'The ball goes flying, I go back to get the ball, I'm looking for it, I get the ball ... and he's gone'
The late Prince was more than just a musical icon who changed the pop landscape with hits like “Purple Rain” and “Little Red Corvette”; he was also a dedicated ping pong player. One of the highlights of Prince’s rivalry with fellow ’80s pop titan Michael Jackson, for instance, was the time Prince destroyed the latter at ping pong. On Monday’s episode of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon and Questlove shared their own Prince ping pong story, and it was truly epic.
It all started the night Fallon’s daughter Winnie was born. Questlove got a text reading, “He wants to talk to you” — “You always know ‘he’ is Prince,” the drummer added — because Prince wanted to challenge Fallon to a game at Susan Sarandon’s ping pong bar in New York. Questlove pointed out that Fallon had just had a kid, but Prince seemed nonplussed and declared he would be at the bar at 12:30.
“Here’s what happened. Sit down for this,” Fallon said.
Fallon then launched into a Chris Rock impression, because Rock had been a guest at the time and chastised Fallon for never seeing Prince live. So Fallon saw Prince at Madison Square Garden and booked him for his show, where he broke Kirk Douglas’ guitar (“That’s a long story”). This all led up to a night shortly after the birth of Fallon’s daughter, when the host had to leave a dinner because “Prince just challenged me to a game of ping pong.” Fallon is very competitive by his own account, but was still easily defeated by the legendary musician.
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“It’s 20-10 or something, it’s his serve, and he goes, ‘Game point,'” Fallon remembered. “I go, ‘Here we go, man.’ He hits this ball, and it’s in slow motion. It’s turning, I can see it turning, flames are coming off it, it hits the edge of the table at that perfect part where it’s unhittable, it goes flying but he scores the point. It hits the edge of the table, he wins the game. The ball goes flying, I go back to get the ball, I’m looking for it, I get the ball … and he’s gone.”
Prince composed the soundtrack to Batman, and evidently could disappear like Batman too. Fallon spent some time looking around asking for Prince, to no avail. Just then Questlove arrived and saw Prince in his car leaving the bar.
“I run up to the car and Grey Poupon style, the window rolls down,” Questlove said. “I said, ‘What happened? What happened?’ He said, ‘Ask your boy.'”
Watch the clip below.