by Jim McGuinn
November 30, 2017
Robyne Robinson is a former TV news anchor and is currently the director of arts and culture at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
During her time as a news anchor, Robinson enjoyed a professional friendship with Prince. On a recent visit to The Current, Robinson spoke with Jim McGuinn, sharing some memorable stories from her time working with Prince.
Use the audio player above to hear the complete conversation, which is transcribed below.
JIM McGUINN: It's Jim McGuinn from The Current and Robyne Robinson from MSP, the Arts and Culture Director.
ROBYNE ROBINSON: Arts and Culture Director.
McGUINN: Yes, and we both have some wacky Prince stories, just from being in Minnesota in the media over the last couple of decades.
ROBINSON: It's amazing how, you know, you get that phone call from Paisley Park and it's just (sings) Ahhhhh! You're just so excited, you know, and I don't know if you did this but it was always this kind of like Goodfellas, you make the call to somebody else who says OK, we'll get them on the phone, you wait five minutes, you call another number and then there's Prince. And so you're excited any time you feel that you're on the inside, that he's giving you something really juicy that nobody else is gonna get and you wait and you wait and you think this is going to be the one that's gonna put the station on the map and BBC is gonna call and everybody from around the world, and then you get duped. (Laughs)
McGUINN: You had the honor of receiving the Vikings song from Prince.
ROBINSON: It is still painful, yes.
McGUINN: And launching that record into the stratosphere … or not.
ROBINSON: Does anybody even play that? No one plays that. I think people just kind of got really quiet on that one, you know, when you just get that silence?
McGUINN: What was it called? "Purple and Gold?"
ROBINSON: "Purple and Gold." I got a phone call from his staff that said, "Prince wants to talk to you," and it was one of those late-night phone calls that had come in. I hadn't talked to him in a while, so I was really excited to hear from him and we kind of went on a lull. You know you can't ride that Prince train all the time, and so he had gone off I think. He wasn't living in the city anymore.
McGUINN: He moved to L.A. and then came back. It was right after he came back from L.A.
ROBINSON: Right, so it was nice to hear from him and it was great to hear that he had something new and that he was excited about. And so he said that he had gone to a Vikings game, a couple Vikings games, and Prince was always associated with basketball and North High School Polars and that he was a phenomenon, and of course Dave Chappelle made him famous after that, so most people weren't checking him for football.
McGUINN: Game Blouses.
ROBINSON: Game. Blouses. There's another story behind that I'll tell you later.
ROBINSON: Yeah, it's a good one. But he calls and says, "I'm really psyched by Vikings football, it was amazing, the crowd, the sound, the game. I wrote a song, and I want you to play it." And I am just feeling like the beams of heaven have opened up on me. "Yes, Prince is giving me an original tune to play on the air, we have it first, yes! I am so psyched!" So finally it's the day, he gives us the song, and honestly it was nothing that I expected. And you're expecting this slamming bassline, funk, it's going to be amazing and people are going to be singing this the whole Super Bowl. It's going to be a jam, a massively, funky jam!
McGUINN: That was not a good song.
ROBINSON: It's awful! It's so awful.
McGUINN: And not a pump-you-up song.
ROBINSON: It is not a pump-you-up song.
McGUINN: How funny, or interesting, is now that everybody is using "Let's Go Crazy" for every goal the Wild score? It's become like a sports rock anthem.
ROBINSON: Yeah, it's a rock anthem, it's going to be like the White Stripes ["Seven Nation Army"] all around the world, and I think it's, you know, I'm so glad people are going to remember Prince for ever and ever and ever, but I really don't want them to remember "The Purple and Gold" because that was not the seminal song for Prince. But you know, he did love sports, he loved this town. He loved everything about it, and so give him an E for effort on that one. He can take an E on that one.
McGUINN: Well it was around the same time that he reached out to us at The Current when he had moved back from L.A.. He discovered us and he came to our birthday party — which was amazing — and the amazing thing he said was, I thanked him for coming and he said, "I'm here because of what you guys do for the community." He didn't know any of the artists, he came out because he knew that him showing up meant something.
ROBINSON: I'm glad you said that. Say that over and over again to those people who love Bob Dylan. I think Dylan's a genius and he's going to be remembered forever, but this man loved his community. Prince loved his community. He loved what he called "The New." And he knew he could come back home any time he wanted to and get that injection of "The New" and vibe off of it, and then create new music and invite everybody out to Paisley Park to listen to it. And so he did appreciate everything that you guys do because it's not the typical roster of music. He didn't want to hear the lineup; in fact, he called me one night because he was upset that some folks in town were using his music, and he didn't like the fact that he turned on the radio and all he heard were these pop hits that he made years ago. As you know, towards the end of his career he didn't play the full songs, he played medleys of those songs and he tired of them. He wanted to hear something new, and so that's what The Current brought for him and he liked going out and hearing all these new acts. He would pop up. That was his M.O. pretty much all the time. He would pop up in places where new music was being played. He may have heard the music on the station, and then all of a sudden he wants to come out and hear it, and he was really good about that. You would get — for my younger friends — it would be like this huge texting, tweeting Twitter freakout that Prince would show up at a show that he wanted to hear, because Gayngs were playing or because somebody was playing that he really wanted to hear but that's the sign of a man that really loved what was happening in his community and really loved being in Minnesota. He loved being a Minnesotan.
McGUINN: We had a similar experience where I got the phone call where an assistant called and said, "Is this your cell phone?" and I'm like, "Yeah, you always call my cell phone." Then another person called and said, "Is this your cell phone?" and then finally they said, "Your phone's going to ring and it's going to be a three-digit number that's untraceable." That's when you know it's Prince.
ROBINSON: And then you get nervous.
McGUINN: Yeah, yeah, but you know he gave us a couple of songs and some of them were all right, but some of them weren't that great either, and we had the honor of bringing those songs into the world and it was always a thrill. The other thing that happened with Prince that was always a thrill, but it would always freak us out, was when we would get some music from Paisley Park and they would say, "What time are you going to play this? Exactly what time?" And at that point we were like, "Oh, they're asking that question twice because that means Prince is going to be listening to the radio at that moment. And so that kind of like, you know, "I'm doing a radio show, but at any point, Prince might be listening" always kind of freaked us out.
ROBINSON: I'm going to tell you a story from Auntie Robyne's Rock and Roll Fables about Prince, and I have not admitted this ever on the air, but I'm going to do it now. So we got the opportunity after doing…
McGUINN: This is at Fox?
Robinson: This is at Fox, I had a talk show back in the late '90s, early 2000s, and [Prince] was still married to Mayte at the time. And Mayte and I had become friends through various folks in their entourage. I dated a couple of folks in his band, I will say, and so we became friends. And she told me that Prince was going to let her have a dance company that she danced to his music, and so I asked her for an interview, it happened, and it was nerve wracking because he really didn't want her to do it. I found out later that he stood up on a balcony and listened to the whole thing in a corner, and so when it came out, he liked it, but getting to that point was crazy because — like you said — he wanted to know exactly when it was going to air. And so he asked for the completed video first and I knew that if he saw it and he didn't like it, it would never make air. Because, you know, Prince was litigious; if he didn't like things he was going to sue you. So this is going through my head the whole time: "Prince is going to see this and what if he doesn't like it? I don't have a show and my bosses are going to kill me because they can't fill an hour of nothing." So I lied to Prince. They kept calling and his assistant said, "You know we'd like a copy of the video." And I said, "It's not there? Oh, we sent it by courier! I'm going to have to call the courier because I just have no idea where it could be. I'm sorry! It's not there yet?" And I think I did it three times. "You know what, that's it, we are not using this courier service again. We are not going to use it." I just couldn't let them have that video.
McGUINN: Sorry, it's gotta air right now.
ROBINSON: And I just waited, and it went on the air, and they liked it and thank goodness, and that's how I got my first interview with him.
McGUINN: That's awesome.
ROBINSON: Yeah, so I lied to Prince. There you go.
Prince gets silly while shooting a television promo with Robyne Robinson in the late 1990s:
McGUINN: We did a thing one time. Where we were trying to think of something fun and playful, right? And we got on this idea that when it snowed an inch at Paisley Park, we would launch a Prince A to Z on our Local Current Stream. And we sort of sent the idea past Paisley Park not knowing what they would think, and it turns out he loved it. He thought it was really fun. So we ran with it and we had this promo, "When is it going to snow? As soon as it snows, we're going to go all Prince on Local Current."
I ended up doing the voice work for that A to Z, leading the listeners through it. So finally it snowed and it was like Dec. 1, 2015, or whatever, and we started running the A to Z and Prince was listening and he started tweeting about it, which was mind blowing. "Oh my god, Prince mentioned me in a tweet!" But we had told them, well. we are going to air it twice, we are going to do it and then we are going to do it again. And we're on the next-to-last song and it's like, "Prince doesn't want you to do it twice. "
ROBINSON: (Gasps) What do you do? We have to have programing!
McGUINN: It's all programmed! A he was like, "Please don't do it twice if you want to maintain a relationship, a friendship."
ROBINSON: And you have to worry about that!
McGUINN: And we were worried about it! So we were like "All right, we'll stop, after we announced that we were going to do it twice." So we had to stop and then pull it and I think the fans understood because we were like, "Well, we decided, we were encouraged not to do this a second time ." They immediately knew, "Oh that was Prince, wasn't it?" He endorsed it, but you know he was like, "That was cool, but it was enough." I totally respected that. I get that, that's fine. I wish he would have said that a few hours earlier, but I get it.
ROBINSON: There was a night I told him I didn't like his latest album.
McGUINN: Ooh, how did that go?
ROBINSON: He took it pretty well.
ROBINSON: Well, you don't set yourself up for it. He invites us out to Paisley Park. He had just come down to The Depot when J.G. Everest was with The Sensational Joint Chiefs and they did this Freeloaded Wednesday where all the artists in the Twin Cities would get together and jam on Wednesdays, and it was DJ Jesus Juice and a bunch of other people that were down there. And I had talked to his attorney Londell McMillan and he said, "So what are you doing tonight?" "I'm going down to the Depot." and he goes, "Well we're going to South Beach," when that was still in existence, and I said, "Nobody goes to South Beach, everybody goes to Freeloaded Wednesdays." And he was like "What's that" and I told him.
So we're sitting in the club and all of a sudden this big stretch limo pulls up. And so Prince jumps out, comes in, listens to the music and then gets up on stage and jams with everybody and then says, "Tell her to come to Paisley Park." So I go out to Paisley Park. We're sitting around and he was playing "Emancipation" and he goes, "So you listening to any good music right now?" And I go, "Yeah I'm listening to some really great music right now. The Twin Cities is blowing up with great music!"
And he said, "So what would you say is your favorite album?" "Brother Sun Sister Moon, [The Great Game] [who are] Paul Robb of Information Society and Barbara Cohen."
And so he said, "Would you say that's the best album you've heard all year?" hoping that I would say, "No, it's Emancipation, Prince!"
And I said, "Yeah, I think it's better than anything else that's out there right now."
The room got silent, and he said, "You got a copy of that?"
I said, "Yeah." So I go out to my car, I get the CD and so, here's how stupid I am — and I did this to him twice. You think I'd learn. Just as I'm getting ready to put it in his hand and he has it, the momentary thought that came to me was, "He's rich! This cost me 14 bucks!" And so I pulled it back out of his hand and said, "No, you can't have it, I'll let you listen to it."
And then I handed it to him and he just blinked at me and went, "OK," and then he listened to it and he came back and said, "Thanks." And that was it, and he gave it back.
He asked to borrow some sunglasses of mine just before he went out on stage, and they're little purple, round sunglasses that I wore to his concert and he's like, "Can I wear your glasses?" And I said, "OK", and as I took them off, I said to myself, "Now wait a minute, these glasses cost you $200! He's rich!" And just as he had them in his hand I snatched them right back out and said, "You're going to spin and they're going to fly out into the crowd, and now some girl has my glasses. So no." And he just went, "OK," and that was it. I said a lot of stupid stuff to Prince that I shouldn't have said.
McGUINN: Well, maybe that's why you got to say things to Prince as you were…
ROBINSON: He was cool with me. It was fine.
McGUINN: You told him the truth.
ROBINSON: I told him the truth! And he liked the truth, so there you go. I didn't tell him the truth about that Vikings song, though. That was awful, that was awful.
McGUINN: It is Robyne Robinson and Jim McGuinn here , talking Prince. I was going to say wacky, but it was more like incredible experiences
ROBINSON: Incredible human experiences that you have with Prince.
McGUINN: Yeah, yeah, because if there's one thing that we've learned that we were, both of us were fortunate to learn in his life, but also I think the world has learned even more since he passed as more and more stories come out is just how human Prince was.
ROBINSON: He was very human. I think I cried when I went online and saw those last pictures of him riding his bike around. Because that was Prince. He rode his bike around. Showed up at clubs. Ran out for macaroni and cheese and wrecked the car. That was Prince.
McGUINN: It is Robyne Robinson and Jim McGuinn and you're listening to The Current.
Produced by Luke Taylor
Transcribed by Simone Cazares
Prince - official website