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It was 1986 and I was working at Tower Sunset in West Hollywood.
I first started at Tower Video (which was across the street from the main store), then I worked on the floor in the record store, and then I reached my ultimate goal — working in the art department at Tower Records.
It was a very cool job. I created the "wallboards" that hung all over all three stores (there was Tower Classical too!) We were stationed in the basement of the video store. Surrounded by all kinds of machines that manipulated foamcore, paper, cardboard, and oh yeah – TONS of spray paint.
(To this day, I am totally amazed that I never lost a lung from inhaling all of those fumes – between the wire machine cutting through the foamcore and making the most acrid and toxic fumes ever in life, and the fumes from all that spray paint… It was just nuts.)
Anyway, my stint at the video store was pretty epic. Everybody came through Tower.
I babysat for Whoopi Goldberg, I met Michael Jackson and got his autograph, I met Dick Van Dyke and John Forsythe and they let me run my fingers through their beautiful hair.
I hung out with David Lee Roth, played cards with Peter Gabriel. I met Christopher Lee (who bit my neck and French kissed me).
Then, one fateful day I was called into the office by the video store assistant manager Michael Dampierre.
"Crystal, GUESS WHO CALLED AND WANTS TO COME IN EARLY TOMORROW TO SHOP?"
"NO F**KING WAY!"
"Oh Honey, YES WAY. You'd better have your ass here at 5 am — he's gonna be here at 6 am SHARP!"
So I worked the rest of the day with a crazy cosmic nervous energy. Holy sh*t, I'm actually going to meet one of my idols. Prince is really coming here? I was totally beside myself.
Even though celebrities came through all of the time and we at Tower were so ridiculously jaded (“Oh, who was in today... Paul McCartney? YAWN, he was here last week”) this time I was far from it.
So I got home, set my alarm for 3:30 am, and tried to go to sleep. I don't think I slept at all, maybe about 45 minutes.
I woke up at 3 am, took a shower and got dressed, and drove from Hollywood out to West Hollywood. Fortunately, Michael lived a couple of blocks and up the street away from Tower, so I drove there and picked him up.
Now remember kids. This was the '80s. No cell phone, no texting, none of that. I called Mike before I left my apartment and left a message on his answering machine to let him know that I was leaving. When I got to his place, he was making breakfast.
We looked at each other like we were going to outer space... "HOLY SH*T, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? PRINCE!"
We were super giddy, a little out of it from lack of sleep, and just plain old ridiculous. At 5 o'clock on the dot, we got in my car and I drove a few blocks to work. Mike unlocked the door and we went inside to get situated.
Prince was coming to shop. We had to make sure that the store was ready for that, and we had no idea if or how many people he would be bringing with him.
THEN, WE WAITED.
5:15... 5:30... 5:45... 6:00
We stood at the door with our faces pressed up against the glass like we were waiting for Santa Claus or something.
At about 6:10 am we saw a car coming towards the parking lot.
We saw the turn signal come on.
Then we looked at each other and started laughing hysterically because, no joke, it was a RED CORVETTE.
WE WERE CRYING!
In front of the store there was a tiny parking space that can only fit one car, underneath an overhang - V.I.P.'s (and David Lee Roth) parked there ALL of the time.
We stood there and hold each other's hands while holding our breath… The driver side door opens and Jerome Benton appears. Jerome walks around to the passenger side and opens the door.
We saw a foot poke out. A white high-heeled boot. Mike SQUEEZED MY HAND SO DAMNED TIGHT.
Then came the legs. White pants with iridescent paisley print, Swarovski crystals and sequins. He stepped out of his Little Red Corvette and looked around.
He wore a matching motorcycle styled jacket with huge shoulder pads… so tiny, he was sooooooooo damned tiny. He looked at us through the door, Mike and I just melted. Jerome came and waved, we let them in.
Mike: "Hey guys, welcome to Tower, I'm Mike, this is Crystal."
Jerome: "Hey y'all, thanks for opening early."
Prince: "Yes, thank you." (while bowing his head)
They walked in and wandered around. Mike and I just stood by the register, waiting.
The store opened at 9 am every day, so they needed to leave by 8 at the latest to avoid everyone else coming in to start their shifts (like Bill Bailey and Saul Hudson), so they couldn't really putz around.
Jerome brought bags with him, and they wandered the aisles grabbing up any and everything - Disney laserdiscs, VHS tapes of ALL kinds of movies, three HUGE bags FILLED to the top.
They didn't finish until around 7:45.
Jerome brought three gigantic shopping bags up to the counter, Prince walked slowly behind him.
Jerome: "Yeah, we'll take all these. Please have them delivered to this address at Warner's." (Hands me a piece of paper with the label's address)
Mike: "How do you want to pay for this? Would you like us to ring it up now?"
Jerome: "Yeah, talk to THIS dude, here's his number, he'll handle it." (hands us digits for the President of Warner Bros. Records)
Mike: "Okay, cool."
Me: "Mr. Nelson, may I ask you a question?"
Prince: "Mr. Nelson? I don't see my father in here, HAHAHA! What is it dear?"
Me: "What is that scent you're wearing, it's amazing!"
And with that, they both turned and walked out of the store while Mike and I followed them out and said thank you and goodbye.
Right after they walked out of the door Prince turned around and said, "Thank you again you two, Crystal and Mike, right? I really appreciate you being here so early, I know it's a pain in the ass."
He extended his hand and shook Mike's, then he shook mine, pulled me in for a hug, and walked away.
He was truly magical.
Crystal Durant is a Visual Artist/Art Educator, Muse/Model, Singer, Photographer, Writer, and Pop Culture Demolition Specialist who lives/loves, kicks ass & takes names in Harlem, NYC.