Saturday, April 20, 2024

Flashback 2007: When Prince Played the Hamptons for $1500 a Head for Leo, Bon Jovi, the Sopranos


flashback from July 2007

Quick: What do Prince, the diminutive fireball of funk, and Lou Grant, Mary Tyler Moore’s former fictitious boss, have in common?

The answer: Neither of them likes guests to see them at their own parties.

On Saturday night in the Hamptons, after Prince performed a spectacular two-hour set at $3,000 a pop, the purple star was supposed to hold court in a private room at a club called Flirt.

He arrived ahead of most of the guests, but when he saw that there were already a few people in the private room, Prince retreated to his limo. And there he stayed, in the parking lot, while guests piled up outside the consequently locked door.

The episode recalled the time Mary threw Mr. Grant a surprise birthday party at her apartment, but Lou wouldn’t let any of the guests — all his friends — into the room.

Mary would say, “Mr. Grant, How about Murray? He’s nice. You like Murray.” Murray entered. Then Mary would say, “What about Rhoda? You’ve always liked Rhoda.” And so on.

Eventually Mr. Grant’s friends entered Mary’s apartment. But for Prince, the party never happened. He sat in the parking lot.

The guests drifted to Dune, a nearby club owned by Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss, who helped put on the big outdoor Prince show for 1,000 people on a field owned by the very private Ross School.

Guests were heard singing, “Someday my prince will come.” He did not.

No one ever had the chance to say to Prince: “How about Leonardo DiCaprio? He’s been nominated for the Oscar.” Or: “What about your lawyer, Londell McMillan? You like him.” Or: ”Jon Bon Jovi took a helicopter here to see you. Why don’t we let him in?” Or even: “Many of these people paid $3,000 a head to see you tonight and you didn’t even play ‘Raspberry Beret.’”

The fact that Prince is from Minneapolis and that’s where Mary and her friends lived on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” is just a coincidence, I am told.

Hamptons Get Funky, for a Price

So anyway: A promotion group called Social, along with pop-producing star Nile Rodgers and record industry vet Michael Ostin, put on the first of five swinging rock concerts and fancy dinners on Saturday night in East Hampton.

The tickets are $3,000, or $15,000 for the series of five. The other acts on their way in successive weeks are Dave Matthews, Billy Joel, James Taylor and Tom Petty.

Every weekend a different famous restaurant or chef will cater the meal. There is seating for 1,000. On Saturday, Jeffrey Zakarian of Town did a delicious meal of pan-Asian food. There were also “Pop Burgers” and jelly beans from Dylan’s Candy Corner.

The Social-ites have cleared a field behind the Ross School near the East Hampton airport and erected a state-of-the-art concert shed and catering hall. It’s sort of Tanglewood on the Go.

The setting is simple and dramatic. As long as there’s no rain, the Socials have a major hit on their hands. And even if they do, part of the seating is under a matching shed.

Enter into this all the celebs. PR funk mistress Lizzie Grubman is back, and in fine form. She herded the aforementioned Leo, Bon Jovi and dozens more through the buffet and onto the field into their seats.

We spotted Christie Brinkley with her brother and son; Kelsey and Camille Grammer; Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos; L.A. Reid and wife, Erica; Edie Falco and Aida Turturro from “The Sopranos”; Jay-Z; mega-guys Ron Burkle and Steve Bing; Anjelica Huston; Lorne Michaels; “Saturday Night Live” producer Marci Klein and so on.

And there were ironies galore. Because Prince was once a Warner Records artist, the legendary Mo Ostin arrived and sat with Courtney Ross. When Prince and Ostin were with Warners, it was owned by the Courtney’s equally legendary husband, Steve Ross. So Mo and Courtney sat together and reminisced about their golden era.

After a while, the pair was greeted by Edgar Bronfman Jr., the man who now owns and has summarily destroyed Warner Music. Still, it was Saturday night, and everyone was in a happy mood.

Lyor Cohen sat with his former Island/DefJam buddies and Kevin Liles on the opposite side of the shed.

Everything was in balance. Mo Ostin and his crowd — Lenny Waronker, Russ Titelman, Tommy LiPuma — left a huge legacy of artists now dispersed through the business from Jimi Hendrix and Fleetwood Mac to Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor and Neil Young.

Last year, WMG released Paris Hilton’s debut album. Their stock price hovers around $14.

Mo Ostin does not take credit for signing Prince, by the way.

“A guy in Minneapolis found him,” Mo told me. “There was a fierce competition. Columbia wanted him. Lots of people. But we convinced him we had the mechanism to make him a star.”

Ostin was also there when Prince started writing “Slave” on his face and tried to get off the label.

“That was bad,” he said, wincing.

Prince Wakes Up the ‘Sleepy Rich Folks’

About three songs into Prince’s Hamptons show Saturday night, he said something about waking up “the sleepy rich folks in the front.”

That’s when he invited the mostly white audience onto the stage and launched into a version of “Play That Funky Music, White Boy.” He let a tall young stranger grab the mike and sing his own version of the lyrics. The crowd cheered.

You can imagine what Prince thought of a crowd that would pay him $3,000 a head.

“I don’t have any hits!” he cried at one point, and tried to prove it by keeping the show as obscure as possible.

He started it with a New Orleans jazz version of “Down by the Riverside” followed by a slow blues number called “Satisfied” from his new and unreleased album.

In fact, Prince did his best to keep the audience guessing. In two hours, the only recognizable numbers were “Cream (Get on Top),” “U Got the Look,” “Controversy,” “Kiss,” “Take Me With U,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Purple Rain” and “I Feel 4 U.”

According to a set list, which was titled — ominously — “Jazz Set @ the Hamptons” — Prince scheduled but skipped “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Come2Gether” (The Beatles?).

There were some long, unexplained digressions and curious jams on less well-known numbers. (The jams are wild, imaginative Hendrix-Sly Stone-James Brown exercises.)

A gifted backup singer named Shelby Johnson turns “I Feel 4 U” into her own number; another, Marva King, is equally powerful. There is also a pair of flexible dancing twins to give the show a James Brown effect. After the show, the other players referred to them as “the twins.”

Prince gets the most pleasure, it seems, not just from the funk, but from doing his best Stylistics/Russell Thompkins Jr. falsetto. Hence, “If I Was Ur Girlfriend” and a couple of other numbers brought him to the fore.

I was surprised he didn’t just sing “Betcha by Golly Wow” and get it over with. He shined on “Take Me With U,” the most cohesive pop number of the night, and made the most of getting the audience to sing for him on “Kiss.”

Is he odd? Oh yes, Prince is odd. Geniuses can be that way.

There is so much going on during his shows, it’s hard to take it all in. He has given “eclectic” new meaning. When you can do anything, and you’ve done it, there’s nowhere else to go.

A few more hits might have been nice, but why indulge an audience? Why not make them work a little bit?

During a short stretch around “Kiss,” it was worth seeing Kelly Ripa and Christie Brinkley move up to the front and get their grooves on.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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