Chaka Khan, Gwen Stefani, and Eddie Murphy Recall Hanging Out with Prince

5 minute read

In a comprehensive new roundup of recollections of Prince, GQ has compiled memories from over a dozen of the beloved artist’s closest friends, mentors, collaborators, and compatriots. From his childhood idol Chaka Khan to proteges Gwen Stefani and Carmen Electra, their stories, and those of others like Princess Gloria Von Thurn, peel back the layers on one of the most enigmatic musical personalities of our era.

Here are a few fascinating tidbits on the man—and the legend—as explained by those who knew him:

On tricking Chaka Khan into meeting him: Prince called up Khan and pretended to be another of her friends, Sly Stone, convincing her to head to the studio. Khan said of the experience: “Finally I found this short little guy in this one studio with a guitar. I asked, ‘Where’s Sly?’ He said, ‘That was me.’ I said, ‘Who are you?’ He was just everyday about it. I wanted to strangle him. I said, ‘Okay, nice meeting you,’ and I left. So that’s how we met.” [GQ]

On his perfectionism: “The most fascinating thing to witness was Prince as a control freak. Everything was directed by him—literally, everything: the stage design, the clothes—nothing was left to chance,” Princess Gloria Von Thurn und Taxis said of a show in the mid-80s where she encoutered the star. [Vanity Fair]

On easily beating Van Jones at ping-pong: “At Paisley [Park], the ping-pong table’s right outside the studio. So it’s kind of back and forth between recording, destroying somebody in Ping-Pong, go back to recording. Oh my God, it was embarrassing. To the point that he wouldn’t even play me, he was just so disgusted with my inability to play. One time, he wouldn’t even move—he’d stand in one spot, and his arms were not that long and I’m six feet two. Talking cr-p the whole time. He’s like the worst trash-talker,” said Van Jones. [GQ]

On cooking for his guest Misty Copeland: It would seem Prince wasn’t a big eater. “I was always starving around him,” said backup vocalist Jill Jones—he was known for making a mean scrambled egg. His secret? “He liked to use a lot of seasoning,” according to Misty Copeland. “They were excellent.” [GQ]

And on serving pancakes to Eddie Murphy and his brother, Charlie: “They were good, man. They were really good. They were actually perfect,” Murphy said. “They were as good as he played guitar.” [Review Journal]

On giving Gwen Stefani the confidence to think bigger: The No Doubt star shares the story of going out with Prince in a limo and hearing a popular Jennifer Lopez song come on, at which point Prince told her: “That’s your competition.” Stefani was shocked. “Like, that was a completely different planet of music, compared to what I was doing at that time with No Doubt. I thought that was interesting, that he saw some kind of parallel between us,” she explained. “He said to me, ‘Have you ever tried to write a hit? Why wouldn’t you just try to?’ I was, like, ‘Okay.…’ It was something that never really dawned on me… And I think when he said that it just kind of resonated with me.” [GQ]

On his eccentric home decor preferences: “Supposedly, Prince changed the front gate [of a rental property] to the Prince sign, he changed the master bedroom to a hair salon, he changed the streaming blue waters that led to the front door to purple water, he knocked out walls, he changed the molding on top of the ceiling,” recalled basketball player Jay Williams. [ESPN News]

On his restless energy while with Carmen Electra: “He never slept—he couldn’t sleep,” said Carmen Electra, whom Prince discovered and primed as a star (and who dated him as well). “I would wake up alone: Where’d he go? And his housekeeper said, ‘He’s in the studio.’ Or he would leave the sweetest little notes on the stairs that would say: ‘Had to work! Couldn’t sleep. Come see me.'” [GQ]

On his generous default tipping policy: Prince always wore full-on outfits, whether to play basketball or go to the club. “Even when he was dressed down, he’d dress like Prince,” explained one of his engineers—and that meant he didn’t have pockets. The result? “He just had cash he’d carry in his hand—like, a $100 bill,” said Morris Hayes, his keyboardist. “And whoever took his order [at the coffee shop], they’d have a good day, ’cause he’d buy his coffee drink and then just leave the whole hundred. He doesn’t wait for any change because he doesn’t have anywhere to put it.” [GQ]

Read all the recollections at GQ

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