There was a whirlwind of press releases in the past few weeks leading up to tonight's scheduled benefit featuring Prince and Erykah Badu. First, it was happening in a tent at the old Reunion Arena location. Then, it had been moved to the InterContinental Hotel. And then, just this afternoon, it was canceled due to lack of funding. Then, suddenly, it was back on again.
Turns out the final announcement was still to come. And it was given as guests were arriving at the event: The concert was off. No explanation. No announcement. And there was only vague discussion of refunds for tickets ("Head to the point of purchase," patrons were told) that, till they went half-off late today, cost $1,500 a person -- with proceeds going to a foundation for kids. People arriving at TheEvent, as this benefit concert was being called, were met at the escalator by the bearer of bad news, a seemingly odd source. Or, turns out, maybe not.
The job was left to Mavs sideline man and longtime radio fixture Chris Arnold, who referred to himself as "one of the event's organizers" and who was scheduled to emcee the event. He greeted these patrons, all dolled up for a swanky and expensive event, with a handshake, a sad frown and a litany of apologies. Arnold stood alone in these efforts. We could find no one representing Kenny Goss and George Michael's foundation, for whom the event was being thrown.
"Don't blame Prince," Arnold told a small gathering of fans, many visibly and audibly upset at the last-second news. "He really wanted to be here. His band was here. I will take the blame. Blame me for the event not happening."
When asked what he should be blamed for, Arnold smiled sheepishly. He wasn't sure. Money, he said, was not the issue -- despite the press release sent out this afternoon claiming the organizer, River Alexander Group, couldn't cough up the dough to make this happening happen. River Alexander Group, Teresa Gubbins notes on Pegasus News, is an entity registered to Arnold, turns out.
"We had the funds," Arnold said. "Did we need more? Well, we got more. We got over that hurdle."
When pressed for more details, Arnold offered none. He said he didn't know if Prince was in town. He said didn't know if Prince had made it out to the venue. All he knew was that refunds were going to be available at the point of purchase, and that Badu, at one point, had offered to perform on her own.
Nonetheless, the event was canceled.
Other than to say that he and his fellow organizers had been "that close" to pulling off their event, Arnold couldn't offer much else.
"I can't even think of the right words," he said, shrugging.
Paul Levatino, who works closely with Badu as part of her Badu World team, couldn't offer much more insight, either -- other than to say that the Dallas native tried her best to keep the event going.
"Even when they were saying, 'We're sorry, we're canceling,' Erykah was talking to me, trying to figure out how we could make something happen," Levatino said, indicating that Badu spent a good portion of her own money on the event. He hinted that she may also have contacted a few of her other famous friends in town for Super Bowl weekend, trying to find someone to replace Prince.
"There wasn't really too much opportunity for that, though," Levatino said. "But people were talking. There were a lot of things going on."
A different member of Badu's camp, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that much, indeed, was going on behind the scenes -- albeit on another front. According to the source, Prince and his handlers arrived on the site this afternoon, and that the handlers had scoped the venue out only to find that it wasn't up to their standards.
"Prince never even stepped inside the hotel," the source said.
And that, the source added, was just one of the issues. Sound and lighting engineers hadn't been paid and were refusing to set up their equipment until they got their money. And when they finally did, the hotel -- which, our source says, was also claiming it wasn't paid -- apparently made the final decision to pull the plug and move on.
"We heard the news, like, right at 8 o'clock," Levatino added. "Literally, right when everybody got there. Erykah just wanted to perform with her friend and for the foundation. And she was going to do it. She didn't really know the Goss-Michael Foundation until recently, but she respects what they do."
Calls to the Goss-Michael Foundation have not been returned.
Levatino, meanwhile, said he'd prefer not to say more -- he too will be awaiting The Official Word from the Goss-Michael Foundation before speaking further.
"Hopefully," Levatino added, "we'll get another chance."
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.