Sherry Heart has been doing the hair on Girls since the beginning. One day, as she deftly created an insanely intricate Shoshanna hairstyle, I asked her a very simple question: “How did you get so funky?” Easy, she told me: She’d toured with Prince on and off for six years in the ’90s, and she’s got the tour jacket – stolen by a super-fan in Paris and reclaimed in Ghent, Belgium – to prove it. On Friday, Sherry flew back to her adopted hometown of Minneapolis to celebrate the sexy MF himself. And even though she was out dancing until 4 a.m. with a town in ecstatic mourning, she was kind enough to wake up the next morning and share some of her recollections with me.
He defined my youth. You know, I made so many turns in my 20s because of him. The reason I moved to Minneapolis was because of him. Even before I worked for him, I was chasing his ghost. I was imitating his fashion, his style.
In the early ’80s, my girlfriend Lynette and I would drive from Rochester, Minnesota, up to Minneapolis to go to a club called First Avenue on Tuesday nights because they had a funk night, and we sometimes saw Prince. He would go there to try out his new music, see what the crowd did. Once we followed him out of the club and chased him through the streets of Minneapolis.
Later, I was working at a hair salon in Minneapolis called The Hair Police and we heard he was filming a movie nearby, so we asked if they needed any help and they said yes. It was the movie Graffiti Bridge. We did hair extensions and braids and all this funky stuff on the extras. I had the chance to meet so many legends there – Mavis Staples, George Clinton.
At one point, I was out at Paisley Park and George Clinton sat down in my chair and pulled out a bag of weed in one hand and a bag of cocaine in the other. He said, “Can you hold this a second?” I took the bags and just stood there while he got his rolling papers out so he could roll his whatever it was …
In 1991 I toured as a singer with the Information Society, and when it was done I had “the after-tour blues.” I heard Prince was going on tour, and I thought, I’ve got to get on that tour. I called up the tour manager and asked if they needed hair and makeup – I didn’t tell them I’d been singing in a band, because I wasn’t sure what they’d think about that. A day later I was hired. I toured with him nonstop through 1993, and after that I just did occasional legs. We went to Japan, and to Hawaii for his honeymoon, where he did a few shows.
I was doing the band and the dancers – Prince had a personal hairdresser. But we would phoof his room – that’s how we spelled it, P-H-O-O-F. He was really into the Egyptian look at that time; he had this box of silk and velvet fabric remnants, and we were told to drape everything, like the couches and the tables. We also set up the cosmetic station – he had about 15 kinds of perfume we had to put out.
Prince didn’t talk much backstage. He was all about business when he was at the gig. He would even stay in his dressing room after shows to watch the videotapes, watch himself, see how he could improve.
He was a genius onstage and in his music and writing, but offstage he was a little socially awkward. I probably talked to him more when he was with Mayte, his first wife, because she drew him into a social life. One time she got me on the phone to tell him jokes, so I told him a bunch of musician jokes, and then he told them onstage. You know, stuff like “How do you get a musician off your doorstep? You pay him for the pizza.”
I cut his hair once, when he was with Mayte. She suggested I do it because he was looking for a new style. So I went to his house in Chanhassen, which was a typical A-frame house, except that it was purple and sat on about a hundred acres of land. It was very humble, at least for Prince.
He has a hair salon in his house. He was reading a magazine and then he sat down and explained the look he wanted. I went around the corner to get the supplies, and there was his regular hairdresser. I screamed. “Tanya, what are you doing here?!” I thought she was going to be upset.
She said, “He wanted you to cut his hair, so do it!”
I was shaking. I was doing the scissors over his ears and I had to hold my hand steady. I thought, I’m cutting fucking Prince’s hair!
The culture of the tour was pretty heavily sexual. There was always sex in the air. We partied a lot, and people slept with people, and there was a sense of sexual freedom. You had these girls at the shows vying for his attention, and he would tell whichever girl he wanted to fool around with to wait by his limo. Then he would go to the limo and either say “Get in” or drive away. It was a total rock-star thing.
I have one girlfriend in particular who said that he just wanted to watch her take a bath. She said, “We didn’t even have sex! He just wanted to watch me take a bath.” I don’t know how true that is. But I don’t think anyone would have ever turned him down for anything.
He’s like anybody you work with, you’re gonna complain about [it] a little bit, but for me his music was the thing. It was my youth, my young adulthood. I saw a lot of the world because of him. I made a lot of decisions because of the work I did with him. That’s why I’m mourning him so much. I feel a big piece of my youth has died. I had to go back to Minneapolis when I heard.
Here in town, everyone is making a pilgrimage to First Avenue [a club where Prince often played] because he made First Avenue and First Avenue made him. We were there until 4 a.m., and it was packed. The buildings and bridges are lit purple. He’s everywhere. He loved Minneapolis and he was down for his hometown. That’s why it’s so great to be here right now. We were singing Prince songs in the street last night. I believe he came back here to die.
You know, nobody ever tried to guess his sexuality. It just didn’t matter. He would dress feminine and nobody every questioned it. We didn’t. That’s just the way Prince was. He gave license to so many guys to dress and be feminine. I used to have dreams about him when I was working for him, and he always appeared as a friend. I never had a sex dream about him. So many girls thought, Oh, I want to “do” him. I didn’t want to do him. I thought he’s just this mad genius that I’ve had the ability to come in contact with, and his music is unlike anything else that will ever exist.
-As told to Lena Dunham.