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Clark long remembered his tough interview with a quiet Prince

  • Article by: JON BREAM
  • Star Tribune
  • April 18, 2012 - 9:09 PM

Dick Clark picked up the phone and cut to the chase. "What is this interview for?" said the man who was involved with too many TV projects for a reporter to keep track of. He wanted to know the subject and the media in which this interview was to be presented.

When he learned it was "The American Music Awards" for a newspaper, he said to fire away and, in his answers, he proceeded to drop more expletives than Axl Rose at a Guns N' Roses concert.

That interview took place in 1995. I asked one of popular music's all-time most important tastemakers to revisit his infamous 1980 interview with Prince, our local hero, on "American Bandstand." Prince was just starting out. While he was exciting when he performed, he was shy and standoffish when trying to talk.

Clark asked the musician how many instruments he played. Prince answered, "Thousands."

Asked how long he'd been playing, Prince merely raised four fingers.

Clark remembered it vividly. "He didn't talk to me," the "Bandstand" host said 15 years after the fact. "I've always said that was one of the most difficult interviews I've ever conducted, and I've done 10,000 musician interviews."

Was it Prince? Was it Clark? Was it the moment?

"No, that's the nature of the man," said Clark, who had since worked with Prince a few times on "The American Music Awards."

"He's an extraordinary performer and not a particularly verbose one in public conversation. Though once you're off-camera, he's like everybody else -- very normal. It's like all of the mystery people in entertainment. Michael Jackson's not a communicator in public but in the privacy of a room, he's like everybody else: He talks. And Prince is the same. ... But I don't advise him on career moves."

Twitter: @jonbream • 612-673-1719

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