Anytime a famous artists dies I find myself constantly thinking about one particular piece of work they did. When J.D. Salinger died it was his beautiful and haunting short story “For Esme–With Love and Squalor” that rolled around in my head for a week, and when Phillip Seymour Hoffman passed away I kept thinking about his scene in The Master where he yells at Laura Dern’s character for pestering him about a change he made to his fake religion.
Yet, when I heard the sad news about Prince I didn’t think of any particular song or album of his, I didn’t think about him in Purple Rain, and I didn’t even think about his style or anything that made him him. I thought about the best Prince story I have ever heard, the one that captured everything about him; I thought about the night he was the unquestioned coolest person in a room of the coolest people.
Saturday Night Live put on its 40th anniversary show on February 15, 2015. It was a bloated, amazing, three-and-a-half hour show with some of the most famous celebrities in the world. Forget just the show’s illustrious alumni–Bill Murray, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, etc etc etc–half of Hollywood and the music industry showed up too–Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey, Miley Cyrus, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Steve Martin, Kanye West etc etc etc.
(Seriously, take the time to look at the list of people that performed on the show or just showed up for it. It. Is. Nuts.)
As you can imagine the after party became an instant legend, and Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon both talked about it on their shows the next day, each with the same amazing ending, one where Prince stole the whole night. Here’s Fallon version of it. Stay with the whole thing because the build-up really sets the scene for how it ends. I promise you it’s worth it.
Think of what happened during that party; think about who was there. A room of the most famous, coolest, funniest, talented people in the world, and one man made them all turn into a bunch of fanboys. And what’s amazing is the description of how Prince came to the stage, with the crowd separating like he was Moses crossing the Red Sea, that he didn’t come to the stage, but rather he floated up to it.
And don’t think this is a normal Jimmy Fallon over-exaggeration, because Meyers told the same story on the old “Bill Simmons Report” podcast (it comes towards the beginning). What’s also amazing is Meyers saying he thought Beyonce might have performed too, but that she wasn’t going to follow Prince. If aliens landed during the halftime show of the Superbowl before Beyonce took the stage I’m pretty sure she’d still come out and perform. But not Prince. You can’t follow Prince.
Meyers told a shorter version of the story on his show, with an added detail about Prince and his guitar that is also amazing.
“In a room full of the coolest people on earth, Prince is still the coolest person on earth.”
I can’t stop thinking about this story. It captures everything about him–his talent, his presence, his coolness and style, and the impact he had on people.
Yup. “The coolest person on earth.”
It’s not right he isn’t around to wear that title anymore, but it’s not like anyone else can have it now.
No one follows Prince.
What’s your favorite Prince story? Share them with us in the comments below.