentric style (hello Marc Jacobs!) toting around a giant magnifying glass to status meetings and social events where there are menus around seems a little unwieldy. Instead I have succumbed, like so many others before me, to the wonderful world of readers.

This will be me soon, minus the headdress

This will be me soon

The last time I had my eyes checked I let them talk me into progressives (bifocals for those unwilling to announce to the world that they need bifocals) and the experience was not good. Every time I turned my head I felt like I just got off the Trabant and it is my life’s goal to never get on the Trabant or any other stupid ride that just goes around in circles ever again. This was no way to live and so needless to say I never wore them and started wearing Eyebobs and while I am a huge fan of Eyebobs (frames way funkier than any Costco/CVS/Target frame could ever dare dream to be) it still did not make reading comfortable. This was a problem for someone who used to win prizes in school for reading the most books every year (I still have the leather bookmarks to prove it) and usually finished anything but the truly Dickensian in a single sitting. Now I barely read a book a month and still have a brand new copy of The Girl on a Train staring at me, wondering why I have not yet gotten on board, especially when I have already paid the fare.

Not only that, those suckers cost me a boatload of money (I have paid less to fly to Europe, not even in the off-season) so it was with more than a bit of reluctance that I went back to the very same place for an eye exam. Turns out wearing readers without accounting for astigmatism was not helping with the eye strain so after my totally free eye exam that cost me over a hundred dollars it was time to pick out some new fun frames.

When Prince made Apollonia cleanse herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka he forget to tell her how much it cost to do anything within a two block radius of its borders, including trying to find a pair of frames with lenses that cost less than some people I’ve known first cars (it was a different time back then people, long before college dorms had granite countertops and stainless steel appliances and private bathrooms for everyone). Seriously, I tried on a pair of frames, kept behind a locked case that cost $3600 and no they were not made out of moon rock brought back to Earth by Neil Armstrong. Thankfully I did not even like them that much because a large part of the reason I am in the 99% is because I tend to like too many things that the 1% do and that I can’t really afford which is what keeps me in the 99%. That and not being an heiress, thanks Mom and Dad.

But this time I was not going to be such an easy mark for those fancy 1% frame pushers, no this time I was going to comparison shop and so I hopped in my car and drove away from the not-at-all pure waters of Lake Minnetonka and into Minnetonka proper where there are malls with eyeglass chains and a girl can get a pair of glasses that might not be made out of moon rock but do say Dolce & Gabbana on them nonetheless. (She probably still won’t like the new version of progressive lenses but can always swap them out for prescription readers so she can hopefully catch up to that train real soon.)

*You have seen this movie right? Please say yes as it is perhaps the best documentary ever of a non serious subject and was made into an award-winning Broadway play and not-so-terrible-as-I-imagined-it-to-be HBO movie with Drew Barrymore as Little Edie. (available to stream on Amazon Instant)