Two or three days before I left San Francisco, I went to a Purple Rain sing-a-long at the Roxie. That's a theatre right at the corner of 16th & Mission. There was a certain bittersweetness to it, as I had plans to go see it with my girlfriend. She broke up with me two weeks before. Sad. But, nothing would prevent me from seeing this movie in front of an audience.
I'm a huge Prince fan. Nobody in music has such a combination of talent, work ethic, and pure swagger. This is a guy who wanted to hook up with Susannah Hoffs, so he just gave The Bangles "Manic Monday." He had so much swag he was using hit singles for booty calls. I did not get into him through Purple Rain. My entryway was Diamonds and Pearls, the best of his New Power Generation albums. From there, I had a whole backlog of records to listen to and movies to watch. His breakthrough film Purple Rain is pretty much a perfect movie. I genuinely believe this. Starring Prince and his entourage, directed by his agent or whoever, there was no reason for the film to be as good as it was. Nevertheless, they ended up making a movie that not only integrated his songs to perfection, but had heart, humor, dramatic weight, and captured a time and place. From the moment Prince starts "Let's Go Crazy" and the camera cuts between all the glitter-faced New Wavers, I am thoroughly in this world of glamor and music. I stay invested for the whole 90 minutes, caught up in the young musician's battle with his demons.
I'm not going to write an essay on the film. One day I will, and it will be very long, and I'll post it on this blog. Let's talk about the experience. It was a membership drive for the Roxie, because I guess the economy's hitting them hard. The young girl who organized it told a story about how her mom had cancer, and it looked like she wouldn't make it, then they went to a Purple Rain sing-a-long in Arizona and mom got better, so we should buy memberships (the guy behind me cynically dubbed this the "cancer guilt trip"). Afterwards there was a costume contest. I gotta give props to the two young men who dressed like Prince and Morris. I think they were brothers. They put love into it and it showed. The Prince guy got a membership. The runners-up got...
Okay. There are some signs that you might have lived in San Francisco too long. That the culture has just seeped into you so totally that you lose sight of reality. These two ridiculous hipsters in velour tuxedos come onstage. Apparently, they run a company that delivers organic poop to people. Duck poop. Goat poop. That kinda thing. I remember the name of their store but I don't feel like giving them publicity. I'm pretty sure they were friends with the girl who organized, who thought it was so funny and charming to give a tupperware container full of animal shit to her runners-up. I'm not going to say "only in San Francisco." I say: only in the Mission. Because, you see, sending people poop is ironic, and being able to say that you genuinely run a poop delivery service will surely get laughs as you drink Pabst at the next 80s dance party. Yeah, I can see how it's a joke and I'm sure there are people who use their services to play good-natured pranks on friends, but, girl, do not reward somebody for entering your constume contest by handing them a pile of shit. I mean...fuck. Anywhere other than the Mission, people actually consider that disrespectful. Anyway, that whole thing put me in an awful mood.
Then the movie started and I was good as gold. Again, not talking about the movie. Just the experience. That lady behind who knew the film beat for beat and would call everything out a few seconds before it happened: "Wendy got her period reversed!" "Get your puppet, Prince!" Ohhh, that ain't Lake Minnetanka!" "Ooh, he mad now!" Singing and dancing along with other human beings to Dez Dickerson and the Modernaires. Yelling along with The Time as they make fun of the Revolution. "Lets gey cray-zaaaaaay! Let's get nuuuuuuuuts!" Watching folks dance in the aisles. Realizing that I do, in fact, know the words to every single song, to the point that I could correct the lyrics playing at the bottom of the screen. Shrieking my head off during that part in "Darling Nikki" where Prince stops speaking English and starts screaming and humping the stage. The deafening chorus of boos every time a woman gets smacked around. It's interesting: I've watched that movie so many times, and all the domestic abuse never registered for me. I know it's a horrible thing, but it's a whole other thing listening to a couple dozen people in the back scream at Prince to knock his dad's head off, and cheering when Appolonia throws Prince's earring back at him. And yeah, there were some idiots who thought the abuse stuff was funny, and other audience members would tell them to settle down, and there's just this electricity of people interacting with the movie and each other. Then we get to the triumphant climax of "Baby, I'm A Star," and I just lose my shit.
Every time I watch Purple Rain I find something new. Latest revelation: there's mad sexual chemistry between Prince and Jerome. It's palpable. I'm sure all sorts of queer theory has been written on this movie, and I want to add some more to it one day. Maybe a hundred-page paper about representations of masculinity versus femininity in the Reagan Era.
God, I love this movie so much. A perfect way to finish my time in the Bay.
To be around you is so alright
You're sheer perfection
Drive me crazy, drive me all night
Just to wake up your connection
Don't care where we go
I don't care what we do
Don't care, pretty baby
Just take me with you