While being chauffeured around Minneapolis, I had a flood of emotions about going to Paisley Park, Prince’s iconic 65,000 square foot home/recording/production studio for a VIP Tour on Saturday, October 15th. Prince is the most gifted and talented Artist that I’ve known in my lifetime, so the opportunity to visit Paisley Park and gain entrance was a dream come true. The fact that I was visiting this facility because it was turned into a museum after Prince’s death rained on my parade, however I was determined to make the very best of it.
I’d been listening to Prince’s music non-stop during my entire trip to Minneapolis, however when we turned on Audubon Road and I saw Paisley Park, everything went silent. We pulled through the gates, talked to security, and got directed to an offsite parking structure. Honestly, I wasn’t happy about this change because we were promised VIP parking and it wasn’t delivered. I was also concerned that this change would postpone my arrival and potentially jeopardize my chances of touring the facility as planned.
We arrived there, parked, and was shuttled via motor coach back to the facility. Luckily, everything was running behind therefore I didn’t miss anything. My adrenaline was pumping as I walked from the bus to the main entrance of the building. I’d seen Paisley Park many times; in Prince’s videos and interviews that he did with Oprah Winfrey and Mel B from the Spice Girls. The pyramid glass structures on top of the building are the first indicator that this isn’t just another building. We were met by an employee who instructed myself and others going on the tour that cell phone use was strictly prohibited and separated the group into two; VIP and General Admission.
As I stood in the VIP section, I wondered why the GA were going in before us. I reminded myself to be patient. As I was waiting I reflected on my decades of being a loyal supporter of Prince and his incredible genius. From camping out in line overnight to get tickets to his concerts while in Jr. High School, being pulled on stage by Prince himself and singing and dancing the night away, to the rapport we established over the years because I was fortunate to meet and talk to him on several occasions. So many occasions in fact, that he would see me and say, “Hi Tony, good to see you again!” Admittedly, I would have given anything for him to walk up to me and say hello again but I knew those days would never happen again.
Our cell phones were placed in locked security bags and returned to us, and I walked into the foyer of Paisley Park. $10 purple flash drives are available to buy for you to have your photo taken inside Paisley Park (VIP Guests only); no personal cameras or photos with your phone are permitted. The walls of Paisley Park are decorated in rich and vibrant colors such as gold, yellow, purple, and burgundy with words and quotes pained on them. There is also a mural of his eyes along with his infamous symbol painted on a catwalk above you that reminds you he is always watching you.
To the left there’s a stair case, leading to an area that’s not open to the public. The attendees were met and greeted by a Tour Guide who began explaining what various murals, awards, and accolades meant. Everyone read out loud a letter that President Obama and the First Lady sent to the late singer’s family offering their condolences. The reality that Prince was no longer here on Earth with us was beginning to settle in. The Tour Guide names their group based off the groups favorite Prince song; our group was named Adore.
As we walked into the main atrium of the building, there it was; Prince’s urn encased in glass for obvious reasons. The urn is actually a replica of Paisley Park, complete with miniature purple piano inside and two miniature faux doves. There are two actual doves inside of Paisley Park, Divinity and Majesty, who reside inside the Atrium so that extra attention to detail was spectacular. There’s a huge purple “lovesign” symbol in front of the urn, and Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson (who helped design it along with her son President) placed the final crystal in the center of the symbol.
To the right of the display that contains the urn, there’s the “small kitchen”; a place where Prince would frequent often watching his favorite sports teams play or to check out his favorite movie. The kitchen, along with most rooms in Paisley Park, have been left just the way they were the day Prince died in his home. There are various rooms named after his albums surrounding the atrium, including Lovesexy and Dirty Mind. These rooms contain walls decorated with photos of Prince during that era as well a clothing and accessories from that time. Being the lifelong fan of his, I couldn’t help but smile because I remembered all the items in every room.
There was a wall adorned with gold and platinum CD’s. While most of the attendees swooned, I stepped back because I knew that these items were put there after his death. In fact, part of the wall had been constructed to cover up the elevator where he was found unresponsive on the morning of April 21st, the day he died.
We were then guided into Prince’s personal office. Again, nothing had been changed or touched. There was a small dining area inside the office, along with chairs and his desk. I noticed his briefcase was laying on the side of the desk, and paper and pencil were on top of the desk along with what I can only assume was a project he was working on. There were many windows allowing light to shine through. If I had to describe the furnishings in the office and entire compound, I would say it was “Prince-ly”. Not the typical colors, styles, or concepts you’d see in the average person’s home.
We also visited two of Prince’s three recording studios. The Tour Guides informed the group of all the amazing music that had been created in these rooms. Lovesexy, the Black Album, The Batman soundtrack… we were in the birthplace of these phenomenal creations. The floors varied, from hard wood to granite, to carpeted areas. It was explained that the texture of the floors and walls influenced the sound quality of instruments and or vocals being recorded in the studios. Various tapestries also adorned the walls. Their designs appeared Egyptian themed. We were also treated to snippets of unreleased Prince music, one of which recorded the month before he died.
In the second studio we visited, VIP Guests can actually play on a ping pong table that Prince owned and played on frequently (he was an avid ping pong player). There’s an opportunity to have one photo taken at one of his touring pianos along with one of his custom cloud guitars on top of it. Unfortunately some fans, not the one’s on my tour, have taken advantage of this and took some unflattering photos and actually touched and appeared to licked some of the artifacts, though the Guide’s warn attendees many times not to touch anything to preserve it.
Through the various hallways, there are various awards such as Grammy’s, American Music Awards and MTV Moon Men encased in glass. The memories were flooding in for myself and everyone on the tour. Many people laughed and shared stories, others cried and needed to be comforted. The beautiful thing is that this group of strangers came together and comforted and encouraged one another as if we had known each other all of our lives. Prince had a motto, “Love4OneAnother” and that was certainly the case.
The Purple Rain room, the largest of the themed rooms so far, contained his outfit from the movie (the scene where he sang the theme song), his white cloud guitar, and his motorcycle from the film, his personal script from the movie along with the Academy Award that he won for the soundtrack. On one of the walls, the movie played much to everyone’s delight.
There were more themed rooms; Graffiti Bridge, Under The Cherry Moon and others. We also went into his production area where many of his videos were filmed as well as his movie Graffiti Bridge. Again, a Prince concert was playing on a large projection screen and this room was filled with various outfits and instruments from his tours over the years. Some people stared, others danced… a few even lay on the floor and appeared meditating. From this area, we were guided into his nightclub, the NPG Music Club. This room was definitely set up like a sexy nightclub or lounge and a stage. The smell from scented candles were hypnotic and inviting. You definitely felt the presence of Prince every step of the way of the tour.
After leaving the night club, we went to a gathering area where Prince’s Superbowl Halftime performance played to the delight of everyone. People hugged and sang along. I met a woman who had done the tour three times already and it hasn’t been open for a month yet. The love was definitely in the air. From there, we exited through the door into a tent that was selling souvenirs. The staff unlocked the bags containing our phones, and we left. Since there are no opportunities to take personal photos with your cameras, many people were snapping photos and videos outside the compound as they waited for the return shuttle to come. As I looked at the crowd waiting, I noticed such diversity. All races, all ages, all religions coming together to visit the home of Prince. That is truly “Love4OneAnother”!