April 28, 2016
Magic Memories: Prince’s Warmth & Wit In Private
By Nekesa Mumbi Moody
AP Entertainment Writer
New York (AP) - Slight, soft-spoken and just 5-foot-2, Prince improbably cut an imposing figure.
So it was two years ago, when I waited in his Paisley Park studios for what would be our third and final sit down: Me, the commoner, awaiting the prince who was actually king.
The ground rules for the interviews were always intimidating: No cameras, no phones, and absolutely no taping of any sort. He had wanted to prevent me from taking written notes as well, but I balked: How else to keep record of an interview that I thought would run a couple of hours, and actually stretched into the morning hours?
Yet when he walked in the room, wearing a cream-colored flowing outfit and an image of himself on his shirt, what emanated was warmth. Smiles and jokes followed, and Prince revealed a man who was insightful, intelligent, humble, spiritual and even playful — he played pingpong with his fellow musicians in see-through acrylic heels.
It was a side of Prince he did not share with many: For most, the persona was the mercurial, sullen genius, standing alone, the public at a distance.
Perhaps it was purposeful, to keep the shroud of privacy that eludes most celebrities, to keep a bit of Prince Rogers Nelson separate from the artist formerly and then once again known as Prince.
But in interviews, his layers peeled away, exposing wit and humanity.
The Purple One extended that particular persona to his surroundings — purple was everywhere, from his dressing room to his Paisley Park studio.
Prince died April 21 at Paisley Park
Candles contributed to the peaceful ambience. An attentive host, midway through our marathon interview, he insisted that I must eat, and dispatched an assistant to get me something at a nearby restaurant (though it couldn’t be meat, because Prince was a vegetarian). When I finished, he cleared my plate.
He wanted to share a lot — up to a point. In our last interview, he took me to one of what were surely several inner-sanctums at Paisley Park, and played me unheard music; he also popped up YouTube to play me some of his inspirations, from Dionne Warwick to Prince.
At another point, he pulled me aside and asked if I had gotten everything I needed, and proceeded to talk to me about everything from his religion to what he thought of Andre 3000 as Jimi Hendrix. Still later, he called me into a TV room to watch a late-night talk show appearance featuring Anthony Anderson recounting meeting Prince, but when it was over, and I wanted to talk with him about it, he was gone.
It was nearly 2 a.m., and it was clear my time was up.
Our first meeting came in 2004: He was celebrating renewed success after his first album in several years, ``Musicology.’’ He greeted me with a smile, and let me into his dressing room but first checked to make sure I was following the rules: ``No tape recorder, right?’’
Once we sat down, Prince explained that he didn’t want to be taped because he wanted us both to be fully engaged in the interview. At other times in our interviews over the years, he would ask me to stop taking notes, so I could fully absorb all that he had to say.
He talked about his spirituality: After being introduced by musician Larry Graham, he had become a Jehovah’s Witness in the latter years of his life, and the star who used to relish shocking audiences with sexually explicit lyrics took most of those songs off his concert playlist: No cursing was allowed in his presence either. Bible references peppered our conversation: He would point to the scripture to underscore his points (and he knew his verses well).
``What we have today is the same situation right now that Noah faced,’’ he told me in 2004. ``Some rain is going to come, and it’s time to get on the ark. The best thing we can do is to keep our lives in order and our conduct clean.’’
He was also socially aware, particularly when it came to matters involving the African-American community. While in his prime he would embrace racial ambiguity and, in interviews, he spoke forcefully about the disenfranchisement black people; he attributed the uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri to the lack of ownership and positions of leadership of the black community there; and later, in a quip about the movie 2014 sci-fi movie ``The Giver,’’ he noted that the future must be all white, because there were no black people in the film.
Perhaps the most forceful moments of our interviews over the years dealt with his fierce belief that artists should maintain control over their own music, and how the music industry exploited recording artists for gain. Prince’s battle with Warner Bros. Records over his own catalog shook the industry, and would change the trajectory of his career: He wrote ``slave’’ on his face, and changed his name to a symbol as he fought their grasp. He started his own label, NPG Records, and sold music to the fans direct through the internet, though he would later become disenchanted with that model because of rampant piracy, and routinely took his music off of YouTube and streaming services like Spotify.
In our last interview, he had finally taken control of his music back, winning the rights to his master recordings. While he still dealt with labels for distribution, he continued to sound the alarm on the inequities in the music business: ``The Bible says you’re not supposed to sign your inheritance away.’’
He had hoped to convince others in the music industry to leave major labels and strike out on their own, and he saw his own label as a conduit. He talked about having a collective, and empowering other artists. Finally, he was in the position of power when it came to his own music, past and present, and he was liberated by it, and it gave him new passion.
He had recorded two new albums in 2014, one solo record, ``Art Official Age,’’ along with music from his latest protege act, 3RDEYEGIRL, ``PLECTRUMELECTRUM.’’ For the first time, he allowed someone else to produce his music: upcoming musician Joshua Welton. And he boasted that the crop of musicians he was working with was among the best he’d ever experienced.
``It sounds like freedom, and there is a joy to it now,’’ he said of his music-making process.
In many ways, Prince seemed to be on a victory lap in recent months: He was doing more performances, and had signed on to write his memoirs. During one of his last performances in New York, where, as was typical, he performed two sets, he spoke eagerly of putting his memories down to paper.
We’ll likely never get a chance to relish in the memories that he was willing to share with us. But we can hold on dearly to the magic of the nearly four decades Prince reigned.
Peahens For Sale! You Catch ‘Em, You Own ‘Em!
By Aaron West
Bend, OR (AP) — Put anyone in charge of 30 peacocks and he might find himself making the kind of for-sale ad Brian Davis posted on Petersen Rock Garden’s Facebook page in mid-April:
``Need to sell a few of these Female Peahens for $20 each Today call me’’
Davis helps manage Petersen Rock Garden, likely central Oregon’s quirkiest roadside rock attraction, the Bulletin reported (http://bit.ly/1qEiW8Z). Located about halfway between Redmond and Bend, the 82-year-old garden is an open grassy area where visitors can relax and wander around an off-brand fantasy land of miniature castles, bridges and statues made of obsidian and geodes. Think springtime family reunion venue with psychedelic fishbowl decorations and you’re almost there, except for the squawking peacocks.
About 30 male and female peacocks roam the 4-acre garden and hang out in the shade under the picnic tables.
Petersen Rock Garden in Oregon
And while the Rock Garden has seen its ups and downs — in 2013 it was named to the National Register of Historic Places after years of deterioration and neglect landed it on an endangered places list — its peacock population has remained fairly consistent.
Davis said he sometimes considers the park’s stained rock castles and wonders whether this is a good thing.
``The peacocks are part of the ambiance; everyone loves them,’’ he said April 15. ``But how many do we need? Ten? Fifteen? Five? Eight? I don’t know. The mess they make — they crap all over all the monuments. It’s good for the lawns, but we’re just trying to figure out the right amount to have.’’
So while Petersen Rock Garden receives upgrades this spring, like freshly landscaped paths, the revival of the classic Swan Boat ride (pending Swan Boat completion on Memorial Day weekend) and eight picnic tables recently donated by friends of the garden who are regulars on the grounds and in its Facebook group, Davis is using a simple strategy to figure out the answer to the peacock question. ``We’re downsizing,’’ he said.
At least five of the birds were put up for sale, Davis said, a directive straight from Sue Caward, who has owned the rock garden for about 15 years.
``Susan said 20 bucks, sell them for 20 dollars a hen,’’ Davis said. ``We just have way too many.’’
Caward is the granddaughter of Rasmus Petersen, who moved from his native Denmark to central Oregon in the early 1900s and set up a 256-acre farm between Bend and Redmond. He developed a fascination with the region’s natural resources and in the mid-1930s started gathering whatever rocks and minerals he could find within an 85-mile radius of his adopted home, according to the Deschutes County Historical Society.
He began creating the rock structures, and eventually more than 100,000 visitors from all parts of the world stopped at the rock garden during its first 15 years. Caward said Petersen, who died in 1952, was the one who brought the peacocks to the rock garden, even though she said she doesn’t know how or why he got them.
Also unknown is exactly how to persuade anyone to take a peacock home with them. Davis said he’s already gotten a few nibbles on his Facebook post, but no one’s taken him up yet on the park’s unwritten ``you buy it, you catch it’’ peacock purchasing rule (the rock garden supplies a cage).
One of the Petersen peacocks
``We’ve gotten a few people that still have to come over and catch them,’’ he said, offering peacock-catching tips to any interested buyers before admitting he’d probably cave in and help out if it meant he could sell the birds more easily. ``You gotta bait them into a cage and shut the door on the cage, and that’s how you catch them. It’s not an easy deal. I’ve got a friend who’s done it all the time.’’
Meanwhile, the 30 or so birds can create issues for picnicking park visitors, even though the new tables help.
``People don’t want to put a blanket on the ground when there’s 30 peacocks around,’’ he said. ``They sure are pretty, though.’’
``They’ll eat your lunch, that’s what they’ll do,’’ Caward said. ``We’ve had people lose sandwiches right out of their hands.’’
The peacocks, which roam the garden freely and roost in the trees at night, are tame and not aggressive, Davis said. The birds are used to people, who can feed them — willingly or sometimes not — out of their hands.
Just ask Lonnie Young, a longtime supporter of the rock garden who feeds the peacocks he adopted from the garden old veggies and chicken feed.
Young, who has a side business raising 220 chickens, has known Caward for years, and he asked her for two peacocks to add to his flock last year. She gave him two chicks, a male and a female.
``It’s been a real pleasure raising them,’’ he said. ``They take a lot of love and attention. They like to be involved with what I’m doing, and if we’re not outside doing something, they’ll get bored and wander down to the neighbor’s house.’’
Young said some people eat peacock eggs — which are bigger than chicken eggs with a harder shell and thicker yolk — but he prefers to just have the birds around for company.
``When they were chicks, the male would sit on my shoulder and nuzzle me,’’ he said. ``He’d go to the feed store with me. Now that they’re teenagers, they don’t care to be touched that much. They can be a very noisy bird, and when they call to each other during mating season, it sounds like a cat screaming. Peacocks make good watchdogs, too — they make the noise as a kind of alert, too.’’
Young, who lives in Deschutes County, said he can’t advocate for peacock ownership in more urban areas. As for the peacock situation at Petersen Rock Garden, Young agrees there are ``quite a few’’ and predicts the park’s consistent peacock population will continue.
``They’ll be gathering together a clutch of eggs in the next couple months,’’ he said. ``Here at any time now there’s going to be more chicks hatched.’’
Polish Historian Feels He’s Found Russia’s Lost Amber Room
By Monika Scislowska
Warsaw, Poland (AP) - A historian in northeastern Poland says the moss-covered ruins of a German World War II bunker may hide Russia’s precious Amber Room, a national treasure that went missing during the war.
The 18th-century Amber Room, made of amber panels and gold leaf, was fitted into Russia’s Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg, where it remained until it was looted by Germany’s Nazis in 1941.
Tests in September by earth-penetrating radar in the woods near the Polish village of Mamerki suggest there’s a small room at the base of a bunker that was the German army’s wartime headquarters, according to the head of Mamerki Museum, Bartlomiej Plebanczyk.
The bunker is located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Russia’s Kaliningrad region - which was the German region of Koenigsberg during the war and where the Nazis brought the Amber Room in 1941.
The original Amber Room in 1931
Plebanczyk told TVN24 on Friday that he is ``almost certain’’ that the crumbling concrete bunker hides the Russian treasure. He has informed local Polish authorities in the town of Wegorzewo, who will now decide what to do.
Wegorzewo Deputy Mayor Andrzej Lachowicz told TVN24 authorities will try to see what’s in the bunker.
``If not the Amber Room, then maybe some other treasure,’’ Lachowicz said.
The British heavily bombed Koenigsberg in 1944. The current whereabouts of the Amber Room is unknown. In a project that took decades, Russian authorities reconstructed a replica of the Amber Room at the same palace.
According to Plebanczyk, a resident claimed right after the war that he saw German trucks bring heavy cases to the bunker. In the 1960s, residents said they saw a top Nazi, Erich Koch, brought to the site from a Polish prison where he was jailed for wartime crimes. Koch was a top official in Koenigsberg until 1945 and authorities believed he knew the treasure’s whereabouts, Plebanczyk told The Associated Press.
Last year, other Polish explorers said they had located another Nazi German treasure: a gold train that reportedly went missing at the end of the war in Walbrzych, in what is now southwestern Poland. Some search work was done but no train has been found so far. The search has attracted thousands of tourists to the region.