Fly on the Wall 1418 

Your Pesky Fly dishes on the time he attended a secret Prince show.

First Person

Pictures or it didn't happen. Isn't that what they say these days? But mobile phones didn't have cameras in 1997, and the phone I answered that sweaty August morning was attached to the wall. My friend Kelly was calling because she had news she thought I'd want to know.

"PRINCE IS PLAYING A SECRET CONCERT AT THE NEW DAISY TONIGHT! OMG!" she exclaimed. Well, she didn't say "OMG." Nobody said "OMG" back then. But that was the gist.

Kelly didn't have details. She wasn't 100 percent sure if Prince was really playing a second show following his big concert at the BassPro Shops (formerly known as the Pyramid). But the last time Kelly was 99 percent sure about something, the two of us went to the Peabody Hotel, called the front desk from a pay phone, asked for Tom Waits' room, and Waits answered.

click to enlarge flyby_album.jpg

Words like "magic" are overused, but there was alchemy involved in what happened at the New Daisy that night. Wearing shiny lavender jammies, Prince owned the stage, running through songs like "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker," "Baby I'm a Star," and "1999." He covered James Brown, Parliament, and the Staples Singers. The highlight of the show, however, was when Prince introduced his special guest, 80-year-old Stax royalty Rufus Thomas. Then the unflappable Purple One proceded to nerd the hell out, saying he didn't ever want his time with Rufus to end.

There was conflict too. And drama! When Prince encouraged Thomas to cut loose and freestyle, he balked: "Oh no." There was a back and forth between the two musical icons. Something was said about "nursery rhymes," and then, with increasing confidence, the two men started improvising together. I wish I could tell you what was said and sung, but the details have slipped away. All that remains is the memory of a grin so big it threatened to crack my face and a similar memory of so many other people wearing the same dopey expression.

I've got no pictures, but I swear to God (and Wendy and Lisa too), it happened. You'll just have to trust me and the few hundred other people lucky enough to get a call.

Speaking of Prince, Tom Waits


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