While I never did get the opportunity to work with Prince, the news of his tragic passing today caused me to reflect on some of the insignificant brushes I had with him over the years. This entry is about Dale Bozzio but since it’s inspired by Prince’s passing I will indulge myself with a tangential stroll down memory lane.
When Fox Television was still a young network they hired me to shoot a pilot for a show entitled Hotel Dicks starring Morris Day and Jerome Benton of The Time as hotel detectives. Since The Time were part of Prince’s story the shoot was being channeled through the purple prince which led to some perplexing creative direction that confounds me to this day. Hotel Dicks probably deserves its’ own entry but needless to say I was always hopeful that one day I would have the opportunity to ask Prince some specific questions.
Prince had a propensity for confusing me with someone else. Once after leaving a theater in Westwood I heard the clatter of high heels rapidly approaching me from behind and the next thing I knew Prince’s arm was slung uncomfortably over my shoulder, after a step or two he looked up at me about to speak, his familiar smile left his face as quickly as his arm left my shoulder as he muttered an apology, turned on his high heel and was gone as quickly as he appeared. On another occasion I was showing my work to his management team Cavallo, Ruffalo & Fargnoli, when Prince walked in and engaged me in a surreal conversation that made no sense what-so-ever and was over before I realized that once again he had confused me with someone else. Following the next time Prince mistook me for someone I got an angry call from whomever he had mistaken me for demanding that I quit looking like them. I, of course, have no idea who that was or what they might look like nor how they got in touch with me but now I had even more questions for Prince.
When I first got MTV, Missing Persons “Words” was on heavy rotation and even though the videos of that era still resembled something from a high school AV club I was an immediate fan as Dale Bozzio moved, looked and sounded like she might be from another planet and I won’t deny that her trademark wardrobe choices didn’t hurt. What I didn’t realize at the time was that without Frank Zappa, Missing Persons would have never existed. Dale performed on four of Frank’s albums prior to forming Missing Persons with husband Terry Bozzio and Warren Cuccurullo, both of whom were in Zappa’s band.
When Missing Persons disbanded, Prince signed Dale to his label, Paisley Park. During this period my good friend Drew Bernstein (R.I.P.), dropped by my studio to see some photos I had shot for LipService and just happened to have Dale in tow. As the storm of pink and blonde hair wrapped in a Boston accent supported by a diminutive figure seemed to fill my studio we clicked immediately and within minutes I was photographing her bound in barbed-wire. My favorite thing about the image is the spirit in which it was made. Before the internet brought us social media and “haters” and made everyone hyper-critical of everything, it wasn’tuncommon to just connect with someone and conspire without the constraints of getting a committee of handlers and pundits involved. It was innocent, organic and spontaneous and unfortunately has gone the way of film itself. We shot 2 rolls of 120 Plus-X, I disappeared into the darkroom to process the film and after some lunch we returned to the darkroom and she left with 11×14 prints the same day that we met. She wrote the date on a print she left behind and explained that her father instilled in her to mark the date on anything of importance that will endure. The significance that a casual remark can have on one is interesting and I have been conscious to inscribe dates in countless keepsakes as a direct result.
With the release of her first solo album, Riot In English she suggested me to Paisley Park to shoot images for PR and the single. I was on a ladder leaning over Dale looking up from a bed of roses when my studio phone rang, my assistant answered it and stoically handed it to me.
“Is this the photographer?”
“This is Prince. Give me cold and hard ass.”
He hung up.
Hoping it was some sort of inside joke I asked Dale what he had meant by “cold and hard ass” and while she didn’t have a clue we both agreed that it would be in our best interests to deliver something “cold and/or hard in an ass-ish sort of way”.
Dale was an amazing talent that I came to respect the more I knew her. She was living in a great old Hollywood apartment on Fountain Avenue and we stayed in touch but never managed to determine what Prince had meant. The questions were just piling up if I ever managed to engage Prince in a casual conversation.
Along the way there have been a few false starts where I thought I might get the opportunity to work with Prince and have all of my questions answered but none came to fruition. Now sadly, Prince is gone along with the thrill of watching him obliterate every stage he would step onto and the only question that matters now is “Why?”