This is the first in what might or might not ever be a series of "Alumni Brushes with Greatness" essays that might nor might not always include brushes with greatness. If you are a McCallie alumnus with a story to tell, contact [email protected].
Probably the best time I ever had at Prince’s compound eating pancakes and listening to him jam at 4:00 a.m. was the one time back in 2013 where I went out to Paisley Park, ate pancakes, and listened to him jam. It was also the only time I went out to Prince’s, ate pancakes, and listened to him jam. Also, we were wearing pajamas. Here’s how it went down.
Since 2009 I have had one toe in the world of academia, as both an instructor of sustainable real estate development at the Tulane School of Architecture and as a Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. The other 9 toes are firmly planted in the glamorous world of rehabilitating old buildings and improving the built environment. I am a practicing real estate developer.
But once a year Loeb Fellows gather in a US or Canadian city to explore and learn about what works and doesn’t work in that city. We talk about affordable housing, planning, non-profits, the artist formerly known as Prince, transportation, wealth distribution, etc. In 2013 we found ourselves in Minneapolis. It was there that I got this invitation:
“Want to cab it out to the suburbs at 3:00 a.m.? Prince is having a pajama party at his compound. He is serving pancakes but we have to wear pajamas.” Uh, yeah.
Some Minneapolis friends told us that this is something Prince does every few years for his fans and we should definitely do it. No alcohol is allowed and it is in the middle of the night because it keeps the numbers down and also because, you know, he’s Prince. They said that the risk is that he sometimes doesn’t show up. We went and bought jammies at Target. I decided to go with a comfortable yet stylish owl motif.
Three of us committed to go. Being the die hard partiers that we are we decided to go to sleep and set our alarms for 2:45 a.m. at which point we would take a cab out to Prince’s. When the alarms went off one of our three bailed and it was only me and a woman I had met the previous afternoon. It was a long cab ride. Prince’s Paisley Park compound is way, way out there. When we arrived we got in line with about 300 other lucky fans and soon enough they let us into a warehouse on the compound where Prince’s people would serve pancakes and His Purpleness (we hoped) would play. Quite a few women at the show decided to wear lingerie as their pajamas. I was glad I went with the owl jammies I had purchased at Target earlier that evening.
There were no chairs or anything and it was about 3:30 a.m. so I kind of laid down on the floor next to my new friend and we chatted about our families, the built environment, affordable housing, Minneapolis, and how amazingly weird it was that we were in our jammies on the floor at Paisley Park waiting for Prince while lingerie girls next to us ate pancakes.
At 3:30 a.m. they played his new video three times in a row and then his all female band started playing. The new video featured a woman dressed up as Prince so there was a rumor that the “Prince” we were about to hear was this woman and not the artist formerly known as that male female combo sign thing.
After five minutes of funky grooves this tiny, slight little thing emerges from side stage, back to the crowd, and starts playing. Was it that lady? Was it Prince? Had I schlepped to the suburbs in the middle of the night just to eat pancakes and hear a cover band?
No. The band hit a beat and the Artist spun around and it was him. Boom. That pajama and lingerie wearing, pancake eating, Prince loving crowd went nuts. Insane. Prince then proceeded to Tear. It. Up. He destroyed. Never in my life have I seen such raw talent packed into such a tiny little man. Good God was he funky. Old stuff. New Stuff. He played it all. Two sets. At one point I seriously considered a leave of absence from work so I could follow him on tour.
For me the news of Prince’s passing came in the form of a text from the friend who had chosen to sleep instead of get up and go see Prince. “Dude, did you hear? Prince is gone. I can’t believe I didn’t go.” “Way to go,” I said. “Now you’ll never get to see him. Because he’s dead.”
But I saw him. And it was exquisite. RIP Prince. RIP.
Neal Morris ‘90 is a real estate developer in New Orleans, LA. He received his B.A., M.B.A., and J.D. degrees from Tulane University. He is a Loeb Fellow at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Neal has taught in the Masters of Sustainable Real Estate Development program at the Tulane University School of Architecture. His firm, Redmellon Restoration and Development is a mission-driven company that focuses on urban rehabilitation and affordable housing. His Iberville Offsite Rehab project was the recipient of the 2014 HUD Secretary’s Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and was the Congress of New Urbanism’s 2015 Global Grand Prize Winner for Excellence in Urban Design. He is currently developing projects in Louisiana and New Jersey. He lectures on affordable housing and preservation to anyone who will listen and often to those who won't. He has a wife and three children. In his spare time he surfs the internet and avoids calls from Tom Williams, '90.