Neal Karlen Helped Prince Fill a Paisley Park Time Capsule

Author dishes with Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist C.J.

Fascinating interview this weekend in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Columnist C.J., for her latest chat with Neal Karlen, got the writer and area native (pictured) to share a number of Prince stories.

It’s well known that Karlen interviewed Prince several times for Rolling Stone. Less well known are the facts that he has written a rock opera with the versatile star and also worked with Prince on materials now sitting inside a Paisley Park time capsule:

“I made sure he paid me [for the capsule work], which he’s famous for not doing, so I had an excuse not to write about him again. I was working on a rock opera with him, the libretto. I could have made a living off him. I’ve had so many opportunities to write biographies of him, but I don’t want to. That’s why I can write all this stuff about Prince.”

“He flew me to Los Angeles, put me up in a room, an expensive thing. He wanted to explain in his words why he was changing his name to that symbol. I had a Mercedes-Benz while I was waiting. I didn’t know what it was, he wanted me to write something. Meanwhile, my then-wife was freaking out over unrelated stuff. I sat there waiting in the hotel room for three days and finally it was, “I have got get home to Minneapolis. My life is falling apart.” Within five minutes I get a call that he’ll pick me up.”

“He then had a mansion in L.A., I don’t know if he still does. He just played pool and explained how the old Prince was dead and this was the new person. He didn’t look up once. I remember he spoke in perfect paragraphs and I realize the guy knows what he is doing. I was doing a book on Warner Bros. at the time and he knew every angle of the business and the journalism business, too. I think people don’t realize how smart business-wise he is. Everyone gravitates to him. I had to gravitate away or I would never be taken for anything but his Bobo, which I never was. What he liked is that I would write not nasty stuff but not we-are-not-worthy, at least it was honest [articles].”

Karlen puts Prince at the top when asked by C.J. to name the “five most memorable Minnesota personalities” and has some interesting plans for the mementos he has gathered over the years from the musical and entrepreneurial genius. Read the full article, which includes a 6-minute video interview excerpt, here.

Update (April 16):
In the wake of Prince’s April 15 emergency plane landing in Illinois and hospital visit, C.J. has posted Part 2 of her interview with Karlen. It’s titled “Writing a Book With Prince Would Be a ‘Nightmare Job,’ Neal Karlen Says.”

Previously on FishbowlNY:
Lucky Group of NABJ Journalists Huddle With Prince
Prince Wins… Again

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