Podcast: Yes – A Conversation with Chambers Stevens

Podcast: Yes – A Conversation with Chambers Stevens

(Featured Image: Prince at the El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, 2004; Chambers is behind him on the left. Photo by M. Caulfield.)

It’s been over half a year since the University of Salford’s interdisciplinary Prince conference, but I keep connecting with people who presented there and whose topics of research are too interesting not to discuss. This time, I’m talking to actor and playwright Chambers Stevens, who has a fascinating theory about the influence of improv training on Prince’s approach to life and performance. But we aren’t just retreading Chambers’ presentation from the Salford conference; he also has some hilarious stories to share about his own run-ins with Prince (and Chaka Khan), as well as some thoughts about the peculiar nature of Prince fandom. We had a lot of fun recording this–hopefully you’ll have fun listening as well!

And speaking of fun, there’s still a little more time to participate in my giveaway for a free copy of Duane Tudahl’s new book Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984. The rules are simple: just subscribe to d / m / s / r on your podcast app of choice (logging into iTunes or Stitcher and searching “dance music sex romance” should do the trick), and leave a review. It doesn’t have to be a positive review; feel free to rake me over the coals if you want, just make it well-written. On Tuesday, December 12, I’ll look at all the reviews that have been submitted, pick my favorite–again, not necessarily the most positive!–and announce the winner on the next episode of the podcast. Oh, and speaking of that next episode, this is one you’re not going to want to miss: I was fortunate enough to speak to the one and only Marylou Badeaux, former V.P. of Special Projects at Warner Bros. Records and author of the upcoming memoir Moments: Remembering Prince. Come back and listen to it next week!

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Podcast: I am Something That You’ll Never Understand – Chris Aguilar-Garcia and Natalie Clifford on the Salford Purple Reign Conference

Podcast: I am Something That You’ll Never Understand – Chris Aguilar-Garcia and Natalie Clifford on the Salford Purple Reign Conference

(Featured Image: Prince at his most gender-nonconforming on the Lovesexy tour program cover, 1988; photo by Jeff Katz.)

Here at last, after much delay, is my conversation with Chris Aguilar-Garcia and Natalie Clifford, two presenters from this May’s interdisciplinary Prince conference at the University of Salford. Both Chris and Nat identify as queer, and both have very interesting things to say about Prince’s legacy of “revolutionary queerness” and the space he created for less conventional expressions of gender and sexuality in the mainstream. If you liked the last episode with Snax, chances are you’re gonna like this one.

This is the part of the description where I would normally say we’re switching gears and moving away from the Salford conference, but as it happens, we already have another interview with a presenter in store. So basically, I’ll keep doing these as long as people want to talk to me. If you still want to listen to me–and, more importantly, my eloquent guests–feel free to subscribe on your podcast service of choice (iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play), or listen on Mixcloud. And if you really like us, take that aforementioned podcast app and shoot us a rating or review; it will make us more “discoverable” and broaden the listening base. In the meantime, thanks as always for listening!

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Podcast: Empty Room – Part 4 of a Conversation with Jane Clare Jones

Podcast: Empty Room – Part 4 of a Conversation with Jane Clare Jones

(Featured Image: April 14, 2016; photo stolen from prince.org)

I have to begin with another apology: I had hoped to get this last installment of the podcast up early in the week, but I’ve been busy with job interviews, house hunting, and most recently, an illness that is definitely audible on the outro I recorded last night. But here, at last, is the final full installment of my now month-old conversation with writer, philosopher, and fellow Prince obsessive Jane Clare Jones. This is the one we’ve been building up to for the last month: a reckoning with the psychological factors that led to last year’s deeply tragic, avoidable death. But in case you’re concerned this will be prurient muckraking in the Prince: The End/When Doves Cry tradition, please know that it’s coming from a place of genuine love, and is grounded in research rather than wild speculation. And if you’re also (justifiably) concerned that it’s going to be a depressing slog, I promise it’s not all as grim as it might sound.

And with that, the first wave of the d / m / s / r podcast is over! Jane will be back, probably sometime next month, to talk about the Purple Reign interdisciplinary conference at the University of Salford; I also still have a short, lighthearted chunk of our original conversation that didn’t quite fit this episode that I’d like to post at some point. But other than that, the future is a blank slate. I’d love to hear your thoughts on where to go with the podcast–topics to discuss, suggested guests, etc.–because it seems a shame to go to the trouble of making a feed, etc. just for one month of episodes. In the meantime, as always, you can find me on any of the major podcast services–iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play–where you’re invited to leave a rating or review; you can also listen to the podcast on Mixcloud. I hope you’ve enjoyed these as much as I have. Thanks!

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Review: The Most Beautiful

Review: The Most Beautiful

(Featured Image: Cover Art for The Most Beautiful by Mayte Garcia, from Amazon.)

Because I want this blog to be as well-researched as possible–and because I have a reputation to uphold as a leading Prince expert, lol–I’m making an effort to read all of the major books being published about Prince. This month, we started out with a big one–The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince, an intimate memoir by Prince’s first wife, Mayte Garcia.

To be honest, I’ve been a little surprised by the negative reactions to this book in the Prince fan community–though, as a longtime Yoko Ono apologist, I probably shouldn’t be. The male-dominated music world has never been kind to ex-wives or widows, and Mayte is clearly no exception. There is admittedly a case to be made that because Prince was such a private person, no stories should be told about his personal life; this, however, would be more than a little unfair to Mayte, who lived through the same experiences–and suffered the same grievous losses–as Prince in the 1990s. As she carefully notes in the introduction, this is first and foremost her story, and she has as much a right to tell it as anyone.

In any case, for those who have been on the fence about reading the book, maybe I can help put some concerns to rest. Context is everything, and when read in the proper context–i.e., not a deliberately attention-grabbing excerpt in People magazine–The Most Beautiful is far from a trashy tell-all. Indeed, Mayte seems to be going a little soft on her ex-husband, who she still acknowledges as her soulmate (she even has nice things to say about the Graffiti Bridge movie). There are certainly moments of anger–especially toward the end of their relationship–but she is clearly writing from a place of acceptance, affection, and mourning; the book’s prologue, where she recounts the moment when she heard of Prince’s death, is among the most moving pieces I’ve read about that sad day. I don’t know if Mayte wrote the book 100% on her own–I don’t see a ghost writer credited in the acknowledgments–but her voice is evident throughout, with a charming, personable tone that occasionally turns poetic, even metaphysical.

Reading her side of the story also helps brighten some of the darker corners of her and Prince’s life during this period. On paper, as a few interviewers have recently observed, their relationship didn’t look great: Mayte met Prince when she was 16 years old, and they maintained a friendship and professional interaction that, viewed uncharitably, can look an awful lot like grooming. Mayte, to her credit, leaves the readers to draw our own conclusions: she affirms her consent, and notes that they did not become physical until well after she was of legal age, but otherwise refuses to simplify the nuances of the situation. Frankly, I’ll be surprised if we don’t see a minor social-media backlash over this, similar to the post-death “revelation” that David Bowie had sex with minors; but hearing Mayte’s perspective makes their love affair sound much less sinister, even if it does still test the limits of social acceptability.

Also invaluable is Mayte’s perspective on the tragic loss of her two children with Prince–though it’s unsurprisingly a difficult part of the book to get through. For those of us who weren’t keeping up with the New Power Generation in the ’90s, Mayte was perhaps most memorable for her and her husband’s bizarre 1996 appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show, where they seemed to deny that their infant son had died as a result of a rare genetic disorder. Her book captures this moment in detail, revealing the emotions and humanity behind something that was widely sensationalized and misunderstood at the time. She also sets the record straight on a few things: including the name of their son, Amiir, who has been widely misidentified as “Boy Gregory” due to the paparazzi’s unchallenged misreading of his hospital intake papers.

These corrections of tabloid misinformation are a big part of why The Most Beautiful feels not only justified, but also necessary–and why it’s ironic that the book is being bashed, sight-unseen, as a kind of tabloid in its own right. Mayte’s depiction of her ex-husband is no hagiography, but it is complex and humanizing: she makes “the Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” a figure often depicted as the very definition of inscrutability, into a real person. I hope that in the years to come, we will get more glimpses behind this artist’s self-erected walls, and that they will be as warm and well-considered as this one; I for one would love to see his second wife, Manuela Testolini, write a book–and Susannah Melvoin, and Jill Jones, and Susan Moonsie, and anyone else whose life he touched. Prince probably wouldn’t have approved, it’s true–but then, he wouldn’t have approved of a lot of things (this blog included). And if he really is in the “Afterworld” he clearly believed in, then I have to imagine he has better things to do than read his own posthumous biographies. The bottom line is, you don’t have to read The Most Beautiful, and I certainly respect anyone’s decision not to; but if you’re interested, it comes with my highest recommendation.

You can support dance / music / sex / romance by purchasing The Most Beautiful (or anything else!) using my Amazon affiliate link. We’ll be back with another conventional post later this week.