Hachette
Tina Jordan
April 04, 2017 at 11:19 AM EDT

If you’re looking for a book about Prince the musician, this isn’t it: The Most Beautiful — an achingly lovely memoir by Prince’s first wife and longtime muse, Mayte Garcia — is about Prince the man, the friend, the lover, and the husband. It’s a heartbreaking inside look at the tortured side of genius that most of us are never allowed to see, and it belongs on the shelf next to the definitive Prince bios. Below, some of our favorite stories:

When she first stepped into Prince’s hotel room, she discovered it had been transformed with rugs candles, flowers, veil, great swaths of linen. “This is called ‘foo foo,’ I learned later, and Prince had a staff member dedicated to it. Wherever Prince went, it was the foo-foo master’s job to go ahead of him and make sure the hotel suite would be a place where he could feel at home.”

“When Prince and I were first hanging out — not yet lovers, just friends, and collaborators — he got it into my head that I should change my name to Arabia.” She finally had to tell him, “No. That would not be cool. My mom would kill me.”

Because he got mobbed when shopping, Prince believed in what Garcia called the “fast and plenty” approach. “We drove down Melrose in a limo, and at each place… Prince would bolt in and out before the people inside knew what was happening. So I followed suit. No time to check out price tags. Just scope out the coolest clothes, grab whatever we want, and hand it to security on the way out.”

Prince kept an entire wardrobe staff at Paisley Park to work on his outfits: pattern makers, cutters, seamstresses. “He had a lot of input into the design process. He’d tear pages from magazines and instruct the designer to recreate the bodice detail from this dress and the cuff from that shirt and a collar from something Errol Flynn wore in Captain Blood.” He also liked to steal her clothes: “If I bought a pair of amazingly cool tailored pants or a hot jacket, he’d take them to wardrobe, have the pants hemmed up, and tell them to put shoulder pads in the jacket so he could wear them.” His massive walk-in closet was arranged by color, “beginning with black and then brown, red, and an amazing array of purple, indigo, and blue.”

“Prince’s house was repainted a different color on a regular basis, and a new car… was custom painted to match it. The last week of December 1990, the first time I visited him at the house that would eventually be our home, the exterior was electric blue and rose-hip pink. Two years later, I arrived to find it canary yellow with purple accents.”

Once on tour, he came into the hair and makeup studio and, seeing a platter of cookies and whipped cream and soda, assumed they were hers. (They weren’t — the snacks belonged to her makeup artist.) “He had come in to see me, but the look on his face changed as he approached the station where I was sitting. He eyed the whipped cream and said, ‘Is that yours?’ … He left without saying anything else. Twenty minutes later, the tour accountant came in and said, ‘I’m so sorry. I’m embarrassed to say this, but I have to dock your pay this week.”

Prince loved to hypnotize her and hear her talk about their past lives. “Together we explored universes and lifetimes and universal truth… When he was ready to bring me back, he’d snap his fingers next to my ear and say, ‘When you wake up, you’ll know that you are loved and safe and warm.'” She says the two of them “talked about the possibility of our two souls having met before and where that might have happened. He was fixated on the idea of Egypt.”

One day she went along with him to a stressful contract meeting at Warner Bros. “I waited in the car, making a few calls. When he came out, he had SLAVE written on the right side of his face. ‘So… that went well,’ I said, hoping to make him smile. ‘It definitely changed the tone of the meeting,’ he said.”

“I want to be clear. In all the years we were together, I never actually saw Prince doing drugs. He didn’t want me to see it… But there were a few disturbing incidents that happened when we were together… occasions when he told me he was ‘sick’ or that he had a ‘migraine.’ Looking back, I can see it was something else. I didn’t see it then. Maybe because I didn’t want to.”

In the delivery room when their soon Amiir was born, Prince saw the baby for the first time. “The pure elation on my husband’s face turned to terror. On the cold white page of a medical text, Pfeiffer syndrome type 2 is a genetic disorder that causes skeletal and systemic abnormalities,” Garcia writes. The baby endured many painful surgeries before the couple decided, together, they would not make him suffer any more. But they were at home, not at the hospital, when their son died.

“I heard the phone ringing. A moment later, my husband came out and said, ‘It’s done. They took the tubes out.’

‘What? No! I’m supposed to be there!’

‘I didn’t know if you could handle it.’

‘I’m going. Right now. If no one wants to take me, I’ll drive.’

He put his arms around me. Made me stop. In less time than it would have taken me to get there, the phone rang again. He answered it, and then he hung up and said, ‘He’s gone.'”

When her second pregnancy failed and her doctors advised a D&C, Prince–by then serious about the Jehovah’s witness faith, which did not believe in medical invention—did not want her to have the procedure. “Nature will take its course if you let it,” he told her. Garcia declined to put her health at risk and had the operation. His new infatuation with religion “was another story,” she writes. “He was hard core into it… This was a place I couldn’t go. I could not go there with him, no matter how hard he tried to make me see that path.”

As their marriage deteriorated, things came to a head one night when she declined to attend a basketball game with him. “Somehow my ‘no thanks’ turned into a giant blowout — the first and only time in all our years together that he looked me in the eye and said, ‘F— you.’

‘What?’ I was instantly at code orange. ‘What did you say to me?’

‘You know how many people want to go to this basketball game with me? How many women exhaust themselves trying to get my attention?'”

All she wanted to leave the marriage with was Amiir’s ashes, but she could not find the urn. “Eventually, a compassionate friend told me she’d heard about a troubling incident. Prince’s assistant was upset that he had been asked to burn everything in the house that reminded him of me and the baby, including the contents of the nursery — Amiir’s crib and toys and clothes and books—everything.”

Prince was always immaculately, perfectly dressed, and never left the house “unless he was done up pretty.” “‘Marilyn Monroe never left the house without full makeup,’ he told me, as if no other explanation was needed,” Garcia writes. “Bottom line: You never saw him looking wrong. Knowing this, I felt a cold shiver down my spine when I read in the Minneapolis StarTribune that when his body was found in the elevator at Paisley Park, ‘Prince was wearing a black shirt and pants — both were on backward — and his socks were on inside out.’ This made no sense to me. The sheer irony of it broke my heart all over again.”

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