If you doubt that April Morrison bleeds purple, you’d be mistaken.
Morrison is slowly turning the North Carolina home she shares with husband Andy Whitted into a museum devoted to the purple majesty that is Prince. She wears her heart on her sleeve – literally, as witnessed by her beautiful arm tattoo.
Morrison’s life took a detour when she left college six months prior to earning a degree in psychology to care for her sick grandmother for a decade, in the family home she and Whitted now own. It’s during that time that her Prince house-museum journey began, in a way.
“When I was 17 I took her – a 60-year-old – to see Prince in concert,” Morrison said. “She fell in love with him! [Later] we shut her room off for like five years after she passed; made it into a guest room, then an office. We still didn’t really use it.
“Then when he died, it hit me so hard… Prince? At 57? I wasn’t ready; I went over the edge. I told Andy ‘we’re building a museum.’ We started with that room. My grandma would love what we’ve done,” she said.
The couple have already amassed a good deal of Prince items – “I didn’t realize it would grow so quickly!” she noted. Through RR Auction’s last Prince auction, she acquired leggings worn by Prince that he gave to his ex-fiancee Susannah Melvoin (listen to Melvoin discuss that item, and others, in her podcast with us) and a makeup compact he used. “I like to imagine this is his fingerprint in the makeup,” she said wistfully.
Many items have come from eBay or private sellers, as well. One incredible story is how she came to acquire a four-piece Purple Rain suit.
“You can’t make this kind of stuff up, you really can’t,” Morrison said, laughing. “The suit was found by a secondhand store (cue “Raspberry Beret” lyrics) in Denver, Colorado. [During an estate liquidation] someone found it – it was so small, they thought it might be a little girl’s! They packed it up with all the other things and were just going to sell it at the store,” she marveled.
Once they noticed the special “Prince” labels sewn into the pieces, however, plans changed. To corroborate the provenance, Morrison is “going to visit the designer’s brother” who’s now a mayor in a town in Georgia.
Room, to grow
Whitted’s commercial-services business skills have come in handy during the creation of the burgeoning museum. He installed a floor of white unfinished oak and created a custom purple stain (I am not going to have to point out the rhyming humor to you, am I?). “Sherwin Williams made it [custom] and it is called Purple Unicorn. It is now in their database with its own code number,” Morrison noted. “The floor is like purple glass; took him three months to finish it.”
The ceiling tray border trim is wallpaper special-ordered to replicate what is in the Purple Rain room at Paisley Park in Chanhassen, MN. The tray is painted like Prince’s “cloud” suit from the Raspberry Beret video. There’s a wall hanging replicating the 1971 Pontiac Grand Am (via a purchased header panel and grille) that was used on the Sign O The Times album cover. Whitted has also installed LED lighting to showcase huge wallpaper murals. “I keep on purple lights most of the time,” Morrison said. “There are 10 different colors.”
With all his sweat-equity in this Prince-ly endeavor, is Morrison’s husband as big a fan of Prince as she is? “Andy is a fan of me,” she said, cheerfully matter-of-fact. “We have a saying: He’s not purple; he’s light lavender. I bleed purple! But he just puts up with this for me.”
“I made him that outfit for our Minneapolis trip, and I’m damn proud of it!” she declared, laughing. “And I don’t sew! He didn’t want to wear it at first, but once people started coming up to us and asking for photos, he loved it!”
Their museum already includes Prince’s Purple Rain notebook with handwritten script – complete with a pencil that’s been lodged in there since he put it there more than 30 years ago; a practice tambourine he used on the sound stage at Paisley Park while recording and filming Graffiti Bridge; a couple of zipper pulls; a purple carnation he gave Morrison in 1987 (below); a pair of Purple Rain pants; a coat check from a party he threw at his Beverly Hills home; and more.
“I am not done. I am always looking to add to my museum,” she said. The couple is judicious with their spending; “We’ve managed to acquire at a pace without too much damage to our wallets,” Morrison joked. Her top wish list, someday item? “A waist chain! I would love a waist chain!”
Morrison and Whitted are shooting for an invite-only open house on April 21 – the second anniversary of Prince’s death. Several special celebrity guests are in the works to appear.
Going forward, they will continue to add to their collection. Despite the bigger, flashier items they’ve already acquired, Morrison notes a desire for more intimate pieces. “I’d love some smaller, neater things – like jewelry, even socks,” Morrison said. “Maybe a hat, like the one from Lovesexy.
“Really personal items. These small things make me happy.”
— Kathleen Palmer, RR Auction 1/25/18
Would you like to be featured in our Collector Spotlight? Contact Kath at RR: [email protected].