Prince Once Fired a Crew Member for Looking Him in the Eye

Prince lived and breathed music–everything else about him was primarily an enigma. If anything got in the way of that music or his vision as a whole, Prince eliminated it, and fast. The Purple One worked in mysterious ways, and no one could question it. If they did or if they simply didn’t know about his bizarre rules, they faced being fired.

Prince performing in purple at the Fabulous Forum in 1985.
Prince | Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Prince once fired one of his crew members for looking him in the eyes

According to an old profile for Notorious magazine (per Vulture), an anonymous Prince employee said he saw His Royal Badness fire another employee after he accidentally looked Prince in the eye. The crew member had no idea about the rule because no one had told him yet. Suddenly, he was without a job for something silly.

“No crew members were allowed to look at him or talk to him,” the employee who witnessed the firing said. “I literally saw him fire a guy for looking at him. He just said, ‘Why is that guy looking at me? Tell him to leave.'”

This wasn’t the first or the last time Prince fired someone on the spot for something ridiculous. The producer and director of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Joel Gallen, witnessed Prince fire his monitor engineer. Gallen told the New York Times that Prince had brought the engineer with him to do his sound for his induction in 2004.

During rehearsals, Gallen Prince was “having all kinds of audio problems, I remember he had his own monitor engineer that his camp had hired, and I think Prince fired him during the rehearsal because he couldn’t get the sound right.”

Crossing Prince in any way was not an option. At least, Prince was able to get his sound right eventually. That night at the ceremony, Prince unexpectedly melted the faces off his audience and his fellow musicians on stage with a three-minute guitar solo during George Harrison’s induction. It became one of the most iconic moments in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s history.

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Some of the strange rules were myths

Prince’s hairstylist, Kim Berry, said he just wanted to be treated like everyone else. However, there was a lot of mystery surrounding him. His employees passed along myths about him, including the one about people looking him in the eyes. When Berry first started working, they told her she had to follow some strange rules. However, when Berry got to know Prince, she found out most of the myths were false.

“A lot of people, before I started working for him, gave me a lot of rules, ‘Don’t touch his ears. Don’t do this. Don’t look at him in the face,'” Kim Berry told ABC News’ 20/20. “I said, ‘How am I going to do his hair if I can’t look at him in the face? So how do I wash his hair and can’t touch his ears?’

“And years later after I had been employed by him he asked me, ‘What did they tell you when you first started working for me?'” she continued. “And I said, ‘Oh they gave me all kind of rules.’ He said, ‘I’ve never told anyone anything like that.’ He said, ‘So I think it’s hilarious that people make up stuff.'”

Prince told Berry that the rumor about him not liking people looking him in the eye was wrong. Still, he said it was “interesting” hearing what his employees made up about him.

“They wanted this mystique to be bigger than it was and he just wanted to be treated regular,” Berry said. “He never required anything. There was no rules on that. I mean you just knew, you know, I work for the biggest entertainer in the world so you knew you had to be on your game at all times.”

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Sammy Hagar says Prince communicated with his staff over notes and didn’t like them looking at him

Contrary to what Prince told Berry, the myth about looking him in the eyes seems true. Van Halen’s ex-frontman, Sammy Hagar, also witnessed it. Both Hagar and the artist were nominees at the 27th Grammy Awards in 1985, Prince for Purple Rain, and Hagar for his contribution to the Footloose soundtrack.

According to Ultimate Guitar, Hagar tried getting an introduction with Prince during the dress rehearsal. “My guitar tech, Zeke Clark, who now works for Slash… he was working at the Grammys,” Hagar said. “I was up for a Grammy and he was working for Prince at the time. I asked him, I said, ‘Hey man, introduce me to Prince!'”

Clark declined. “‘What do you mean you can’t?’ He’s going, ‘I’m not allowed to talk to him.’ I said, ‘You’re his guitar tech, and you’re not allowed to talk to him?’ He said, ‘No.'” Hagar asked how Clark communicated with Prince.

“You’ve got to write him a note and you kind of hand it to him. You can’t look at him,” Clark explained. “It will say, like, ‘What guitar do you want for the next song?'” Hagar thought that “was pretty f***in’ weird.”

So, more than one account says Prince didn’t like his employees looking at him. We’re not sure what to believe, but that can be said about virtually every aspect of Prince.