A tuxedo-clad man handed a pocket mirror to everyone who walked into the Hotel Minneapolis on Sept. 12. The horror! It was only 6:30 p.m.; the sun hadn't yet set on our crow's feet. Then we realized this was a reference to "Purple Rain," in which Morris Day's sidekick Jerome Benton gives him a mirror so he can admire his reflection.
As Day would say: Oh, Lord, they looked good! The crowd was peppered with real-estate moguls, multiple women sporting the $148 Donna Ricco dress from White House/Black Market made famous by Michelle Obama on "The View," local TV newscasters -- Don Shelby, Jeanette Trompeter, Angela Davis -- and even underage fashion models.
Was it just us, or was the hotel's 37-year-old developer and owner, Jon Hempel, the finest man in the room? Hempel is tall, blond and handsome with a broad, boyish smile. "That Jerome thing" with the mirror, he said -- that was his idea. Was he even old enough to remember "Purple Rain"? "Oh, sure," he said. "And I watched it a bunch again lately."
Aspiring moguls Ross Bauerly, a 27-year-old MBA student, and Brian Brooks, a 26-year-old accountant, were good-looking enough, too. But with their lady loves left at home, we couldn't help but ask: What were these two guys doing at a swank affair all on their own? Networking, they said. "It's kind of like going to a Timberwolves game," said Bauerly.
Plunging further into this lavish grand opening party, we found the jazz trio the New Standards trading a tiny stage with talented local chanteuses such as Ann Michels and Jen Burleigh-Bentz. Sadly, few of the partygoers noticed. Most were there to see the evening's main event, a reunion concert by the original seven members of the Time.
At the outdoor stage set up for the band near the hotel's porte-cochere, James (Popeye) Greer lifted a glass of white wine. Greer, a dandy of a music manager who used to work for Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, joked, "I'm drinking Kool-Aid."
Feisty, compact Veretta Benton, mother of band members Lewis and Jerome Benton, rolled her eyes at the suggestion of an interview. Greer and his friend Dr. Barbara Bowers, an oncologist at Fairview Southdale, took the edge off by planning to write a book on Benton's life. "We'll call it 'Ms. B. Said,' " Greer mused. "You're looking at history right there -- we might have to give her a tape recorder and just let her talk."
Christy DeSmith is a Minneapolis writer.