Kevin Seifert, who covers the NFL for ESPN and was a Vikings beat writer for the Star Tribune, witnessed the only known meeting between our own Sid Hartman and another Minnesota icon, Prince.
Kevin wrote a wonderful piece on how the encounter, at Super Bowl XLI nine years ago in Miami, came about.
Viking PR director Bob Hagan set up the meeting, then helped Sid elude security for a one-on-one with Prince, who died yesterday at age 57. It isn't rare for Sid to snare an exclusive five minute interview with someone, but it was pretty rare for Prince to grant an exclusive interview.
Sid interrupted a news huddle here at the Star Tribune yesterday to tell people he met Prince once. He hasn't written about it ... yet ... but before he steals excerpts of Kevin's story, we'll run it here ... with the author's permission. It's a great read, from the Facebook page of Kevin Seifert ESPN.
Finally, that time when Sid met Prince....
It started with a phone call, the kind Bob Hagan has taken thousands of times in his role as the Vikings' public relations director, during the final week of January in 2007.
Sid Hartman, a Star Tribune columnist and the legendary dean of Minnesota media, had a request. Someone had told Sid that the halftime performer for Super Bowl XLI had a Minnesota connection.
"He said, 'Hey, I want to say hello to that Prince guy,'" Hagan recalled this week. "Can you set that up? I want to say hello.'"
If you've never heard of Sid, you should know that he has been working for Minnesota newspapers for 84 (!) years, ever since he began as a 12-year-old delivery boy in 1932. He still writes three columns per week, going strong at age 96, and over the years Sid has demonstrated an incredible ability to learn and adjust to the culture.
So I'm sure Sid had heard of Prince, if for no other reason than they both grew up in Minneapolis and had lived there most of their lives. But for Sid, a request to say hi to Prince was no different than asking if he could get a few minutes with Randy Moss. He had no idea how eccentric Prince was, nor how unlikely it would be that he would stop and make small talk with a sportswriter at the Super Bowl.
Hagan agreed to help, or at least to try. He had Sid meet him at the Miami Convention Center on the day Prince was scheduled to give his Super Bowl "press conference." (I wrote about that event in an earlier post.)
Hagan's NFL credential got them backstage, and they talked their way past a second wave of security. A third security officer was less willing. Finally, Hagan said: "I know you probably don't know this man, but other than Prince, he's the most famous guy in our state."
The officer relented, and now Sid and Hagan were walking down a hallway toward the "green room," where Prince was preparing for what would be a 12-minute performance in front of reporters. Then they saw him. The superstar -- Prince, not Sid -- was walking the other way and surrounded by his bodyguards.
And Sid did what he always does. He chased down the guy he wanted to talk to.
"Hey Prince! Prince! Hey, Prince!" is the way Hagan remembers Sid flagging him down.
At that moment, everything stopped. The bodyguards looked over and saw an 87-year-old sportswriter trying to get a little personal time with one of the quirkiest celebrities of our times.
"The seas just parted," Hagan said. "And Prince turned around, really slow, to see who this was."
Prince looked at Sid.
Sid looked at Prince.
"Hello, Mr. Hartman," Prince said. "How are you?"
Everyone -- the bodyguards, other staffers, Hagan -- stood there, mouths agape. They couldn't decide whether it was more stunning that someone had the audacity to chase down Prince, or that Prince had responded in kind.
Sid and Prince stood there and chatted for what Hagan remembers was three or four minutes.
"Prince was very polite and they had a very, very cordial talk," Hagan said. "I think Prince brought up some local sports with him."
Prince left to conduct his "press conference," and Sid walked out to watch his new close, personal friend.
I heard about the meeting an hour or so later and found Sid at the convention center. I told him how incredible it was that he had met and had a normal conversation with Prince.
"He was a nice guy," Sid said, as if he had just gotten a few minutes with Daunte Culpepper.
I wondered if Sid knew how big this was.
"Sid," I said, "do you realize how few people on this planet have had a personal five-minute conversation with Prince? He doesn't do that kind of thing."
"Yeah?" Sid asked, brightening up.
"Yeah," I said.
And Sid strode away, head held high, a bounce in his step. I felt confident I'd established the significance of the event. And Prince? Who knows. Maybe we'll ask him one day in heaven. Rest in peace, sir.