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PURPLE RAIN and First Ave's Reign
by Denise DuVernay

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For some reason, July 27 is a special day. In 2007, THE SIMPSONS MOVIE was released on that day. In 1984, the film PURPLE RAIN was released on that day. And sometime in the 1970s, I was born on that day.
Back in the day, I loved Michael Jackson, Madonna and, of course, Prince. Friends and I would have long discussions about who we liked better. (For some reason, we suburban white kids grouped Michael and Prince together simply because they were black, and it didn't occur to us that we didn't have to choose.) Although PURPLE RAIN was mostly filmed a few miles from my home, I wasn't allowed to see it because it was rated R.

But just because the movie was forbidden didn't mean the album was off limits. Oh, the songs: "Let's Go Crazy" at middle school dances, slow dances to "Purple Rain" and the controversy of "Darling Nikki." ("'Masturbating with a magazine'?" I wondered what that meant for maybe a full year until a magical day when a light bulb went on over my head.) These songs were a huge part of my childhood and on till today; these songs get regular play on my iPod.

Finally seeing PURPLE RAIN was magnificent – I rented it from the local video store/tanning salon when I was in high school – and I have since realized how ahead of its time the film really was. While the blending of
Apollonia Kotero

Apollonia Kotero
music with the action was nothing new, the way PURPLE RAIN does it is refreshing. The characters discuss and perform the music; they don't burst into song as characters do in musicals. The merging of reality and fiction was at first confusing yet intriguing. I didn't know what to believe. Was Prince "The Kid"? Did he really have an abusive father, whose hateful traits he didn't want to emulate? The main characters used their actual first names, but, I have since decided, the stories were concocted. While Prince's character was simply called "The Kid," the members of the Revolution used their real names. Apollonia used hers (kind of—her name is Patricia Apollonia Kotero). Minneapolis is Minneapolis, unlike how Gotham City is clearly Chicago.

I don't have to tell anyone in the music business or anyone who's lived around Minneapolis about the mystique of First Avenue. Fame and fortune isn't a sure bet after playing First Ave, but, many acts will attest, it won't hurt. The building, previously the city's Greyhound station, hasn't been dressed up. Ever. The iconic stars painted on the exterior display the names of the musical acts who've played at the venue and tell a piece of the place's history. Local boys like Prince, The Replacements, and Hϋsker Dϋ have stars alongside big names
Can you see the stars?

Can you see the stars?
like The Melvins, Nirvana, The Pixies, and the Sugarcubes, who played First Ave as relative nobodies. In fact, I had a ritual during my college years in which I would kiss my left hand and leap to give The Cure's star a little love slap each time I walked by. I never saw The Cure at First Ave—by the time I was old enough to see a show, they were big enough to play Met Center.

Inevitably, the area has changed. The city has ameliorated around it. The club is no longer surrounded by hourly rate motels and strip clubs. Now it's next to the Target Center, shiny new hotels and a Hard Rock Café. But the building at the intersection of First Avenue and 7th Street looks the same, and if you drive by, you can imagine that the Minneapolis of today is the same city that "The Kid" and Morris Day rivaled over gigs and Apollonia.

In the event of this anniversary, I urge you to see PURPLE RAIN, especially if you never have. Yes, it'll feel dated (it has been 25 years!), but that's the point of history. Plus, if you can visit Minneapolis, catch a show in the Main Room or the Entry. Now that the place is smoke-free it smells better than this dank bus station ever has, and you'll experience a piece of the Midwest's rock heritage.

Oh, and while you're at it, be sure to purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.

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Aug 8, 2009 3:17 PM
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Awesome article; I was working at Pacific Bell in SF, CA, after work I hopped on the bus and took it to the movie house where Purple Rain was playing, I stood in line for 2 hours, it was a blast and I am still a Prince fan though his music keeps changing all of the time.
Aug 11, 2009 8:52 PM
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Thanks, Lloyd!

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Take Your Queue From Du
Every other Sunday

Semi-wholesome Midwestern girl and certified Geek Magnet offers her suggestions - often new, sometimes classic - for DVDs that are definitely queue-worthy.

Other Columns
Other columns by Denise DuVernay:

Goodbye, Du

Du Chats Movies With Comics Author Lonnie Millsap

Du Reviews ALPOCALYPSE by "Weird Al" Yankovic

Another Piece Praising BRIDESMAIDS

Friendship Films and DVD Picks for May 17

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Denise DuVernay
9 out of 10 librarians think Denise is a hoot. The 10th one couldn't corroborate because she was dead.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Denise DuVernay by clicking here.

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