That Skinny Motherfucker With the High Voice Steals Vanity Away From Rick James (1981)
It’s the gift of a rivalry that keeps on giving. To say that the professional relationship between young upstart Prince and headlining punk-funk rebel Rick James was volatile would be a flagrant understatement. Prince’s opening slot on James’ 1980 “Fire It Up” tour is filled with notorious (and hilarious) tales worthy of Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories. One such incident was detailed by the James in his 2007 book The Confessions of Rick James: Memoirs of a Super Freak: “There was a birthday party for me,” said the notorious habitual line-stepper. “Prince came, he was sitting at a table with some people not drinking. I walked up to him, grabbed him by the back of the hair and poured cognac down his throat. He spit it out like a little BYTCH and I laughed and walked away. I loved fucking with him like that.”
But Prince would have the last laugh. The story goes that James attended the 1981 American Music Awards with the criminally gorgeous Denise Matthews as his date. While backstage Prince’s manager spotted the model and asked her to escort his smitten client to the bathroom. Prince asked her if he could try on her jacket and Matthews gave him her phone number. Cue sexual explosion. A few months later, Prince changed her name to Vanity and made her a star. He originally aimed to christen the lingerie clad, censorship destroying threesome the Hookers and their lead pin-up girl Matthews as “Vagina.” Thankfully, Prince settled on Vanity 6. A livid James charged that his rival stole his idea for a girl group. The music gods snickered.