Maybe you were watching Late Night With Jimmy Fallon back on March 1, when Prince dropped by to play a couple of songs. If so, your jaw probably dropped when the Purple One tore through one of his oldest tunes, the blazing 1979 rocker “Bambi”, and then tossed his guitar away. Only it wasn’t his guitar. The instrument in question, a 1961 Epiphone Crestwood, was a loaner from “Captain” Kirk Douglas, a member of the Roots, the Late Night house band. Prince asked Douglas if he could borrow the Epiphone, and what do you say to an honest-to-God pop-culture icon? No?
For being a nice guy, Douglas ended up with a broken guitar. Adding a splash of irony to this already heady cocktail of misery, the guitarist later tweeted that he had been planning to play the Crestwood at a Prince tribute concert a few nights later. Oh, snap!
It was a total dick move on Prince’s part, but you know what? Prince is a total dick. What else would you call a man who, like King Canute commanding the tide to stop coming in, has been waging a one-man war on the Internet? Sure, online music theft has taken money out of the pockets of every artist from Katy Perry to Diarrhea Planet, but the hobbit-size superfreak born Prince Rogers Nelson isn’t just battling piracy, he’s locked in full-on mortal combat with the World Wide Web itself. Hell, he went so far as to hire the Web Sheriff.
That’s not a joke. There actually is a self-appointed Web Sheriff, a U.K.–based copyright-protection firm that Prince hired with the apparent intention of erasing every last trace of his existence from the Internet. In 2007, he announced that he was going to sue eBay and YouTube, citing their inability or unwillingness to stop people from posting unauthorized content. In other words, Prince doesn’t want you watching his videos on YouTube, which means, essentially, that he doesn’t want you seeing them again at all, ever. (Perhaps he is convinced MTV will start showing music videos again—which it probably will, right around the time Ford fires up its Model T assembly line and RadioShack starts stocking 8-track players.)
That same year, Prince’s suits got in touch with three fan sites, ordering them to take down images of the artist. AEG, Prince’s promoter, claimed that the only offending items were live shots from a series of concerts at London’s O2 Arena, but the fans operating the sites said they were asked to cease and desist in the use of all photos, album covers, and anything else bearing Prince’s likeness. It seems that if you want to call yourself a Prince fan, you had best be prepared to be punished for it by the man himself.
Just ask visual artist Troy Gua. For his project Le Petit Prince, the Seattleite made 10-inch models of the singer—practically life-size—and photographed them in some of his most iconic poses. It was a labour of love driven entirely by a deep admiration of Prince’s work, so naturally the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince had his lawyers fire off a cease-and-desist order.
Nor are celebrities safe from the wrath of Alexander Nevermind. Last October, Mark Foster of Foster the People was unceremoniously booted from a Prince show for daring to glance at his cellphone. You’re not allowed to take pictures of Prince, you see, because it drains the mojo from his freaky sexy love chakra. Or something like that. In any case, Foster, who said he was only reading a text, ditched the phone and begged his way back in. It’s hard to blame the guy for being contrite. Prince—who plays two shows per night at the Vogue Theatre on Monday and Tuesday (April 15 and 16)—may be one of music’s most insufferable douchenozzles, but he still puts on one hell of a performance. (Whether said performance is worth $250 per ticket is debatable.)
Oh, and then there was the time he was playing Madison Square Garden in February of 2011, when he told Kim Kardashian, “Get off the stage!” Hey, the guy may be an asshole, but sometimes he makes the right call.