Downtown Julie Brown was a Prince fan from the start. The former MTV VJ gave Us Weekly an exclusive, intimate glimpse at what the late icon was like in the late '80s and early '90s and how his caring charisma shined both on and off the stage.
"MTV and music artists back in the day were basically like best buddies," Brown, now 52, tells Us. "It wasn’t like it is today. The MTV days were just open and honest. Artists would walk in whenever they felt like it and we would be ready for them. Prince, as shy as he was, when he was out doing his promotions or doing his tour, he knew that was one of the things that was all part of it. It wasn’t a burden to him at all to talk to us, to talk to MTV, to be a part of our shows." She adds: "He was such a lovebug."
Brown — who rubbed shoulders with the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson, George Michael and many other music greats — had several interactions with Prince while she was a premier VJ for the network. One in particular that sticks out? When Prince bared his bum in cut-out pants at the 1991 MTV Video Awards performing "Gett Off."
"I didn’t know until I got to the front of the stage and the show started and he spun around and I’ve got the mic in front of me and I could see Prince’s buns right in front of me and I’m like, 'Hey, I’m one lucky VJ,'" she jokes to Us.
Very lucky. Brown — MTV fans might remember her "Wubba Wubba Wubba" catchphrase — even received a compliment for her hosting work from The Purple One during a gig. "I was kind of smiling because he had walked by and everybody was going back and forth backstage and he kind of looked over to me and was like, 'You’re doing good,'" the Brit recalls.
"It’s just the love [that's] pouring in, every musician around the world. My heart broke when I saw Bruce Springsteen in Brooklyn breaking into 'Purple Rain' and Mariah Carey in Paris. I’m just happy he’s getting the love he deserves," she tells Us. "He was so giving as an artist, and I know I’m going to miss him, for sure. This one hit hard. He was so young. After the death of Vanity, he was obviously hurting, and I guess no one knew how much until it was too late." (Prince's protégé Vanity died at age 57 from kidney failure in February.)
Since his death, many fellow stars and fans have recalled the meaningful experiences that they shared with Prince. Brown is no different. One of her fondest memories was visiting the late star's Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen, MN, during a private excursion.
"He would put on a concert like it’s Madison Square Garden. It was just full on, nonstop," Brown, who currently hosts 90's on 9 on SiriusXM, tells Us. "It started at two in the morning, and it was purple when the sun came up. It’s a night I’ll never ever forget.… He was always giving out tambourines to people, shakers to people. He always wanted people to be a part of what he was doing."
And the audience felt that. "I was at a concert of his, standing next to Paul Stanley of Kiss, and Stanley turned to me and goes, 'Are you hearing this! Are you seeing this!' Not one note wrong," Brown says. "Just to watch him go off the cuff and see the band try to keep up with him was always fun."
"He’s the type of artist where you have to be careful or you will miss so much of his lyric, because you are so mesmerized by watching him perform live," she adds of Prince. "Every time I went out to see him live I made sure that I would listen to the music over and over again so that I could really hear what he was saying, because at the concert, all he would have to do is give you that side glance and that smile and he took you for a ride, a ride of your life. He did that every time he was on stage."
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