Guess What Prince Smelled Like

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

Prince had fake palm trees in his bathroom. “Three-inch-tall flip-flops, or these heels with lights” was his idea of leisure footwear. He wanted to cancel birthdays. He enjoyed memes and sometimes made his own. He made his eggs with curry and cheddar, but he didn’t know how to turn on his oven. Despite his height, he was a good basketball player as a kid. He remained a “master” ping-pong player through his life. He, the definitive multi-instrumentalist “musical genius,” could be thin-skinned about reviews. He loved Pee-Wee Herman and Finding Nemo.


These are a handful of hundreds of details in GQ’s sprawling “Prince’s Closest Friends Share Their Best Prince Stories” feature, which presents the recollections of several friends of Prince’s in block quotes, oral history style. It’s a humanizing look at a man who seemed way more advanced than your average human, a man whose own former publicist describes as having had a “willful mysteriousness about him.”

You should read the sprawling piece, but in the meantime, here are three of my favorite anecdotes from it.

Via CNN’s Van Jones:

He always said the same thing whenever he was getting on the phone: “This is Prince.” Not “How are you doing?” Not “What’s up?” Kind of low: “This is Prince.”

Via Prince’s keyboard player Morris Hayes:

We have a thing called Caribou Coffee in Minnesota, which is like Starbucks. He’d go over there, and he didn’t have any pockets. He didn’t have a wallet or any credit cards. He just had cash he’d carry in his hand—like, a $100 bill. And whoever took his order, they’d have a good day, ‘cause he’d buy his coffee drink and then just leave the whole hundred. He doesn’t wait for any change because he doesn’t have anywhere to put it.


Via Cat Glover, a collaborator (she who was summoned to rap on “Alphabet Street”):

On the plane, he brought up Graffiti Bridge as something he wanted to make into a musical. He said, “It’s gonna be you and Madonna.” She was actually supposed to be the lead of the movie. [Glover describes how Madonna later flew to Minneapolis to discuss the project.] He said he was having a hard time with Madonna and would I come down? He couldn’t deal with her by himself, is what he told me over the phone. So I came down and Madonna and Prince started arguing over the script. She was funny. I liked her. They both started ragging on each other. Madonna said she didn’t like the script and Prince said to Madonna, “Well, I don’t like your shoes.” That’s how it all started. I was sitting there going, “Oh my God, here we go.” So Madonna told Prince, “I don’t like your shoes, either. Look at ‘em with those peace signs and zippers and shit all over ‘em.” And Prince was saying, “What are you wearing? Are those shoes or boots?” ‘Cause Madonna had on these cowboy-boot shoes. This is what happens when you get two big egos in one room. It was jokey and serious. They’re the same way.


There’s a section on his romantic life, which seems to have “Polyamorous” is probably a nice way to put it, though it wasn’t all nice according to Carmen Electra. Electra, with whom he collaborated on a full album (and then here and there otherwise), discusses her emotional hardship:

I don’t know one beautiful woman who didn’t want to be with him. But it did hurt me. It hurt me really bad. And I was too young to really communicate with him, so I just kind of pulled away. And during that time I went out with a guy—I hadn’t slept with this person—and Prince found out. He said, “I wrote this song about you,” and then he played “I Hate U.” It was hard to hear. And it was even harder to hear the parts of the song that said it could have been a completely different way. Then to say “I hate you because I love you”—I literally cried in front of him. I think he just wanted me to hear it and know that he was really upset. Then he flew me back to Los Angeles.


Eye Hate U” is such a jam, too.

Oh, and the Purple One smelled like lavender, of course.

Some Pig. Terrific. Radiant. Humble.


I went to his house a couple of weeks ago and they have aromatherapy diffusers everywhere that make the whole place smell like lavender. It was really pleasant.