I bought one Prince album in 1981 or so, and then went out the next day and bought all the Prince albums. One was “Controversy,” and the title track included this line:

Am I black or white?
Am I straight or gay?

With Prince, you never were entirely sure. Well, he was certainly black, but his sensibility, and his artistic vision, spanned too wide a panorama to be pigeonholed as pretty much anything. He was rock, pop, dance, funk, gospel when he was feeling it, playful, serious, falsetto, growly. Today I found a clip of a performance from earlier in his career, and he’s wearing a tiger-print kimono thing, matching briefs and thigh-high socks. But he also played guitar on a par with Eric Clapton, and performed like James Brown. Only better.

(Evidence.) Watch that. It’s great.

Someone on my FB feed today called him the African-American David Bowie. I think that’s pretty perfect. Always original, sometimes imitated, never duplicated. Plus fancy outfits;

Now we wait for the cause of death. As always, watch the local sources:

In a transcript of a 911 call released by the Carver County Sheriff’s Office, an unidentified male caller tells the dispatcher there is “a person … dead here,” says he doesn’t know how the person died and struggles to find the exact address of Prince’s home, which the dispatcher urgently seeks.

“You’re at Paisley Park, OK, that’s in Chanhassen,” the dispatcher says. “Are you with the person who’s …” and the male caller quickly interrupts to say, “Yes, it’s Prince.”

Multiple responders were quickly dispatched. An ambulance dispatcher soon canceled further medical help, saying, “confirmed DOA.”

Drug overdose? Who knows.

Lots of interesting tidbits in that story. I liked this one:

He became a Jehovah’s Witness in 2001, and on at least one occasion went proselytizing door-to-door. An Eden Prairie woman told Star Tribune columnist C.J. in 2003 that she was stunned when Prince and former Sly and the Family Stone bassist Larry Graham knocked on her door. Prince introduced himself as Prince Nelson and spent 25 minutes at the woman’s house talking about his faith.

With that, I’m heading out for the weekend. I hope yours is good.

Posted at 12:42 am in Popculch |

53 responses to “Controversy.”

  1. Sherri said on April 22, 2016 at 2:43 am

    That Super Bowl halftime show was great. They should have just stopped there.

    There was another time Prince performed in conjunction with a sporting event. After the Minnesota Lynx won their third WNBA championship, he threw an impromptu three hour party and concert for them after the game at his house.

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  2. Brandon said on April 22, 2016 at 2:50 am

    He had a duet with Madonna on her Like A Prayer album. Theirs was a complicated relationship.

    Everyone knows Purple Rain but not necessariy its 1990 sequel Graffiti Bridge, which Prince directed. Then there’s Under the Cherry Moon (1986), very underrated, I say.

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  3. adrianne said on April 22, 2016 at 6:53 am

    Spent Thursday night hopping around the Intertubz, watching great Prince performances. The Super Bowl show was outstanding. Today’s New York Daily News cover: R,I.P. you sexy mother. Perfect!

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  4. alex said on April 22, 2016 at 7:13 am

    First time I heard “Controversy,” during a drag show at a gay bar, I didn’t know the name of the song was “Controversy.” The entire place was chiming in on cue:

    Drag queen:

    Am I black or white?

    Am I straight or gay?


    Work that pussy!

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  5. basset said on April 22, 2016 at 7:39 am

    “Watch that. It’s great.”
    Play a few notes, strike a pose. Play a few more, pose again. I’m not getting it. Same with his solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” on some George Harrison tribute show – saw a link to that claiming that it was one of the great guitar solos of all time or something else equally silly. It wasn’t.

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  6. Suzanne said on April 22, 2016 at 7:49 am

    Michael Jackson was Jehovah’s Witness, too, I think.

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  7. alex said on April 22, 2016 at 8:10 am

    Jackson was. And they tried to excommunicate Jackson’s mother when the tabloid press showed her out on the town celebrating her birthday, which Jehovahs strictly forbid.

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  8. Heather said on April 22, 2016 at 9:00 am

    So far 2016 is like the Rapture for our bravest, most creative, and most talented artists. Please, Universe, leave us a few to enjoy for a while.

    I’m really depressed to hear that he might have been battling a drug problem. He always seemed so centered. But who knows what was going on–those opioids can be big trouble. I read somewhere else that supposedly he was in ill health for years.

    There was also a really funny Onion article that suggested everyone engage in some, er, nighttime activities even if they are too sad, because that is what Prince would have wanted. Truth!

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  9. Julie Robinson said on April 22, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Reports are now circulating that when Prince’s plane made an emergency landing a week ago, flu was the cover story for a drug OD. This really saddens me; he seemed to be better grounded than so many other rockers. So often creative genius comes from flaming demons that are too much to overcome. Hoping that wasn’t it.

    We lost a family member this week, also at 57. He had battled ill health for years, was in the ICU for weeks over Christmas, but then made a great recovery. We saw him last month and he looked great, was working out daily, and spoke with gratitude about every day he had. Then he died in his sleep. I guess that’s how most of us would like to go, but he was just too damn young. RIP Cliff. RIP Prince.

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  10. susan said on April 22, 2016 at 9:36 am

    That’s a cool guitar.

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  11. Judybusy said on April 22, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Ah, Julie, I’m sorry about Cliff, especially when he seemed to be doing better.

    I’m trying to convince my wife to go downtown for the second dance party. She hates crowds with a passion, but I think she is caving.

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  12. susan said on April 22, 2016 at 9:46 am

    I do like this, however.

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  13. Deborah said on April 22, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Susan, I hadn’t heard that one, made me tear up.

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  14. nancy said on April 22, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Wow, Basset, I don’t know what your standards are, but that solo looked and sounded pretty good to me.

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  15. Bruce Fields said on April 22, 2016 at 10:15 am

    “Play a few notes, strike a pose. Play a few more, pose again. I’m not getting it.”

    Eh, he’s doing both at once. I don’t buy the idea that the poses are a frivolous distraction from the music. He was putting on a show, and kudos for doing all that other stuff while still nailing the guitar parts.

    (But is there a version without all the commentary? It’s bad enough putting up with that during the games.)

    “Same with his solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” on some George Harrison tribute show – saw a link to that claiming that it was one of the great guitar solos of all time or something else equally silly. It wasn’t.”

    Fair enough. I’m not enough of a guitar person to know if any of it’s particularly interesting. Probably it gets passed around so much mainly just because it’s a song a lot of people like and there’s not a lot of good live Prince on youtube. He really sells it, though.

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  16. basset said on April 22, 2016 at 10:21 am

    It was just guitar acrobatics and prancing around, all about him and not about the song. That said, I am not cool enough to appreciate this stuff so take it with however many grains of salt you feel appropriate.

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  17. Bitter Scribe said on April 22, 2016 at 10:31 am

    That stuff about Prince becoming a Jehovah’s Witness and knocking on people’s doors blew me away.

    He was a brilliant artist and a self-obsessed flake. Hardly the first one, of course. The only thing I found unlikable about him were the homophobic comments he made at one point. Maybe it was a defensive reaction to his foppish stage persona, but c’mon, a megastar should be secure enough in his own skin to not take pointless cheap shots at others.

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  18. brian stouder said on April 22, 2016 at 11:43 am

    I suppose the thought experiment would be: name the artist that practically everyone loves and appreciates.

    A guy like Walt Disney might come up, and even he has legions of people who aren’t affected one whit by his creations; or Eddie Vedder (my fave!) who appeals to this or that narrower band of people; or Andy Warhol – whose appeal is lost on me (for one); or Frank Lloyd Wright (ditto).

    By way of saying, I would have nodded in agreement with bassett last week, as Prince’s appeal was (more or less) lost on me (except I did like Little Red Corvette).

    Still, at the end of lunch yesterday, I was just about to shut off the TV and Brian Williams came on with the BREAKING NEWS about Prince, and literally stopped me in my tracks. Aside from liking this or that thing that he created, he was part of our lives – like the neighbor you occasionally see when you walk around the block, or that book on the shelf that you read two winters ago.

    Plus, he was only 2 years older than me, and I’d like to think I won’t be keeling-over anythime soon!

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  19. Jolene said on April 22, 2016 at 11:54 am

    On YouTube, one thing always leads to another. A video from a BET telecast with Prince, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, and Yolanda Adams reminded me of one of my all-time favorite musical performances: Adams and gospel singer Jessy Dixon singing Paul Simon’s “Gone at Last” in the concert held when Simon was given the Gershwin Award for Popular Song by the Library of Congress. For your lunchtime listening pleasure.

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  20. Suzanne said on April 22, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    i never was a huge Prince fan, but I have learned, since yesterday, that he was Jehovah’s Witness and only 5′ 2″. And a death like this brings out odd reactions. Several very conservative Christian Facebook friends of mine posted this today:

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  21. Jakash said on April 22, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Hosting an impromptu concert for the WNBA winners was certainly a cool thing to do. And I certainly appreciate the fact that he was a mega-superstar who could have lived anywhere but remained in freaking Minnesota. One of the commenters to the article that Sherri linked to @ 1 said “the reason he was never as popular as Michael (and call me wrong on that point) is because fewer people, including me, care for his musical style. I have great respect for his talent, I just don’t care for his music.” I’d agree with that, to the limited extent I know his music. That being said, I was never a big Michael Jackson fan, either, though there were a number of his songs I liked pretty well. The “showmanship” skills and dancing abilities of various musicians has just never had any effect on increasing my appreciation for their music. Elvis swiveling his hips just seemed ridiculous to me, e. g. So sue me!

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  22. Kim said on April 22, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    I can’t think about Prince without remembering his show in (I think) 1982, somewhere in central IL, and this clip from the hilarious Charlie Murphy on Chappelle’s show.

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  23. adrianne said on April 22, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    This was great: Cast of “Hamilton” performs “Let’s Go Crazy” at the end of Thursday’s performance.

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  24. Danny said on April 22, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    Like a few of you, I too missed getting on the Prince fan train for the most part, but my appreciation of his talent changed over the years. I remember this roommate I had back in the early 90’s who told me Prince was a musical genius. I at first thought he was kidding because he was a hard rock drummer who used to practice Led Zep’s Moby Dick in our living room and when I laughed, he let me know he was absolutely serious and through the years, I’ve had this opinion of Prince confirmed by many in the music biz. So there’s that.

    Then, through glimpses I’ve had of Prince over time, I came to a greater appreciation of his talent and genius. I still don’t put him on par with Michael Jackson or McCartney/Lennon on quality or quantity of pop output, but he’s in the conversation. And his musicianship was definitely on par with a virtuoso. He wasn’t a pioneer like Hendrix or Page or Howe, but he could play any style he wanted at the same level of competency. And in the end, he should be remembered as a Bowie-like icon too.

    Last night, my wife and I watched a few YouTube performances in honor and appreciation. Then, like Heather said, one thing led to another and we were watching Stevie Ray Vaughn and Steve Howe clips and this culminated with us watching a two-hour documentary on Hendrix at the Atlanta Pop Festival which was two months before Jimi died.

    All in all, it was a pleasant evening of musical nostalgia.

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  25. Sherri said on April 22, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    The cast of The Color Purple performed Purple Rain at the end of their performance:

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  26. Jolene said on April 22, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Does anyone know why it takes so long to produce toxicology reports? Whenever there is an unexplained death, we hear, as we are hearing now, that the gox reports will take several weeks. Why do these reports take so long when the results of so many tests are immediately available?

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  27. Deborah said on April 22, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    I’m enjoying all the critiques of Prince.

    I had a busy morning. I was having a hard time finding material samples for our construction work in our Chicago place and I mentioned it on Facebook. One of the higher ups at the company I worked for before I retired is a Facebook friend and he invited me to use the resource library there, which is fantastic. I got lots of samples but it was weird being back there, I tried to be very anonymous but some people came over and gave me hugs etc, which was nice but also strange, because I don’t belong there anymore. But I’m very appreciative of the samples. On my way home I stopped at Eataly for lunch, which was delicious. If you’re ever in Chicago, I recommend it, the food is really good, the closest to actually being in Italy that I’ve found. It’s kind of hectic though, it’s huge, lots of people and noisy. If you can concentrate on the food (and wine) and block everything else out, it’s great. I’ve eaten there for lunch about three or four times and the food has always been scrumptious.

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  28. elaine said on April 22, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Here is another Youtube link to a Prince performance. It was filmed at Coachella in 2008. Thing is, you can’t actually see much of the man. No matter – listen to his incredible musicianship: .

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  29. Jolene said on April 22, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    For your weekend reading: The Post has published the first of five multimedia packages on Obama’s legacy. Am eager to look into it, even though I hate any reminder that Obama will be leaving office soon.

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  30. Jolene said on April 22, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Some bad news from Ohio.

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  31. Deborah said on April 22, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    What’s coming out now is that Prince was quite a humanitarian. If you saw Van Jones on CNN, Prince did a lot of good and his faith didn’t let him brag about it, which I find admirable.

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  32. David C. said on April 22, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    The thing about Prince’s guitar playing is he could shred with the best of them, but with about 500 times the feeling. There are way too many guitar players, say Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, who can play a gazillion notes a second but who are as sterile as an operating room. Prince could play fast, technically perfect guitar with soul. We’ll probably never see the likes of him again.

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  33. Dave said on April 22, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    All of the violence in Southern Ohio and that entire region of hopelessness upsets me mostly because, although I didn’t grow up there, it’s the land of a great deal of my heritage. Just in the last four months, there have been four murders within five miles of my father’s hometown and one of them turned out to be the sister-in-law of one of my old co-workers. Two were most likely drug related and not sure about the other two, being that of the sister-in-law and who was identified as a family friend.

    As for Prince, I wasn’t a fan but I sure admired his abilities, much as I admired without being a fan, David Bowie’s ability to change himself. I became aware of Prince more through Rolling Stone, which I was still reading regularly when he first came upon the music scene, than by listening to him.

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  34. Scout said on April 22, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    This is amazing. At least it is to me. I always liked Prince, but it took his passing and all of the tribute posts I’ve seen in the past two days to truly appreciate the incredible musician he was.

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  35. Jolene said on April 22, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    More royal family cuteness.

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  36. Deborah said on April 22, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    OK that’s really cute, Jolene. Obama always looks like he’s good with kids, he treats them with respect.

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  37. David C. said on April 23, 2016 at 7:43 am

    Follow this link from Jolene’s photo and compare the well turned out and dapper young lad to dad and Uncle Harry. Savile Row must be falling on hard times and had to skimp on fabric on William’s suit. It looks two sizes too small. Harry’s looks like he hires some poor waif as a royal suit stomper to give his a lived in look.

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  38. alex said on April 23, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Interesting Detroit story in the NYT. And she’s a Knight-Wallace fellow. Is Amy Haimerl Whitebeard’s daughter by any chance, Nance?

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  39. alex said on April 23, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Never mind. As I read further I see her father was a contractor. Whitebeard was a journalist and I just figured maybe it was in her blood.

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  40. Deborah said on April 23, 2016 at 9:38 am

    DavidC, Half the young men I see in Chicago are super thin and wear those tight suits. The other half are bulky, wear baggy t-shirts and shorts (in all weather) and look like toddlers. It’s quite a contrast.

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  41. Dexter said on April 23, 2016 at 10:06 am

    I am not going to write about being devastated by the loss of Prince because he belonged to kids and folks who came of age appreciating music and dance in the 1980s…mostly. I keep hearing “Prince was always being forgotten as a great guitar player.” Not by me. I never tapped into all the “out there” sexiness (female masturbation song, his alter-ego “Camille”, for whom he kept hundreds of bottles of women’s fragrance bottles at his bedside) his virtual “voluntary enslavement” of harems to feed him grapes and give him pedicures)…no, I always thought of him as the third greatest guitar player ever, behind Tommy Emmanuel and of course Clapton.

    Over the years here I have sometimes posted stories of the town where I went to high school, Waterloo, Indiana. Murders, cop-shooting, arson…many murders, actually…I can’t link paywall barrier stories so I am going to try to leap the wall and post the latest…this time a police sniper dead-kill shot. Enjoy.

    State police identify sniper who ended Waterloo standoff

    FORT WAYNE — Indiana State Police have identified Trooper Brian W. Dunkin as the officer who shot and killed a man to end an armed standoff east of Waterloo on March 26.

    A trained sniper, Dunkin fired one shot that killed Wayne King, 38, of Butler. King was holding his estranged wife, Dawn King, hostage inside her home on U.S. 6 after shooting her in her ankle with a shotgun, police said.

    The standoff went on for 5 1/2 hours before a state police commander ordered Dunkin to shoot Wayne King. Police said they feared Dawn King might die if she did not receive medical care soon.

    Dunkin has been an Indiana State Police trooper since December 2007, according to a news release. In October 2008, he joined the North Squad of the Emergency Response Section. He has completed training in emergency response, including sniper observer school in August 2009.

    Dunkin has not been the subject of any internal investigations or disciplinary actions, the release said. State police now are conducting an internal investigation of the Waterloo shooting, and will turn the results over to DeKalb County Prosecutor ClaraMary Winebrenner said Sgt. Ron Galaviz, public information officer for the state police post at Fort Wayne.

    One day after the shooting, someone sent an anonymous e-mail message to state police in Indianapolis, threatening the sniper without mentioning his name, Galaviz said. State police are investigating the threat.

    Galaviz said police officers’ actions on March 26 aimed “to do everything they could to save everybody’s life,” especially Dawn King’s.

    State police followed their “use of force continuum” that progresses from verbal commands to deadly force, he said.

    “It was his actions that precipitated the whole chain of events,” Galaviz said, referring to Wayne King. “He escalated that immediately to a deadly-force encounter” by shooting Dawn King and by firing several shotgun blasts from inside the home after police arrived, he said.

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  42. Deborah said on April 23, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Dexter, one of my Facebook friends posted that when Eric Clapton was asked what it felt like to be the best guitar player in the world he said, “I don’t know ask Prince”. It’s making the rounds on the Internet.

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  43. Deborah said on April 23, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Little Bird was over the moon yesterday evening because she met George R.R. Martin (the author of all the Game of Thrones books) in Santa Fe. She took a selfie with him and gushed to him about how much she loved his books. He gave her a coin and asked her a question in his made up language and she answered it in his language. She was so excited, because just a few weeks ago she met Neil Gaiman, another one of her favorite authors, who writes the kind of books she reads.

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  44. Jerri said on April 23, 2016 at 1:40 pm has debunked the Eric Clapton comment about Prince but the Washington Post has a very nice interview with Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, no guitar slouch, on his conversations with Prince and how he’s never been able to duplicate the intro to When Doves Cry:

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  45. Dexter said on April 24, 2016 at 2:27 am

    #3 Little Red Corvette #2 Raspberry Beret #1……When Doves Cry

    Now I have a little fun problem I need help with: Friday I spent hours at the VA Outpatient Clinic in Toledo getting my quarterly exam, the entire range of services they provide, X-Ray, Labs, Pharmacy, doctor visit after the nurse checked the regular things like weight and blood pressure…so I was there quite a while. When I checked in the man said there was going to be a TV star in the great entrance room at a certain time, and the nurse told me other actors were coming, and then the coup de grace…The Lone Ranger & Tonto.
    So as I had to skedaddle to the pharmacy counsel and pick-up windows, I passed the celebrities with not a minute to spare to get a picture & autographed 8 x 10.
    The star of a show that ceased 45 years ago, “The Virginian” was supposed to be there,James Drury. There were about fifteen actors, men and women, in full Western TV costume, just milling around. I later Wiki’d James Drury; he’s alive but old, so maybe one of those geezers was him.
    The mystery is this: Who the hell were the actors all in costume playing The Lone Ranger and Tonto? The Ranger looked pretty young and the Tonto looked a lot like Lou Diamond Phillips but I IMDB’d him and he only jokes about ever playing Tonto so …who were those guys?
    Anybody know of a western play or movie coming out, specifically The Lone Ranger and Tonto?
    Perhaps this is the weirdest part: One lady told me these actors were shooting a scene for a movie (TV or silver screen..?) in, of all places, Wauseon Ohio, just west of Toledo. I wondered…some interiors in a special old hotel? Some outdoor spot with a perfect winding creek?
    I searched Google, the Toledo Blade, the TV websites…not a damn thing! Who WAS that masked man? And who the fuck was Tonto?

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  46. Deborah said on April 24, 2016 at 7:56 am

    Dexter, sounds like a strange dream to me. In Santa Fe and surrounding areas they’re filming the Longmire series. All over town when filming is going on they have the yellow signs up along the streets that have
    LM and an arrow to direct the film trucks to the shoot locations. Every time I see those I’m tempted to follow them to the filming site but so far I never have.

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  47. Jolene said on April 24, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Deborah, you should follow those arrows! That guy who plays Longmire is a hunk.

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  48. James said on April 24, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    I’m not a big fan of mourning public figures like they were friends or family (I’m doing a comic about that that’s coming out tomorrow), but that said, I found this hugely amusing and entertaining:

    Kevin Smith telling a Prince story.

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  49. beb said on April 24, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    Deborah — do it! Follow those signs!

    I know this sounds crazy… but Jeff (TMMO) please ping the group so we know we weren’t part of any of today’s madness.

    Jolene @26: I don’t know why toxicology scans take so long but I can offer some suggestions. One would be that there is a queue a couple weeks in length and Prince’s samples have to wait their turn. Secondly, you can only test for specific drugs (or drug families) So when a broad screen is requested that would require a multitude of tests and of course the lab isn’t going to release any results until all the tests have been run. Finally, if we’re talking about gas chromatography there is a lot of time spent in extracting the chemicals from the samples followed by a long time being run through the instrument. This is not my area of expertise but seems like likely explanations.

    Like my wife said, it will be really disheartening if it turns out that Prince died from a drug overdose.

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  50. Deborah said on April 24, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Aren’t Prince’s test results private? Isn’t that what HIPPA is about? Why do we get to know what his private medical records show?

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  51. dull_old_man said on April 24, 2016 at 11:05 pm


    More or less, when people die they no longer have federal protection of privacy of medical information. Even the provisions of human subject protection (in medical research; sorry for the jargon) do not apply to dead people.

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  52. MarkH said on April 25, 2016 at 12:27 am

    dull_old_man — correct, and in most states, it goes further than that. An unattended death, like Prince’s, automatically comes under the purview of the coroner and is in the public domain. An autopsy is usually mandated to determine the cause of death. Those results, including toxicology, can be made public for the reasons you state, and usually are. Or at the discretion of a county attorney or a judge, they can be withheld. That is rare, but if there is a criminal investigation involved, autopsy results are always made public. They’ll likely be very careful with Prince, so it will be a while.

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  53. Suzanne said on April 26, 2016 at 7:40 am

    I found the article I mentioned above. From over 10 years ago.

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