As a close friend of a close friend of Prince, Mark Webster watched the musician grow from a strangely dressed local kid playing small Minneapolis clubs in the 1970s to a glamorous megastar filling huge venues, where Webster would have VIP seating, mingle with celebrities and get down at after-concert parties.
Now Webster wants to memorialize Prince and his legacy by renaming in his honor a Chanhassen street and stretch of highway near Paisley Park, the star's onetime home and recording studio now turned into a museum. That's where Webster works as a security guard.
"This is something I've been pondering on for the last four years, since Prince's passing" in 2016, said Webster, 60, of Richfield. "I think I knew Prince well enough that I know he would approve what I'm trying to do here."
Prince's family is on board with the idea, he added.
Webster and Bob Finn of Chanhassen, a retired salesman who heard about Webster's idea (and occasionally waved to Prince on local streets), have submitted proposals to the Chanhassen City Council to rename Audubon Road, where Paisley Park is located.
They will need legislative approval to rename the stretch of Hwy. 5 outside the museum, since it's a state highway. Finn has talked to state Rep. Greg Boe, R-Chanhassen, who said lawmakers might consider it.
"There's certainly a pretty good chance," Boe said Wednesday, noting that other highway stretches have been named for local figures.
Chanhassen City Council members on Monday unanimously passed a resolution supporting the state's renaming of part of Hwy. 5 but said they wanted more information about the impact of renaming Audubon Road before scheduling a public hearing. City officials have asked for feedback from 11 residents and business owners on Audubon; some were strongly in favor of a new name, others less so.
Council Member Julia Coleman, who was elected to the state Senate last week, was exuberantly in favor of the plan.
"Prince is one of the things Chanhassen is known for," she said. "It's such a great way to honor someone who did so much for music, for the world and for Chanhassen."
Prince certainly did a lot for Mark Webster.
Webster attended dozens of the star's shows, locally and around the country, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, on his own dime. But he always received the royal treatment.
"I could say I was [given] carte blanche," he said.
He remembers a concert at Madison Square Garden where he found himself sitting next to David Bowie and Mick Jagger. Stevie Nicks approached and introduced herself. For the fun of it, Webster bummed a cigarette off Bowie — some special European kind — even though Webster didn't smoke.
Then there were the after-show parties that might last until dawn. "I would party, have drinks and have fun," he said. "This was the '80s. It was fun!"
Webster said renaming the roads in Chanhassen would help visitors find Paisley Park, a site to which people make pilgrimages from all parts of the world, many of them adorned with tattoos of Prince and his signature symbol. When Webster asks if they are in town on business, they say no — they had come specifically to visit Paisley Park.
When Prince decided in the 1980s to buy property and build a recording complex in Chanhassen, then a sleepy town known mainly for its dinner theater, his friends were baffled.
"We were going, like, dude, why are you way out here?" Webster recalled. "I think he just wanted his own territory."
Katy Read • 612-673-4583