Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"Say Yes! Say No!" - Interivew with Robyn Riggs

"He would make decisions based on what God was telling him. Sometimes all of us would just go, 'Oh my gosh, oh really?' But in his mind, in his world, with his talent, where did it come from?" 

Sometimes you have to call a car dealership to get an interview for your Prince book. That's how I tracked down Robyn Riggs, who handled Prince's media relations in different capacities from roughly 1983 to 1988 as part of the Howard Bloom Organization. While she currently sells cars, she was once in one of the most powerful positions in the entertainment industry at just 25 years old.

What stands out the most to me about Riggs' time with Prince is the importance of saying "yes" and "no." For example, before she was promoted to the position of having sole control over his media relations, Prince's camp would often respond to journalists' inquiries with "no comment." That reaction arguably hurt Prince's image at the time (see the "We Are the World" catastrophe).

"We started making statements so we could have some kind of control over what was being put out there," Riggs said. "And it changed the dynamic, I think, of the way the press perceived him to be."

Just as saying "yes" to the media proved beneficial, honoring Prince's requests kept you employed (unless, of course, he got a bad "vibe" from you, then you didn't stand a chance). Riggs worked hard to fulfill Prince's wishes, but she wasn't afraid to stand up to him. But during one situation in 1988--involving Rolling Stone journalist Kurt Loder--she felt she had to say "no," and that was the end of her tenure with Prince.

"I had fallen on many, many, many swords for [Prince]," she said. "I couldn’t fall on that one."

(More on this in the book, sorry.)

While some people who knew Prince never saw his religious side, Riggs is in the camp that vouches for his spirituality even as early as the 1980s. She also provided me with valuable insight into his personality.

It was truly a delight speaking with Riggs, and she put me in touch with another important source: Karen Krattinger, who worked for Prince in many roles over the course of five years. Check back for a summary of that interview and more!

I will be presenting my research at Purple Reign: An interdisciplinary conference on the life and legacy of Prince at the University of Salford in Manchester, England, in late May. Click here to donate to my GoFundMe campaign. 

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