independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Prince lawsuit: 'Just tell the cat to chill'

Given the recent antics of certain celebrities, it is somehow reassuring to catch a glimpse of Prince Rogers Nelson's life behind the closed doors of his luxury Beverly Hills home and have your preconceptions largely confirmed.

"Dinners with Prince are interesting," his agent, Keith Sarkisian, told Dublin's Commercial Court to some laughter yesterday.

The executive was giving evidence on the second day of an action by promoters MCD for €1.7m in compensation against Prince and his agents, William Morris Endeavour Entertainment.

The singer claims the agents had no authority to confirm a concert in Croke Park that was cancelled in June 2008.

Pressure

Yesterday, Mr Sarkisian described a meal at the singer's home where the agent had expected to finally discuss the European concert dates he was under severe pressure to confirm. But instead of just the two of them there were five, including "a female friend I think is a singer".

Unwilling to discuss Prince's business in front of three strangers -- "Prince is very private" -- the agent bided his time, only for the singer to promptly get up and leave the room.

Then his security guard, Raul, told Mr Sarkisian dinner was over and it was time to leave.

"You can't tell Prince to come back to dinner; at least I can't," Mr Sarkisian said, to more laughter.

But, by this stage, confirming the concerts was no laughing matter for Mr Sarkisian. Tickets for the Dublin show had gone on sale in February 2008.

It was now May, and he urgently needed to get confirmation of shows in Denmark, Holland and elsewhere so that they, too, could go on sale before it was too late to make it a tour.

It was also in Prince's interests to the tune of an estimated $10m (€7.5m) profit from a tour, rather than $2m (€1.25m) profit from Croke Park alone.

But it seems Prince likes to ask questions rather than give answers.

So Prince's personal assistant and de-facto manager, Ruth Arzate, didn't ask her boss a direct question, despite being aware of the situation. Instead, she advised Mr Sarkisian to write Prince a note.

Not just any note, but one written "as softly but as firmly as I could", the agent said. He did his best, telling the singer that he didn't intend "to put him under pressure but wanted to ensure that we deliver exactly what you want" and that "the goal is world domination, country by country".

He didn't hear a word back. In the end, Mr Sarkisian managed to secure another meeting at the singer's home in Beverly Hills on June 3, less than two weeks before the Croke Park concert was to take place.

This, Mr Sarkisian alleges, is the first time Prince started giving straight answers, and he told him the Croke Park concert wouldn't happen. More than 50,000 tickets had been sold, and Prince was agitated when faced with the cancellation options. "I'm paraphrasing here but he said, 'You guys got me into this mess, I'll have to fix it,'" Mr Sarkisian said.

And Prince said he was open to talking with Denis Desmond, the music promoter who put the Croke Park gig together.

"Tell the cat to chill, I'll figure it out," he had said.

That drew more laughter in court yesterday, including from Mr Desmond in the gallery.

Mr Sarkisian said "technically" his agency still represented Prince but while he still featured on its website, so did Elvis.

Under cross-examination, Mr Sarkisian said that, when dealing with Prince, there was often "a wobble". Prince had a tendency to agree to things at the last minute, he said.

But he denied that the agency had run ahead of itself by telling MCD Prince was interested in playing in Dublin before the artist had committed to it.

He also denied that pressure was put on Prince to commit to play other concerts.

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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