Coming of age in Minneapolis in the 1980s, Anitra Davis, like many of her peers, counted local musical-prodigy-made-good Prince Rogers Nelson as her very favorite artist. Also like many of her peers, Davis could boast of some personal but tangential connections to Prince; her mother worked at the Capri Theater, where Prince first performed songs from his debut album “For You,” and Davis grew up just three blocks from where Prince and future bandmate André Cymone began their musical careers.
In 2014, Davis, a financial analyst by day, moved from Minneapolis to Thousand Oaks. Though she loved the Southern California weather, she struggled to meet people in her new West Coast home. When Prince died April 21, 2016, from an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl, she felt especially alone in her Minnesotan mourning. To relieve that pain and expand her social circle, Davis, now 46, founded Prince Army Los Angeles (PALA), a Facebook group connecting local Prince fans. An L.A.-based Prince fan group known as The BumpSquad had been in existence since 2000, but as a former Minneapolitan, Davis felt compelled to represent her hometown hero in her adopted city.
PALA and The BumpSquad, both of which are still going strong (disclosure: I participate in both groups), demonstrate how much L.A. loves Prince, but the Purple One also had a soft spot for L.A. For several years, Prince had a palatial mansion in the Hollywood Hills where he would throw his legendary “3121″ parties and entertain a wide array of celebrity friends including Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell. Prior to the “3121″ party era, Prince famously gave that same house a purple makeover that upset the previous tenant, NBA star Carlos Boozer. Prince performed many memorable concerts in town throughout his long and varied career. His final L.A. appearances in 2011 included an epic 21-show residency at the Forum, alongside Troubadour and House of Blues concerts.
On the fifth anniversary of Prince’s death, we asked fans from Prince Army Los Angeles and The BumpSquad to share their favorite memories of The Purple One.
Stefanie Johnson (PALA): For my first Prince concert, I begged my mother to use her car to drive to the show. She thought it was up the street at the Forum, but it was actually in a cornfield about 50 miles away from our house. When he walked on that stage in his Speedo, thigh highs and trench coat, I was exploding with excitement. He threw out his guitar pick, which I quickly grabbed. He also threw out his gum and I grabbed that too. When I got home the next morning, my mother’s car was covered in mud and dirt. I got grounded for using her car and couldn’t go anywhere for the next month. Was it worth it? Yep!
Hope Allen (PALA, BumpSquad): “DMSR” (from 1982’s “1999″ album) came on randomly one day. This time I actually listened to the words. Prince made me feel proud of my sexual identity. Previously, I was made to feel like I should hide my feelings. Prince was just as proud of his sexuality as he was about God. He told me that my emotions were OK. From then on, I became a better person because of him.
Pej Alaghamandan (PALA, BumpSquad): Tupac was at Prince’s Glam Slam club one night in 1994. We were hanging out near the dance floor by the bar. Prince started rapping a new song of his called “Now.” Tupac looked at me and said straight up, “Can you believe Prince is trying to rap right now?”
Erin Tripp (PALA, BumpSquad): A friend of a friend introduced me to Prince, which led to me being his personal chef. I was intimidated and excited at the same time to be cooking for him. I was always shocked at his low voice. He was pescatarian to start with, fish once a week, then mainly vegetarian, and finally borderline vegan near the end of his stay in L.A. Many nights, it was just Prince and myself in his 30,000-square-foot mansion.
Jeremiah Freed, a.k.a. “Dr. Funkenberry” (PALA, BumpSquad): I was helping Prince out behind the scenes but my role was growing, so in 2008 I created the online alias of Dr. Funkenberry. I would do things for him online like debut new music and tour dates, or host a podcast where he would have me interview artists and fans. I got to attend parties at his house, and sometimes hear brand new songs before anyone else. Once, in July 2013, Prince wanted to play me some new music he’d recorded. He pulled up at Paisley Park in his Cadillac he called “Miles Davis” because of how black the car was. It had purple symbol floor mats and everything. Now, I was a full foot taller than Prince. I tried to put the passenger seat back as far as it could. Prince thought it could go further back. Nope. I got in. My knees were on the dash while he was playing the music. Being a friend to Prince and a personal conduit between him and his fans was incredibly special. I’m forever grateful he chose me.
Chris Gleim (PALA, BumpSquad): I was so excited to see him perform on “The Tonight Show” in 1998 that I camped out on the sidewalk overnight. During the performance, Prince’s backup singer, Marva King, came over and pulled me out of the crowd and we began to dance. The next thing I knew, Prince came walking up to us, singing. He ended up standing in front of me and in that brief moment, I was living a dream. Even now, other fans will ask “Aren’t you the guy in the red shirt on Leno?”
Krystina Paraiso (PALA, BumpSquad): During a May 2001 show at the Palladium, during an encore, Prince was standing at the edge of stage left, and everyone to my right was suddenly pushing and clamoring to grab him. Knowing that he doesn’t like to be pawed or grabbed, I put my hand up in the air, as if to “high five” him. He took my hand and squeezed. In response, I squeezed back and, respectfully, I let go. But he didn’t. He held on! Prince held my hand a breath longer than I expected. I still can’t recall what song he was singing or what he was wearing. But I do remember being awestruck at how soft his hands were.
Eric Greene (PALA, BumpSquad): Before a late-night show at the House of Blues in 2004, I was working my way towards the front. As I got closer, I realized that the person onstage was not a roadie or an instrument tech. It was Prince, personally checking the mikes and the electrical connections on every instrument. Right there, I was seeing the complete command and commitment that had driven his career. It was deeply inspirational.
Lena Albright (PALA): At a 2004 concert in Bakersfield, the security guard ushered me and my friends onto the stage mid-show. We purposely did not go straight to Prince, but gave him his space and danced on our own. As I danced, Prince approached me with his gun mike as he sang “Kiss.” He held the mike in my direction as I sang “act your age not your shoe size.” I then noticed guitar picks all over the stage that were white with “Prince” written in purple. I kneeled down to pick one up as he watched me, mouthed “Can I have this?” at Prince, and he nodded yes. I then motioned with my finger to hold his attention and turned around to reveal my Love Symbol tattoo on my lower back. He stood there wide-eyed.
Angela Lesaca (PALA, BumpSquad): I ended up seeing Prince about 176 times and loved every show. Small shows felt much more intimate, though. Watching Prince up close was the most joyful feeling ever. You could see how his band members watched his every move because they never knew what song Prince wanted to play next.
Tamiko Umoren (BumpSquad): I saw Prince at least 200 times on tours, at after-shows, private parties, TV appearances, etc. Through the years I spoke with him numerous times. One time, I went to shake his hand and said, “I’m Tamiko.” He kind of smirked and gave me a look, like, “I know who you are.” I felt the love right there, up close and personal. I hope he knew how much we loved him.