This is part of a multi-part tribute to Prince. See the rest of the parts here, and check back in the coming days for more interviews!
In the aftermath of Prince's death, one thing that made it easier to deal with the grief was sharing stories about him, most of us who live in the Minneapolis area have at least one. I heard stories from people with many different perspectives over the past few weeks, some were surprising and others not so much. One of the best stories came from a surprising source, my cousin Nancy Altman. It was such a good story that the first time I heard it, was thanks to it being on the local news.
From the community of Hibbing Jews that produced Minnesota's other musical deity (Bob Dylan), Nancy worked as a receptionist at the Ad Company in Minneapolis, the company of Prince's first manager Owen Husney. When she started there in 1978, The 19-year-old Prince was still a complete unknown but that would change soon after.
Prince and his posse visited the office quite often and they spent a lot of time in the waiting room with Nancy. During this time, Prince began asking her out on dates and though unsuccessful, he was quite persistent. One day, Nancy returned from lunch to find the lyrics to a song titled "Hello, My Love" on her desk, written and left for her by Prince. Here is the note she received:
Nancy never did go on a date with Prince, and though the song was actually recorded, she never heard it. I sat down with Nancy to ask her about the whole episode.
Had Prince signed with Warner Brothers by the time you met him?
No. I was a secretary/receptionist and I didn’t know what I was getting myself in to. This was my first job out of college. The week I started, I answered the phone and the guy on the other line asked for Owen. I asked who was calling and it was Herb Alpert, the president of A+M Records. They were being courted and Owen was trying to determine which record company to go with. They signed to Warner Brothers while I was there.
Was Prince confident and well-dressed back then?
No! People have asked me “why didn’t you go out with him?” He was kind of a nerd! He had the big afro and he was little. He would wear these basketball shorts with socks up to his knee.
In your WCCO interview, you mentioned he came in with a posse. Who was with him?
I don’t remember him ever coming in by himself. Most of the time he had Morris Day, Andre Cymone, and Dez Dickerson with him. Bobby Rivkin, otherwise known as Bobby Z, was the gopher at the agency, so he always hung out there too. So these guys were always there and I was at the desk and they always sat on this brown sofa, I can see it right now. They were hanging out waiting for Owen to be done with the day-to-day Ad Company business and then they would go back at about 3 to get stuff done.
How often did they come to the office?
They came almost daily. By the time I got there, Chris Moon had already introduced Prince to Owen. Owen was trying to determine who should sign him, so he was there all the time.
Did you ever get annoyed by Prince or his friends?
I thought they were funny. They were kids. I had just gotten out of college, so I thought I was much hipper than they were, maybe a bit smarter. I always liked to shop, and I remember them telling me not to charge at Dayton’s, and to take care of my finances. They were funny!
Did you ever run in to Prince later on in life?
I did and you know someone called me last night, someone I haven’t talked to in years who said “Nancy, I remember I was with you at First Avenue. We were standing by a sound booth in the corner and Prince was there, and he came up to you. I remember Prince held your hand for about 10 minutes and just talked to you.”
I saw him at First Avenue twice. The other time I was there for a bridal shower and he came up to me and talked to me, and he was still really shy and really sweet. Both of these were in the early 80s.
Do you have any regrets about not going out on a date with Prince?
I don’t have any regrets about not going on a date with him. What I do have a regret about is that I never contacted him after the mid 80s. He wrote this song for me, they recorded the song, and I never heard it. Even this morning I asked myself “Why didn’t I ever go out to Paisley Park?” He probably would have been gracious. I don’t know if he would have given me the song but I bet I could have heard it.