This is how close I was to Prince when I saw him play what I have always regarded past present and future to be the greatest show I've ever seen. He rose out of the floor with his Telecaster strapped like a quiver to his back and the first words he said in his well-obviously-I-will-never-be-this-cool voice were, "Is it alright if I play this thing?" and everybody screamed and he went into "Let's Go Crazy." He did "Nothing Compares 2 U" with Jennifer Hudson, Maceo Parker came out and played on "Cream" and then I followed him to an after show at the House of Blues where he sang Sly and the Family Stone covers and played bass solos until 3 a.m.
I was also about this far away from him in the basement lounge of a New York club once, some presser for introducing his new 3rd Eye Girl band. Doug E. Fresh was DJ'ing and when Prince finally walked in to the club, Doug E. Fresh blasted DMX. I sat around until almost 3 a.m., watching Prince sit across the room in a booth well out of earshot surrounded by six huge bodyguards, until, finally, he got up and started playing half-hearted pool as an excuse to dance with several women only when Busta Rhymes came on. I could have walked over to him but I didn't because he's Prince and he has an impenetrable aura. It was as if he knew I was meant to be in awe 15 ft away, as is the cosmic order of things.
I think being just that close to him these few times is always how I feel about his music, that it's always just out of reach in front of me suspended as the best music of the 80s made by a sexual revolutionary and sartorial dandy for whom perfection is a fuck buddy he keeps around when he needs it. How do you get close to that? How are you supposed to hold that near your heart? I love Prince, I do, he is assuredly my favorite musician of all-time (the riff on "Bambi" or his tightwire delivery of "on ly want to see you un der neath the" or he calls Ronald Reagan RONNIE god I should never have started) and I loved that he orbited around me, voguing in this forbidden space only he should occupy. Too close and you get the wag of a finger and a pursed smile.
Of course he's inclusive and charitable, and we all share heaping portions of his race, his sexuality, his mercuriality, his peerless shade game. But I don't know if I'll ever feel this specific way again, that being forever just out of reach someone is what made them so definably great. And maybe it's because he finally feels further away now that's really making me feel this one.
Anyway, as he says: "Shut up already, damn!"