Prince’s curbside chat with his ‘biggest enemy’ 

Chance conversation outside Paisley Park runs the gamut: sex, God, Mayte, the baby

Cheryl Johnson

Chanhassen’s most famous citizen has been such a chatterbox of late that it was only a matter of time before he yakked me up. It wasn’t a planned thing, mind you. But the way Prince sees the world, he’d probably say it was meant to be.

For 45 minutes we chatted and sparred about worldly and otherworldly things: Mayte, marriage, sex, God; and was I a girlfriend from his past? On a lighter note, at least for me, Prince declared me his “biggest enemy.”

He interviewed me as much as vice versa, according to my friend, witness, and the person responsible for this close encounter, Beverly Cochran. Beverly is a childhood friend I met at a small Presbyterian church in Albany, Ga. She had come to spend the Memorial Day holiday with me . . . and to see Prince. She knew the odds. She was playfully planning to fabricate a story for her friends back in Atlanta about meeting Prince at Paisley Park but not getting a picture of him because he is famously camera-shy.

Make-believe came dangerously close to reality. Accommodating host that I am, I dutifully drove Beverly to Chanhassen and pointed out the house where I believed Prince lives. (Do not call 332-TIPS to ask where.)

At that moment, a sports car with superdark tinted windows roared down the drive. The driver followed my car, and from my rearview mirror I could see his hands on the steering wheel. It was enough for me to make a positive ID: I know his hands, his knuckles, his fingernails, his cuticles.

With his thumbs wrapped under the steering wheel, he used his fingers to make a move-it-buster gesture. Cooperative as ever, I slowed down. He whipped by us, only to have us catch up at the next light. Lowering his window, he stuck his hand out and made a series of graceful gestures: Was he moving to music or testing my proficiency at interpreting gang signs? His face was visible, reflected in his side-view mirror.

Take a picture of the car, I ordered. Beverly, daughter of a famous portrait photographer, was transfixed and fumbled around before the camera finally clicked. With the green light, we both took off again. We both headed to Paisley Park (our next tourist stop). He zipped into Paisley. I parked on the street outside - having been kicked out of there before, I wasn’t about to get into trouble for trespassing. But when I spied his vehicle positioned just inside Paisley, I got out of my car so he could see his pursuer. Bingo. He pulled out and parked right behind my car.

I walked over. He lowered his car window. Beverly came over with a camera in hand. “No pictures!” he said. Even though his eyes were hidden behind dark glasses with a glyph on the temple, there was flight in his voice. I stashed the camera back in my car.

You have Beverly to thank for the rest. Sincerely, she told Prince how much she loves his music and how gifted he is. Somehow, the conversation turned to me. He said he didn’t recognize me. Peering over my dark glasses (with no symbol on the side), I revealed my eyes and identity. “Billy!” Prince said, in a playfully yet condescendingly familiar growl. Proof that “Billy Jack Bitch” was written in my honor?

I was surprised he didn’t snap his car in gear that minute. But somehow, he and Beverly got into a discussion of the “Celestine Prophecy.” Both had read it and found it incredible. “I can’t believe you have a friend I like!” said Prince.

Of God and judgments

God came up. I admitted to a belief in a higher power. “Where do you think God is? Where is he?” asked Prince, draping his arm out of the car to motion to the surroundings. “I think that God is in all of us,” said Beverly. Prince loved that, adding, “it takes all of us knowing God before he’ll manifest himself.” My turn: Did God approve of his sexually explicit lyrics (not to mention the simulated sex on stage)? “Sex is the door-opener,” he said, “once you open the door. . . . “

More godly talk ensued, with Prince growing more impressed with Beverly. “What are you here for? “ he asked me. I told him I was here to have fun - he was not impressed - and that in my job, I also liked to remind people how we should behave.

"Oh, you’re a judger. You like to judge, and you shouldn’t, because one day you will be judged,” the Rev. Prince said. I plan to do enough good to merit a decent evaluation.

"Why don’t you like me?” asked Prince. I told him I didn’t like the way he behaved. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are big-time musicmakers, and yet they go out and act like normal people. “I’m not Jimmy Jam and Terry,” he said. “I thought you hated me because you were an old girlfriend.”

I ripped off my sunglasses so he’d get a good look at a face that does not radiate the exquisite beauty of his protegees Carmen Electra, Apollonia or Mayte. “It’s what’s inside,” he said, tapping his chest.

Of Mayte and fate

I’m not doubting what’s inside his wife (Mayte must have the soul of a saint to live with this guy), but I doubt he could read her innards at first sight. Prince admitted that marriage was the last thing on his mind when he met Mayte: “I didn’t want to get married. Get married? Me? I wasn’t looking to get married.”

But he couldn’t ignore the signs. Mayte is like Mattie, his mom’s name. Mayte’s mom’s name is Nell, and when he married Mayte he became son of Nell; his family name is Nelson. He said his dad’s name was John L. - Jannell is Mayte’s middle name. My eyes glazed over; I have never understood predicating an important decision like marriage on a name game. I believe he also said both his dad and Mayte’s dad’s names were John. That’s a cosmic coincidence? But Prince clearly believes there is much to this and his discovery of Mayte as “my soul mate.” I suggested that he sought a soul mate who was gorgeous.

I’m not Billy?

Despite greeting me as Billy and using the “Billy Jack Bitch” theme “you lie” on me, he maintained that the song was not about me at all. More intelligent types than yours truly - KMSP-TV and Impact, a national radio-biz publication - concluded the song was an attack on me: “What if I called you silly names . . . just like the ones that you call me . . . “ Names, you know, such as Symbolina.

And while we’re talking about lying, “You lied on Oprah,” I parried. I didn’t go into the lies of commission and of omission on the birth and death certificates of his baby boy. But I said I was bothered that he reportedly told “Entertainment Tonight” that the birth of his baby was “amazing.” “Look up amazing in the dictionary,” he advised.

He called me his “biggest enemy,” but said he had no ill will toward me. He said he dated a cheerleader named Cheryl Johnson - here we go again with the names - in the 11th grade at Central High in Minneapolis. Prince said that people named Johnson have been either his best friends or his great enemies. He mentioned enemy and former rocker Rick James, whose real last name is Johnson according to Prince, and Jesse Johnson, a former Time guitarist who I believe was characterized as a former friend.

No hard feelings

I told him I’ve enjoyed some of his music, and I know he’s a musical genius. I also tried to make the point that no self-respecting gossip columnist could ignore a local celeb of his worldwide stature. Despite our mutual lack of animosity, Prince refused to allow a photo of himself and Beverly. But not because he was camera-shy. When another Atlanta resident visiting the metro happened by with her relatives and asked for a picture, Prince acquiesced. Beverly wanted to know why she was refused a picture. “You’re with her,” he said, pointing at me. And she must be punished for that, I replied.

Ladies and gentlemen, kids of all ages, it’s official - Prince will talk to anybody.