Where where you when …
The phrase that brings us together in the collective good, bad, sad of life. The tragic and triumphant.
Today I sadly sit in the living room of the Little Bitty in the Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood as Today rightly chronicles the times of Prince.
Another pop music legend left us yesterday, dying oh-too-soon at the age of 57. One year younger than me, a man with songs and images and moves forever etched in my memories. When Doves Cry indeed. When I left the store for my dinner break yesterday and saw two text messages on my phone, from my dear wife Karen and my in-process-food-and-film book writing partner Liz alerting me of Prince’s passing, the breath escaped my chest.
Two days in a row, I had lost a significant piece of my formative adult years.
The city of Syracuse had been rocked the day prior by the passing of Dwayne “Pearl” Washington. A half-decade younger at 52, he was a national star back in his day, too, a stout fellow of stature and heart who came to the Orange from Brooklyn after an intense recruiting battle and lifted the basketball program and the Big East Conference to the national spotlight. More than 30,000 people began coming to the Carrier Dome at a time to see Washington’s dazzling play at guard, and battles against St. John’s — New York City fellows like Walter Berry and Chris Mullin — and Georgetown’s giant Patrick Ewing.
It was a love affair that never ended, not even after Pearl left after his junior season to enter the NBA draft and was picked in the first round by the New Jersey Nets. It mattered not that his pro career never matched his college exploits. He lived in Brooklyn and sometimes Syracuse but was always a presence in his college town. When it was announced he had surgery for a brain tumor months ago, a whole city held its breath and prayed in its own way for his health. Then everybody sadly followed the increasingly dire reports, and the current team members wore warmup shirts emblazoned with his name, Pearl, on the front in this season that ended with a surprise march to the Final Four. Yes, indeed, true love to the end.
I was lucky enough to witness both of these men in their prime, in the Carrier Dome.
As assistant sports editor of the big daily, in January 1984 I wrote a periodic sports column for The Post-Standard. Sometimes I got to sit court side to see Pearl Washington do his thing. One of those times was his freshman game when he hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to beat Boston College, causing the crowd to spill over press row — indeed, using P-S reporter David Elfin, me and the rest of us covering the game as so many hurdling blocks — and onto the court for a joyous celebration.
In March 1985 I went with a bunch of my friends from the newsroom to Prince’s Saturday night concert in the dome. I remember wearing a shiny black-and-white striped shirt that I bought special for the occasion, nothing like I ever wore otherwise, and a black fedora, too. My friends stared at me. I felt good, right for funk.
I appreciated his music thereafter, his place in the pop music world, his unique creativity.
Yeah, I was there. I’ll never forget that. Thank you, Pearl and Prince. Prince and Pearl. RIP.
Here’s what I wrote when Washington sank that buzzer-beater, thanks to a re-publication on Syracuse.com for a 2012 series called ‘Cuse Classics. It also includes the photo of Pearl above taken in 1984 by Post-Standard photographer Dick Blume.
Here’s the link to the photo of Prince.
Here’s the link to a Syracuse Herald American story by Bob Neidt about the 1985 Prince concert.
What are your favorite memories about Prince’s music? What do you recall Pearl or the glory formative years of the Big East? What were you like in 1984-85, if you’re of this generation?