Purple Rain in Prospect Park
The lyrics of “Let’s Go Crazy,” the first song played in Prince’s 1984 film Purple Rain, are meant to provide an inspirational lift: “If you don’t like/ the world you’re living in/ Take a look around you/ At least you got friends.” These lines sound particularly weighty booming from massive speakers in front of an IMAX-size screen surrounded by thousands of Prince fans in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Take a look around indeed! At least I had friends, and they were dancing, and yelling at Morris Day, and whistling cat-calls at Appolonia. Except, well, these people weren’t my friends; they were just other Prince fans. Most of them were there with their friends. I went to see Purple Rain in the park by myself.
Luckily, the Greek chorus in my immediate vicinity provided enough active commentary to keep me from crying… like a, er, dove. The older man with a cane sitting next to me (another soloist!) kept up a low grumble about the Kid’s unfair treatment at the hands of the obese owner of the First Avenue nightclub. The guys behind me provided running commentary on the status of Prince and Morris’s “swagger” (i.e. “Oh, he’s wearning the sunglasses in the club, check out that swagger now!”). And the screaming girls to my right served as a constant reminder of how misogynistic the whole movie is, from the early scene in which Morris’s flunkie throws a one-night stand into a dumpster to the infamous moment when Prince punches Appolonia in the face, seconds after she presents him with a new guitar. That last scene, in particular, was all that anyone could talk about when the movie ended–”I can’t believe Prince did that! I can’t believe she took him back after that Chris Brown shit!”
It was hard to settle back into cheering for The Kid after that scene (“I guess it was the 80s?” one of the girls in front of me reasoned), but lighters and cell phones were dutifully held aloft for the climactic rendition of “Purple Rain” and everyone danced to “Baby I’m a Star”–even the obese club owner digs that jam. People were pretty into it, including the Last Guy with a Laser Pointer in New York City, who made sure to regularly swirl a red dot around the screen to the audience’s delight. Questions abounded– why are there only three people in the Appolonia 6? Why does Prince have a giant purple motorcylce yet still live with his abusive father in the Minneapolis suburbs?– but the most important questions were answered by Wendy and Lisa during “Computer Blue”:
“Is the water warm enough?”
“Shall we begin?”