For Prince fans, online groups offer comfort

By Louisa Frahm - Los Angeles Times

Prince performs “Purple Rain” at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, 2004, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Prince performs “Purple Rain” at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, 2004, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES — Coming of age in Minneapolis in the 1980s, Anitra Davis, like many of her peers, counted local musical-prodigy-made-good Prince Rogers Nelson as her very favorite artist. Also like many of her peers, Davis could boast of some personal but tangential connections to Prince; her mother worked at the Capri Theater, where Prince first performed songs from his debut album “For You,” and Davis grew up just three blocks from where Prince and future bandmate Andre Cymone began their musical careers.

In 2014, Davis, a financial analyst by day, moved from Minneapolis to Thousand Oaks. Though she loved the Southern California weather, she struggled to meet people in her new West Coast home. When Prince died April 21, 2016, from an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl, she felt especially alone in her Minnesotan mourning. To relieve that pain and expand her social circle, Davis, now 46, founded Prince Army Los Angeles, or PALA, a Facebook group connecting local Prince fans. An LA-based Prince fan group known as The BumpSquad had been in existence since 2000, but as a former Minneapolitan, Davis felt compelled to represent her hometown hero in her adopted city.

PALA and The BumpSquad, both of which are still going strong (disclosure: I participate in both groups), demonstrate how much LA loves Prince, but the Purple One also had a soft spot for LA. For several years, Prince had a palatial mansion in the Hollywood Hills where he would throw his legendary “3121” parties and entertain a wide array of celebrity friends including Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell. Prior to the “3121” party era, Prince famously gave that same house a purple makeover that upset the previous tenant, NBA star Carlos Boozer. Prince performed many memorable concerts in town throughout his long and varied career. His final LA appearances in 2011 included an epic 21-show residency at the Forum, alongside Troubadour and House of Blues concerts.

On the fifth anniversary of Prince’s death, we asked fans from Prince Army Los Angeles and The BumpSquad to share their favorite memories of The Purple One.

Stefanie Johnson (PALA): For my first Prince concert, I begged my mother to use her car to drive to the show. She thought it was up the street at the Forum, but it was actually in a cornfield about 50 miles away from our house. When he walked on that stage in his Speedo, thigh highs and trench coat, I was exploding with excitement. He threw out his guitar pick, which I quickly grabbed. He also threw out his gum and I grabbed that too. When I got home the next morning, my mother’s car was covered in mud and dirt. I got grounded for using her car and couldn’t go anywhere for the next month. Was it worth it? Yep!

Hope Allen (PALA, BumpSquad): “DMSR” (from 1982’s “1999” album) came on randomly one day. This time I actually listened to the words. Prince made me feel proud of my sexual identity. Previously, I was made to feel like I should hide my feelings. Prince was just as proud of his sexuality as he was about God. He told me that my emotions were OK. From then on, I became a better person because of him.

Pej Alaghamandan (PALA, BumpSquad): Tupac was at Prince’s Glam Slam club one night in 1994. We were hanging out near the dance floor by the bar. Prince started rapping a new song of his called “Now.” Tupac looked at me and said straight up, “Can you believe Prince is trying to rap right now?”

Erin Tripp (PALA, BumpSquad): A friend of a friend introduced me to Prince, which led to me being his personal chef. I was intimidated and excited at the same time to be cooking for him. I was always shocked at his low voice. He was pescatarian to start with, fish once a week, then mainly vegetarian, and finally borderline vegan near the end of his stay in LA. Many nights, it was just Prince and myself in his 30,000-square-foot mansion.

Prince performs “Purple Rain” at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, 2004, at Staples Center in Los Angeles. performs “Purple Rain” at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, 2004, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

By Louisa Frahm

Los Angeles Times

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