His Royal Badness showed up. But he didn't talk and he didn't sing.
Prince didn't do much at all last night at the Purple Rain Benefit Ball, except sit next to his dad with his band Revolution at a roped off table. People stood and tried to get close. Bodyguards shooed them away.
Abe Pollin, owner of the Capital Centre, was one of the few who got close to Prince in the big Sheraton Washington hotel ballroom. "He wasn't very talkative. I asked him where he lived. He said Minneapolis."
Pollin said he is a Prince fan.
After all, Prince sold out seven shows at the Capital Centre, something that hasn't even come close to happening since 1975 when the Beach Boys and Chicago almost sold it out for five shows. Pollin was at the party to present a check for $2,500 to the benefit's two charities -- the Big Brothers of Washington, D.C., and Marva Collins' school in Chicago.
"His selling ability and popularity are as great as I've seen," said Pollin. "I think it's better than Michael Jackson."
Ellis Turner, a photographer at the Pentagon, kind of hung back with the rest of the crowd around Prince. "I didn't get a chance to see him standing up. He looks like a little fellow."
Purple balloons filled with helium floated in clumps around the main ballroom. They looked like big clusters of grapes.
But the crowd of about 700 came for one reason: to see, to hear, to touch, to get the autograph of their beloved Skipper, The Kid.
"If I get to meet him and touch him, I'll probably die and go to heaven," said Yvette Aidara, 35, of the District. She's crazy about Prince. She's seen "Purple Rain" eight times. She's started a fan club at Housing and Urban Development, where she works. She made guests at her Thanksgiving dinner watch the movie twice before they could eat dinner.
What exactly does she like about him?
"Sex appeal," Aidara said.
Jennifer Haskins, 13, of Potomac, stood near the Prince table. "I wish he'd sing. He's like really cute." Haskins' stepbrother Ben Hammerschlag, also 13, was next to her. "He must feel bad -- all these people staring at him."
To which Jennifer Haskins responded: "I don't know. He's just like really cool."
For $35 each, the guests, mostly in black tie, were invited to the benefit, which was sponsored by the mayor's office, Capital Centre, Anheuser-Busch and WKYS radio station. The mayor's office selected Big Brothers and Prince picked Collins' private school for inner city youths for the benefit, said Ofield Dukes, one of the event's organizers.
"Prince did not want a large affair," Dukes said. "He wanted something classy, something exclusive and he wanted to have a certain number of people."
Collins said she met Prince about two years ago in Chicago when he gave an impromptu benefit for the school.
"He said it was the kind of school he wanted to go to," said Collins. She said that Prince recently provided all the funds for a new teacher training institute she's starting in June that will enable her to instruct 300 teachers on a quarterly basis in her method of education.
Collins said she could relate to Prince's shyness last night. "You don't have anytime for you. I can understand him. Everyone needs privacy."