Friday, June 09, 2006

In this corner, weighing 27 pounds...

Few of my stories begin, "This is back when I was spending a lot of time with Muhammad Ali." I shall amend that oversight; I think it will improve the quality of all my stories.

So last night I heard a fantastic anecdote. Because I love you, I shall relate it here, you undeserving swine. I make no claims for its veracity. I can only report that the dude seemed credible. He was a nice guy, fairly quiet, and evinced no desire to dominate the conversation or to impress anyone. After many beers, his friend turned to him & asked him to tell his "Prince story." Glance down, shrug, shuffle, oh-that-old-chestnut grin. I wish I'd been sober enough to remember the details, but here goes:

This guy was involved somehow in organizing Muhammad Ali's benefit concert against racism (remember racism?). Ali wanted Prince, who at that time was The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, to play. So this dude made the requisite contacts, Prince responded eagerly, and now we were ready for the climactic meeting of the two icons. It is 1997. We are hanging out in a hotel room with Ali's retinue & Ali's daughter Layla. The dude's cell phone rings. He is excited; he knows who it is. Prince and his people are on the premises.

Prince makes a grand entrance, wearing a special green outfit that he constructed himself, specifically for the occasion. Prince and Ali face off. Ali's Parkinson's is very bad at the moment, so he can only utter one word: "Prince."

Layla recognizes the faux pas, and warns, "Daddy, if you call him Prince, he'll call you Cassius Clay." Ali struggles in silence for a few moments, then utters one more word: "Artist."

Prince is so moved that he cries. Celebration, mutual love, high fives, beef jerky.