We're accustomed to Michael Jackson shouting "shamone," but he never shouted "schadenfreude."
The King of Pop did practice it, however. That's if we're to believe Sing to Me, the new memoir from music-biz icon L.A. Reid. Among the most headline-grabby tidbits revealed in the legendary producer's book: Apparently Jackson loved watching Prince embarrass himself.
Scene: Reid and partner Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds arrived at Jackson's Neverland Ranch in the early '90s to discuss potential songwriting collabs. Upon entry to the compound located near Santa Barbara, California, they're asked to sign nondisclosure agreement ("Nobody got to see Michael without signing one," Reid reports in the book).
After a quick tour of Neverland, Jackson took Reid and Babyface to a screening room. He showed his guests video clips from a 1983 James Brown concert, where The Godfather of Soul called Jackson onstage for some cameo dance moves. Jackson then informed Brown that Prince was also in attendance, and Brown asked The Purple One to join him onstage (Prince approached the stage atop the shoulders of Santa Claus-like bodyguard Charles "Big Chick" Huntsberry; see the video below).
Jacko's rival — for real, the pair apparently had competitive beef — botched his guest spot, according to Reid, who writes:
“Prince [couldn’t] make his guitar work, frantically stripping off his shirt and trying tricks with the microphone stand and making all these poses. After Michael’s dazzling star turn, Prince fell as flat as he could, and Michael enjoyed laughing at the video.”
But MJ was not done clowning on Prince. Again, here's Reid:
“After that, he put on a scene from Prince’s movie Under the Cherry Moon, the artsy black-and-white bomb he made after Purple Rain, and he laughed some more at Prince.”
The Prince-shaming sesh was followed by lunch. “Michael’s pasta was all cut in the shapes of Disney characters,” Reid writes, creeping us the hell out.
The Jackson-Prince rivalry included several colorful moments.
“They’d shoot hoops at [Prince’s] Paisley Park,” Prince drummer Bobby Z once told the Star Tribune's Jon Bream. “Prince had a deep-seeded competitive nature, so it’s easy to see where he would measure himself against Jackson’s success.”
There is, of course, the infamous account of a heated ping-pong game between the two music titans. The drama unfolded inside an L.A. studio where both musicians were recording in the '80s.
"You want me to slam it?" Prince threatened, according to engineer David Z's first-hand account provided to the Strib in 2009, the same year Jackson died. "Michael drops his paddle and holds his hands up in front of his face so the ball won't hit him. Michael walks out with his bodyguard, and Prince starts strutting around like a rooster. 'Did you see that? He played like Helen Keller.'"
The 2015 biography MJ: The Genius of Michael Jackson includes an anecdote about Prince playing "aggressive slap bass" in Jackson's face during a 2006 Las Vegas concert. The incident inspired Jackson to vent to Black Eyed Peas leader will.i.am the following morning over breakfast.
"'Will, why do you think Prince was playing bass in my face?" asked an "outraged" Jackson, according to will.i.am in MJ. "Prince has always been a meanie. He's just a big meanie. He's always been not nice to me. Everybody says Prince is this great legendary Renaissance man and I'm just a song-and-dance man, but I wrote 'Billie Jean' and I wrote 'We Are the World' and I'm a songwriter too."
Reid's Sing to Me: My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic, and Searching for Who's Next arrives online and in bookstores February 2. In it, the co-founder of LaFace Records tells insider tales involving Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Whitney Houston, Jay Z, Usher, Justin Bieber, and more.