(From the movie "Smoke Signals," starring Adam Beach and written by Sherman Alexie, based on one of his short stories. I saw this movie when it came out in 1998 and to this day whenever the name Victor comes up anywhere, I imitate the goofy, braided dude in these clips.)
Sometimes it takes a long time, and a little bit of persistence, to prove you're not crazy. Not right, perhaps, but also not insane.
Roughly 20 years ago I maintained to just about anybody who would listen, that international pop superstar Prince had changed his name to Victor. This was just prior to the Purple One's decision to become known as an unpronounceable symbol. Obviously, my voice was ridiculed, lost in the clamor about how ridiculous (or awesome, depending on how you felt about Mr. Little Red Corvette's music, fashion and attitude) it was that Prince was changing his name to a provocative glyph.
Some people thought Prince made the change just to prove how Prince-y he was, that he didn't care about names and that, dammit, he could do whatever he wanted. I wasn't a Prince fan at the time, but even I had to admit that he seemed somehow sexier now that he'd shed the name that us mere mortals used, in favor of an otherworldly emblem.
Why did Prince change his name? In part because, under terms of his contract with Warner Bros., he owed the label five albums. He wanted the freedom to explore, to not toil under the demand of creating hits. So he figured by using the symbol, he could release music on a smaller label, and fulfill his Warner contract with music from his massive vault.
For more on the contract tussle, read this.
An artist as prolific and talented as Prince (I've come around on him since the early '90s, although I don't own a lick of his music) needs to constantly challenge himself. He has no desire to do the same thing, or be called the same thing, forever.
But nobody believed me when I said I'd heard that Mr. Purple Rain had at one point decided to change his name to Victor. I couldn't cite my source, but I knew I'd heard it somewhere. Over the years, this just became one of those things that made me "me." Oh, Dave's the guy who thinks Prince was going to change his name to Victor. Dave's the guy who saw "Brother From Another Planet." Dave's the guy who's into Phantom Tollbooth.
I had a chance to ask the Man himself about this, years ago, but I chickened out.
I was working at Webnoize, where I was a writer and editor. The details of how I was put in touch with His Purple Highness are lost to me, but I may have been working on a story related to the launch of Prince's paid online music club.
I was told that I could only communicate with Prince via AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), an account I didn't have. One of my coworkers, however, did and was more than happy to let me use it. My coworker's last name was Karp, and his AIM screen name incorporated the name. At one point, Prince (who was supposedly using AIM through an associate as well) asked something along the lines of, "Who is this person who's named after a fish?"
I recall that his answers to my questions varied between silly and generally useless, and somewhat helpful. I printed out a partial transcript (I was unable to capture the entire text) and saved that print-out for quite a while. I wish I had kept it, so I could quote from it.
I don't remember whether I seriously considered asking him about the whole Victor thing, but I'm sure I joked about it, and I seem to recall people giving me a hard time after the fact for not broaching the subject.
With all the talk this week about the The Woman Formerly Known as Kate Middleton (now the Duchess of Cambridge) having given the British monarchy an heir to the throne, I got to thinking about good ol' Prince Rogers Nelson.
So I decided, for the first time in a long time, to seek confirmation for my Victor theory. Past efforts on Google, Yahoo! and AltaVista (I told you I've been at this a long time) were fruitless.
Finally this week Google gave me a few hits.
I found an article written by the pop music critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Jim Walsh, on August 16, 1994:
In writing about Prince's song, "The Sacrifice of Victor," which is about abuse the Purple One suffered as a child, Walsh concludes this way: "Wait a sec. Did I say Prince? Scratch that. And forget all those other ones - Symbolina, TAFKAP, Victor; I think I just figured out what to call the guy.
"His name is Lazarus. And he is funky."
And from PrinceVault.com:
"Since the album (with the unpronounceable symbol) began with 'My Name Is Prince' and ended with Prince stating "...my name will be Victor", many media outlets reported that (the symbol) could be referred to as Victor, some fans even going so far as to show how the symbol could be broken to form the letters V-I-C-T-O-R."
On tour around that time, however, TAFKAP made comments that "my name ain't Prince, and it damn well ain't Victor."
So I was wrong, but I still claim vindication.