When he lived in the Twin Cities, Victor Stuhr made the trek to Paisley Park two dozen times in hopes of catching Prince perform at one of those late-night parties. He never paid more than $20 to get in.
On Monday, Stuhr, who now lives in Massachusetts, made another pilgrimage to Paisley. This time he forked over $160 for a three-hour tour. Actually, it lasted three hours and 35 minutes. And Stuhr could have stayed longer if this self-described meat-and-potatoes man had spent more time with his vegetarian meal at the end of the tour.
Stuhr and his pal Matt — they were celebrating their 50th birthdays — spent much of their time nosing around Prince’s studio complex in Chanhassen the way music geeks do. (Stuhr, who sold souvenirs at Prince’s Glam Slam nightclub in the 1990s, runs a music store.) Scrutinizing the pickups on Prince’s guitars. Studying the baffles in the recording studios. Checking out the settings on the mixing consoles.
Introduced on Aug. 14, the “Ultimate Experience” is available only on Mondays. Our tour this week drew a capacity crowd of 15 — from New York, Chicago, Nebraska, Massachusetts and, of course, Minnesota.
What did we get that you can’t get on the $100, 100-minute VIP Tour?
Chiefly more time, especially in the recording studios and editing room, where we sat on director’s chairs (do not sit on Prince’s purple couch) and watched clips of panel discussions with ex-Prince sidemen from the Celebration at Paisley last April. We never felt rushed as you do on the other Paisley tours. We had time to play pingpong on Prince’s table in Studio B, which, surprisingly, is not purple, like just about everything else at Paisley Park.
We also got more information from well-schooled guide Mitch Maguire — and more opinions. (“I didn’t know him personally but he helped me to get to know myself.”)
We learned that one of the kids’ photos on a coffee table in Prince’s office is Yara Shahidi, of the TV show “Black-ish.” (Her father is a photographer who worked with Prince.)
Maguire quizzed us on some Prince trivia and imparted minutiae, such as how Prince’s guitar got waterlogged in the rain during his 2007 Super Bowl performance. He answered questions, telling us that the only people to use the recording studios since Prince’s death in April 2016 have been the star’s siblings, and that fewer guests inquire now about the whereabouts of the elevator where Prince’s body was found.
For all tours, items have been added in recent weeks, including Prince’s Super Bowl guitar and outfit as well as the purple carbon fiber guitar made for him by British luthier Gus Farmer. Prince never played it in public, but showed it to people who gathered at Paisley five days before his death, when he famously told them, “Wait a few days before you waste your prayers on me.”
White glove treatment
One perk for Ultimate Experiencers is a chance to hold the purple acoustic guitar that Prince used in the 1991 video for “Cream.” Don’t strum it, though. And you must wear white gloves, like Rebecca, the Paisley Park archivist who handled the instrument.
While we lounged on curved purple couches in the NPG Music Club room and sipped raspberry smoothies, Rebecca also showed us a bejeweled Prince cane (don’t touch) and some handwritten lyrics to an unnamed song. Oh, we got to keep the white gloves. Unfortunately, they are generic. No Prince glyph.
And, yes, we received a veggie meal from Prince’s personal chef at the end — a grilled cheese sandwich, brown rice with a curry sauce, a lettuce salad and a cookie with chocolate chips and coconut. No complaints there, except from meat-loving Stuhr.
All told, this tour is clearly superior to the VIP and regular tours. But it’s not my idea of an ultimate Paisley experience. I expected something extra-special, such as a Prince insider as tour guide, and a parting gift like an exclusive poster or T-shirt — something you can’t buy at the ever-expanding Paisley merchandise tent.
But I asked four people on our tour if it was worth $160 and each agreed it was.
“I’m all emotioned out,” said Kris duMonceaux of Foley, Minn., who went to First Avenue the night Prince died. “The big room [soundstage] is the first one where I stopped crying. This is a once in a lifetime experience.”
Cay Carroll of Chicago, who had already taken the VIP Tour, still felt the $160 Ultimate Experience was the right thing to do. “This is his sanctuary,” she said. “It keeps his legacy, and it’s introducing him to new people.”
Tony Serrano of New York City had traveled to Paisley Park shortly after Prince died and placed a purple plant in the ground but had never been inside. He was delighted to visit Prince’s playground. “He was a once in a lifetime entertainer. He influenced me heavily,” Serrano said. “This was very informative. I’m very pleased with the tour.”
Stuhr was beaming when the tour was over. Yes, it was worth it. Plus, he got two unexpected thrills: He grabbed a quick peek of the solar eclipse through the skylights of Paisley’s atrium. And he got to use a urinal that he presumed was Prince’s — the short one in a lavender-colored men’s room outside Prince’s office.