Prince commissioned Paisley Park in the 80’s following Purple Rain. It was his home, performance space, and where he recorded thousands of hours of music.
The morning of August 26th, 2016 I’m at my computer with coffee in hand admiring the new, very purple Paisley Park website. Prince’s compound will open to the public for tours in one month and tickets go live at 12 pm Pacific time. The clock strikes 11:50 am as I start to frantically refresh the page to make sure we get in on this once-in-a-lifetime event before it undoubtedly sells out. Bam! It’s 11:53 am and tickets are live 8 minutes early. Call me a weirdo, but we got VIP tickets to the first ever tour on October 6th!
The day before we are to fly from Los Angeles to Minnesota for the big day, we get news announcing the local city council has voted to delay the opening of Paisley Park because of traffic concerns. This can’t be happening. Well, Prince had a different plan. All I can say is, he visited those city councilmen in their dreams to let them know exactly how this was about to go down. He must have been convincing because before full on hyperventilation set in, we got an update that Paisley Park will temporarily open for three days. Thank you, Prince.
The opening has been all over the news for weeks, and we’re the first group to tour, so naturally the press is swarming as we get off the shuttle that has brought us from off-site parking to Paisley Park. My husband and I skipped the media storm to allow room for the folks who nearly climaxed at the idea of having their chance at fame. Good for them, exciting stuff.
The check-in process needs some work, but this was the first time for everyone, so seeing them work out the kinks was actually enjoyable. We were told not to touch things and to adhere to the strict no camera policy – which was painful, but knowing how much Prince opposed photos, we obliged. Ugh.
These are the 7 most shocking things I learned.
1. Paisley Park is Prince’s final resting place.
The first stop on tour was the atrium, where Oprah famously interviewed Prince in 1996. The walls look like the sky, bright blue with fluffy clouds. At the center of the room is Prince’s massive Love Symbol etched into the floor with purple velvet couches on each side. Sitting in the middle of the room is a replica of Paisley Park encased by thick glass. The tour guide explains that this was his favorite room, where Prince felt most alive. Then she dropped a bomb on us out of nowhere. The replica of Paisley Park is Prince’s urn and his ashes are sealed inside the front column. You could feel the energy shift in the room. It was incredibly intense – indescribable. I can only assume our faces looked as shocked as everyone else’s, and some began to cry. We observed it up close. The urn looked just like Paisley and it had a large Love Symbol attached to the front and inside sat a miniature purple piano. No doubt, it’s what he wanted. Paisley was a masterpiece of his creation, and it’s comforting to know his final resting place is in the room he felt most at peace.
2. Doves are watching over him.
Prince was a lover of doves. So much so that he had them as pets – Majesty and Divinity. They keep watch over him from the upper right atrium balcony (seen in the photo above), where his urn sits at the tip of his famous Love Symbol. Living with Prince, one must love music. These doves did, and they were known to sing along while Prince jammed out, but after his passing Majesty and Divinity stopped singing. Prince’s preferred method of communication was through his music, and it was no different with his pets. It wasn’t until staff played his music throughout Paisley that they began to sing again.
3. Prince had a vision from the moment he built Paisley Park.
Even after some structural and protective adjustments made before opening Paisley to the public, every detail of the place feels authentic. From the flow of the tour to the way awards are displayed, it’s abundantly clear what Prince’s vision for his palace was. He wanted this to be a place for his fans to experience his artistry. Not only his music but every aspect of his art.
History Hall, I believe he named it, features a timeline of his career with life-size photos attached to the wall on one side, and awards on the other is the perfect example of his vision. He had his Grammy Awards, American Music Awards, and tons of others displayed on shelves built into the walls and framed with his signature shade of purple. The only thing he didn’t do was install a protective piece of glass in front for preservation, as staff explained. The same goes for his perfectly placed plaques, platinum and diamond records, and cherished artwork. Nothing was rehung to prepare for the conversion to a museum. Nothing needed to be. It was all perfectly placed, and Prince’s unique touch was all over it.
4. Prince knew how awesome he was.
For a man who didn’t like taking pictures, it was shocking to see Prince’s home filled with the most epic, life-sized art of HIM. From the moment we entered his greatness greeted us – Prince performing on stage, Prince with his arms wide open surrounded by his greatest influences, Prince serving up his famous stare, and even Prince sporting unzipped jeans and a seriously naughty smirk. Everything he created held an underlying message, and he surrounded himself with those messages. Having known his home would be a museum some day, it’s clear who he created it for…his fans. Although, I’m sure he wasn’t miserable admiring his own fierceness, too.
5. Candles gave Prince life!
He was known for always smelling great, and his home was no exception. Around every corner, on every shelf, in both studio control rooms, Prince had candles and bowls of potpourri throughout Paisley Park. In his editing room was an Ocean Mist Yankee candle (I get mine from CVS…wonder if he did too!?) Behind the massive walls of glass in Studio A & B were tall stands holding half burned candles next to the microphone where Prince would record his late night vocals. As you can see from the photo above, that was just the beginning. He had them everywhere. A small, dark room inside Studio B was the Galaxy Room where Prince would mediate. The walls came alive with planets, stars, and hidden love symbols and of course…the room was filled with lots of candles. I was tempted to slip one of the small tea candles in my pocket, but I came to my senses. The last thing I need is the curse of Prince.
6. Behind the glamor, Prince was a simple man.
Full of awards, instruments, art, motorcycles and memorabilia Paisley Park is an opulent masterpiece epitomizing success. This is expected. What shocked me was how many things throughout his home were so “normal.” In the small kitchen / TV room off the atrium was a plastic, cream colored, flip-top trash can. Not a gold plated waste basket, a $4.99 trash can from Bed Bath and Beyond. The couch where we watched his favorite basketball teams still had crumbs on it and his DirecTV remote sat on the coffee table where he left it.
In his office is a glass conference table surrounded by six disheveled purple chairs with notes from a previous meeting still sitting on it. On the other side of the room is his half-moon shaped desk where an old, beaten up purple phone sat. He didn’t need cameras and screens to do video calls; Prince liked his 90’s era purple phone. Despite his tremendously opulent life, a closer look reveals his utilization of VHS and cassette tapes, dated TV’s and perfectly normal people stuff until the day he died. Fascinating.
7. Prince is always watching.
As we walked through the front door of Paisley Park, we were greeted with a massive mural of Prince’s eyes. Staff explained, he did this so that anyone entering knew that he was always watching. As creepy as that can be construed, it was also a soothing feeling now that he is gone, especially knowing he had it painted there with the idea of fans coming in one day. Throughout Paisley Park were reminders that Prince is always watching. In his NPG Music Club there’s a print of his “The Rainbow Children” album cover, and if you look closely, peeking from behind a curtain is Prince keeping watch. The other noticeable feature of NPG are the multiple sets of stairs leading to doors on a second level. It was explained that sometimes he wasn’t up for mingling and hanging out, but he wanted his guest to enjoy themselves. He would come from his residence on the second floor onto the terrace to watch over his friends as they enjoyed themselves. Although visitors weren’t always able to see him, Prince always was and remains observing.
We spent an incredible 2 hours inside the wonderland of Prince’s creation. It wasn’t without its hiccups – tour guides have a lot of learning to do, and staff has their work cut out in the logistics department, but the experience is powerful. The debate around Paisley Park will continue, but there is no denying it’s significance to art, culture and most of all, music.