Purple Shade in Nice
French Riviera, October 27, 1985:
It was a day off filming for Under the Cherry Moon. Prince, never one to waste a minute, made history that day and in the process gave sixteen-year old Frederic Sraved and his friends memories they will treasure forever.
A video shoot for the Prince and The Revolution song "America" had been announced on a local radio station in Nice, France the prior week with a ticket contest for fans who called the radio station and correctly answered questions about Prince. Frederic played many times and managed to win nine extra tickets for his friends so they could discover the joy of seeing his musical hero perform live. He recalls, "On the ticket it read 'The spectators will be assured the recognition and thanks of Prince and his group.' My mother made me an Uncle Sam hat, using a white hat and mini American flag, and then I distributed to all my buddies a string of mini American flags, having advised them to dress in blue or purple. That evening at the Théatre de Verdure, Prince, very rarely leaving his guitar offered us a concert that was a mix of funk/pop/rock, very energetic and with some long solos.”
Frederic and his friends found themselves very close to the stage, himself directly in front of a barefoot Wendy Melvoin, and when Prince arrived with a "Hello Nice!" the group began to play a 10-15-minute version of “America”. “As for me and two of my friends, Alex and Manu, it was out of the question for us to leave our place”, says Frederic. “The group returned for a second version of 'America', nearly identical to the first one in my memories. In one of the two versions, however, Prince sat at the drums and soloed."
After an intermission Prince and The Revolution were back on stage for a grandiose and long version of Paisley Park, which Frederic remembers, “…was also filmed, as the cameras were still running and I hope that we will one day see this version. We can always dream." He continues, "Prince and The Revolution reappeared with 'Let’s Go Crazy', a relatively short version and then came the most funky moment of the evening, thanks to the use of a brass section including Eric Leeds and starting with 'Delirious' borrowing in passing some elements to 'Automatic' and concluding with 'Little Red Corvette'. The concert ended with 'Purple Rain', both anthological and interminable, and which left me in tears.”
At the end of the hour-long mini-concert officials asked the audience members in the front row of the pit if they wanted to stay and attend an interview with Prince, but with one requirement--they must be able to speak perfect English. “For Alex, Manu, Fabien and me, English was not our strength so after quick deliberation we decided we did not dare to stay. That is how we managed to miss the Prince interview with MTV that followed the concert," he recalls with regret.
Frederic and his three friends left the room, still in a state of shock at the amazing show they had witnessed but he says, "We could not leave the venue. We wanted to prolong the evening. A crowd of journalists, photographers and spectators awaited the exit of Prince in front of the main entrance near the limousines. It was then that I had the idea to take my friends towards a different exit, little known by the general public and located behind the Théatre de Verdure. That's where I had met the members of the group Telephone a year prior.” Thus, this small group of 15-16-year old boys waited around with a little hope that at some point Prince would emerge. Nothing ventured, nothing gained they reasoned and alas, their persistence paid off!
Frederic recounts how it happened: "Manu used a tree branch for a guitar and amused himself by imitating Prince performing a guitar solo, and he made faces like Prince which in turn made us laugh. Then, suddenly there was silence...Manu seemed to have perceived something. I turned around and there I discovered Prince standing alone on the doorstep a few meters from us. We observed in silence for some undetermined amount of time and we all remained speechless before this quasi-divine apparition, none of us having seen or heard him there. I wanted to break the silence by speaking to him. I thought to shout 'uh-uh, uh-uh' but before any one of us dared to talk to him, Prince put his forefinger in front of his mouth to silence us with a prolonged 'shhhhhhh'. Perhaps he was afraid that our shouts or loud talk would draw journalists and photographers posted near the limousines towards us. Perhaps he didn't want to talk to us because he imagined already the lesson he could to give to us. Then he left us to go inside.
Still recuperating from our emotions, Prince came back outside with a very pretty girl whom I would recognize later when seeing Under the Cherry Moon...it was Emmanuelle Sallet, the actress who plays the role of the landlady, Katy, to Christopher (Prince) and Tricky (Jerome Benton) and she was also present during the MTV interview. Well, Prince looked directly at us again and there right in front of us he kissed her, and I think he was not far from breaking the record of the longest kiss in the history of cinema held by Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in “The Thomas Crowne Affair”, except I can assure you this kiss was nothing of a cinema kiss! Then, Prince gave us a final smirk before turning on his heels (high heels, of course) doubtless persuaded that we had gotten his message. Yes, Prince saw Manu’s display and decided to give us a private show, to put us in our place and say…’Go ahead, try to imitate this!’ I love him. He was a totally crazy guy.”
French Riviera, November 22, 1985:
As fate would have it Frederic Sraved’s mother took part in bridge tournaments at La Rotonde that overlooks the water in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, a seaside village on the French Riviera located between Nice and Monaco. According to Frederic, “I learned from my mother that La Rotonde was leased for three days by the team shooting the film Under the Cherry Moon, and that she could not play bridge there because of this. She was furious until she learned that it was Prince!” Knowing her son’s love of Prince and his music, she gave him notice and as luck would have it he had a day off school. Frederic, along with a friend, showed up at the set of Under the Cherry Moon on November 22, 1985 in the early morning hour of 6:00 am. Because school prevented him from attending all three days he is not sure what took place the other two, but on the day he was there he says, “It was entirely devoted to “Girls and Boys” because from the sound system I could hear that they did not stop from morning to night playing over and over various recorded parts of "Girls and Boys" as the video was being filmed. This made me fantasize about the album that was to come!”
Armed with a stack of vinyl records, Frederic was determined that he would obtain autographs from his musical hero, Prince. He recalls, “My friend and I were the only external spectators at the video shoot, and throughout the day we conversed with many extras and members of the security. I was a new friend of one of those responsible for security as earlier in the day he requested of me a summary of Prince, his life, and his work, which of course I gave to him.”
Frederic made a valiant effort to get to Prince on his own, explaining, “I tried three or four times to go towards Prince, but each time the bodyguard stopped me.” Luckily, his new-found friend, the security guard, addressed the bodyguard of Prince at the end of the day telling him in English ‘This young awaits with his records since early this morning to meet Prince. Can you do something for him?’ I had always been polite in my approaches, and I think that the bodyguard had pity on me. I was the only fan left there, as my friend had left me at 7:00 or 8:00 pm that night.
The bodyguard came past the barriers to meet me, showed me three fingers of his hand to make me understand that I had to give him three records and not one more. I gave him the 33 LP of Around the World in a Day, the maxi 45 of Paisley Park, and the 45 of When Doves Cry. The bodyguard took my three vinyls and went to knock on the door of Prince’s trailer, who was about 20 meters away from me.”
Much to Frederic’s surprise, “Prince came out! He probably had asked the bodyguard to whom these discs belonged since the bodyguard then pointed a finger towards me. Prince made a sign of his hand for me to come join him. So I joined him in front of his trailer, and I muttered two, maybe three things. He had the vinyls, and the Around the World in a Day caused him some difficulties because of the balloon boy sticker I had glued on the cover, but he autographed them all and handed them to me with a smile. I took them and as I walked back it felt as if I could fly at that time, so much was I in 7th heaven!” Perhaps Prince recognized Frederic as that boy who witnessed the epic kiss at the exit of the Theatre de Verdure three weeks earlier, or perhaps not, but one can imagine it could be so.
“The next day at school I gave the ‘When Doves Cry’ single autographed by Prince to my best friend who had waited with me between 6:00 am in the morning until 7:00 or 8:00 pm that night,” Frederic explains. “He leapt like a mountain goat when I gave it to him!”
Over the years Frederic Sraved saw Prince live in concert a total of 15 times, but it was those first, special encounters between he and Prince on the set of Under the Cherry Moon that solidified his undying love and respect for his musical hero, Prince.