The Artist informally...

Want to know what happened when Scary Spice demanded to meet O(->? TOTP was there to witness the event and speak exclusively to a remarkably relaxed Artist Formerly Known As Prince

Susie Boon

There’s a titchy nervousness in the TOTP studio. A group of muscly men with potato-shaped heads mutter into walkie-talkies, while the sound technician fiddles anxiously with his equipment. All eyes are trained on the stage where a small man in a bright white outfit is standing silently.

Suddenly the tension is broken by Scary Spice who struts boldly towards the stage. “Awwwright!" she screeches 30 decibels louder than usual. “I just wanted to say hello, right.” The bodybuilder security peep lurch forward to remove the intruder but O(+> (otherwise known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince) nods politely at her and Scary scuttles off with a big grin on her face.

“I like the Spice Girls,” admits O(+> later when he exclusively invites us to his dressing room for a long chat. “I saw them at the Brits and I like their energy.” And what did he make of Scary stomping past his security men to meet him? “She’s great because she’s just so honest. There’s no deception, no excuses, she just walked up and said, ’Hi’: Mel B knows herself and what she wants and I admire her for that.”

O(+> leans back on the drab dressing room sofa and shoots another broad grin. For a pop star who’s supposed to be difficult and unfriendly, he’s remarkably relaxed and warm. I’d also been warned by his American publicist that I’d only be able to ask about his latest album Emancipation and on no account could I delve into his private life. So it’s surprising when within a short time O(+> himself starts talking about how he has been coping with the traumatic death of his baby last October, who’d been born with a skull deformity and only survived for a week.

"These have been the most traumatic 14 months of my life but, contrary to what’s been written, I stilt have a positive outlook,” he confides.’ “Everything happens for a reason and you” Learn to look differently at a situation”/ It’s’ all part of God’s plan and understanding that helps little.

“People don’t believe me though, that I do feel positive. Madonna came up to me asked, ’Are you realty happy?’ I looked at her and said. Yes I am, and she replied, ’No, you’re not!’
I’m like, (jumps off the settee with a shocked look) ’Wooaah! Don’t I know if I’m happy?’ But that seems to be the way people see me.”
With that, O(+> shrugs his shoulders and settles back down, resigned to the fact that other people will never ’get’ him and will always see him differently to the way he sees himself. Yet,’he makes out, it’s not a situation that particularly worries him. “It doesn’t take away from my inner strength. If that’s what people want to think, let them. It’s their problem not mine.”

Whatever people may think" there’; no doubt he’s in an extremely happy and playful mood today. Dressed in white flared but clingy trousers, five-inch heeled stilettos and a white fur-trimmed anorak top, he has a habit of looking up coyly through his long Lashes - especially when talking about either music or his wife, dancer/singer Mayte, whom he wed on Valentine’s Day last year. He also jokes about all the fuss made over him changing his name from Prince to ^ - though even he has to admit that O(+> is completely unpronounceable. “Well, I never like things to be too easy!" he grins. But his biggest smile is reserved for talking about leaving behind the disputes with his former record company WEA (which had led to him writing ’Slave’ on his face) and setting up his own label, NPG Records. “At last I can sell my music in the way that I want, I have control,’ he Enthuses. I’ve made more money from Emancipation than I have from any other album for years. So, yes I am happy.”

Eventually, a faint knock on the dressing room door means it’s time to Leave in peace. However, only a few minutes Later there’s a commotion going on in the corridor outside. Scary is back, this time with the four other Spicies in tow, telling the burly security peep just why they should be Let in. The bodyguards relent to Scary’s demands, and the Spicies troop inside. “So what shall we call you?" demands Scary as she firmly shakes his hand. “Just call me your friend,” he replies with a smile.

Quicker than you can say O(+>, the girls are whisked back to their dressing room to prepare for their own performance. Scary is of course the last to leave. “I’m a fan of his and it was cool to meet him// she declares. ’He was nice and friendly and he seemed really happy Well, let’s hope Madonna lets the message.