Mi-Ling Stone has always loved a good dance song. She, like everyone, found Prince's 1983 hit "Little Red Corvette" an irresistible jam.
It took a while before she, with the help of some friends, put it together. The song was about her. She was who Prince was thinking about when he said, "Baby, you're much too fast."
Stone (now Stone Poole), a St. Paul native, had briefly dated the iconic singer, whom she'd met just before he hit the big time. Prince was at certain points such a legend that even his female muses became famous in their own right. But Stone Poole was gone from Prince Rogers Nelson's life before that would've happened, and was reluctant to give up details of her time with Prince, even when he was at the height of his fame.
She says she's only coming forward now because she was recently "outed" as the subject of "Little Red Corvette" by David "T.C." Ellis, the former rapper with New Power Generation. After Prince's death in April, Ellis told the story of asking him directly if Mi-Ling, an old friend of his, had inspired "Little Red Corvette." Prince confirmed that she had.
Stone Poole has already come across people who doubt her story, and expects to find a lot more: She's working on a book about her life, which has taken her from the Twin Cities to Oklahoma, where she worked as a prominent newspaper columnist and radio host.
Stone Poole's book will also divulge some of the secrets she's kept about her relationship with Prince, and how it ended. Working title: "Little Red Corvette: The Woman Behind the Song."
Stone Poole spoke with City Pages about her reflections on the (young) man she knew, the song, and the impact being a famous muse had on her life.
City Pages: How did you meet Prince?
Mi-Ling Stone Poole: I met him in 1976. My girlfriend Nadine asked me to go to this New Year’s Eve party. I had a car. She kept saying … “We gotta go.” And she was bound and determined to introduce me to Prince. She said, “You’re both short. You’d made a cute couple.” That’s her thing. If you met her today, she’d say the same thing.
I actually was dating someone else at the time, and I actually was in one of those “in love moments.” But she introduced us, and, you know, eyes locked, smiles. And that was it, until two years later. That [when the two met again, in 1979] was at the Fox Trap. I loved to dance, loved, loved to dance.
CP: What was your first impression?
Stone Poole: Of course I’d seen him around. Prince was around. Everybody knew Prince. I guess he just made a point to introduce himself, like, right then. Like, “Hello.” [Laughs] He was Prince. There was nobody like him. We danced, and hit it off. I was a little quirky, too. He asked me for my phone number.
CP: That early in his career, did he have the same effect on women as when he was a huge star?
Stone Poole: I was gone by the time he was a really huge star. So, I don’t think so. In the early years, he was shy – he was probably even more shy in the beginning, because he was unsure what was going on.
But he was very likable. Very funny, very likable. I was 18, he was 20, it was all about, at that point, just having fun, dancing, laughing, things 18-year-olds do. After he became “Prince,” you know, there becomes another attraction, because then he’s a superstar, and people want to be with that person for that reason.
Of course, he already had a record deal. He was already talked about as “the little Mozart,” the next Stevie Wonder, a prodigy, all those things.
CP: Did he already act famous? Did he act like Prince?
Stone Poole: Interestingly enough, he was confident in who he was, but he was insecure in other ways. Like probably most men, young boys at the time – they were 19, 20. So yeah, when he walked into the room, he owned it. Even at 20 years old. There was a presence there. He knew who he was, yeah.
CP: What was he like? What stands out in your memory?
Stone Poole: I would just say he was funny. Liked to joke a lot. The things I remember most was not private concerts that he gave me, which, I could kick myself. Had I known then, I might’ve been thinking, “well, what was that song?” But I always really liked to laugh, and he liked to laugh. I like to crack jokes. That was something I remember.
The one I’ve talked about was the incident where I was trying to do that “ah-AHH, ah-AHH” noise from [Parliament Funkadelic’s] “Aqua Boogie.” And they were just like, “No, don’t do that,” and we all fell out laughing.
He just was really funny. He was a different person, then, than he was, I’d say, at 30 or 40. He was real. The persona was not there yet. He was raw. If he let you in, then you got to see that. He didn’t let a lot of people in, from what I understand. We got along, we laughed a lot. He was serious about his music though, that’s for sure.
CP: What brought things to an end?
Stone Poole: It was a series of things, and our relationship was kind of strained, after one particular incident. But that’s not why I left. I left for something far more tragic, that happened to me, personally, that had nothing to do with Prince. That, I’m going to reserve for the book.
Looking back, I just left. I just left. I didn’t tell him, or not very many people at all. I think he was taken back, like, “What happened to her?” A couple friends said he’d asked about me. I just disappeared. I didn’t have a choice, and I never looked back.
CP: From your perspective, what’s the story behind the song?
Stone Poole: When I first heard about it [being about me], it was ’85. And I was not happy. I thought he was being mean. But with older, more mature ears, I hear something different now. That part about “horses,” “Trojans” in her pockets, “some of them were used,” most people took that as condoms, although he never said condoms. And I now know what that is, and so – he’s very clever. He’s very clever, that’s all I have to say about that.
The song? I guess there’s probably some truth to it.
Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t date that long to have a deep, long relationship. But I was preoccupied. I had a lot of things on my mind. I think that could maybe have been misconstrued as being a little “fast,” you know. It’s a real song. From me parking my car a certain way, and him telling me that? All that’s real. It’s not a one-night stand, and it’s not in one location, like people think, but everything is real.
Really when I knew the song was about me for sure, was when I heard him say, “I saw all the jockeys on the wall that were there before me.” Because I remember that moment, when he went to my house, and he asked me a lot of questions about that, the pictures on the wall. I have jockeys on my wall now, I have celebrities, I have people I’ve worked with in the entertainment business. It’s just something I did.
And the thing about him not having “enough class”? He knew my family background. My grandfather was a very well known civil rights leader in the community. And he knew that, we talked about that kind of stuff. I mean, Hubert Humphrey would come over for lunch, at my grandfather’s. He knew about those kind of things. I’m not trying to sound uppity, but he knew what kind of family I came from, in terms of service to the community, upstanding individuals.
CP: Given what you thought of it, did the song grow on you?
Stone Poole: Well, when I first heard the song [in 1983], I thought, “this song is jammin’,” before I knew it was about me. I was dancing to the song just like everybody else. His songs were jammin’. When I heard it, of course, I was singing it. I was singin’ it, and I didn’t know it was about me! [Laughs.] That is the shocker. I’m jammin’, and singing this song, and telling her to “slow down,” and it’s about me. [Laughs] That’s pretty deep. It’s a great song. It is a great song.
CP: It’s kind of an ultimate trump card cool story in the '80s to be able to say, “I inspired a song by Prince.” Did you tell people this story at the time?
Stone Poole: I told people I dated Prince. I told some people later. But early on, when I first found out, I didn’t tell many people about the song. Because I was humiliated. My husband knew. As time went by, I did tell more people. But I had my own radio show, my own column, I’d written a book. I could’ve just blasted it. It’s not who I am.
I will say that, after I left [the Twin Cities], in the '80s, and he appeared with thigh-highs and his butt out, I was like, “Whoa, what happened?” [Laughs] And the girlfriends I had told said, “You dated Prince? He was wearing that?” And I said, “No, no, no, no.” It was a little shocker to me, because, that’s not the Prince I knew. You know, he wasn’t walking around in the house like that. He did have his high-heel boots, but he had jeans on. Didn’t have that.
He didn’t need that. He even alluded to that later. He said “I would do anything just to get attention,” just to take away from whatever insecurities he had. He didn’t need that. He was so talented, he could’ve worn, I don’t know, a monk outfit. He was just that super-talented.
I did get a hint of it early, that, ["Little Red Corvette"] was not what I thought initially it was, and I might have overreacted.
You know, people would describe it as a one-night stand, with a woman who was, I don’t know, experienced, and older, which I was not, I was younger. What did one of the articles say, something about some “sex den” that he went to? They just made up a lot. Prince never said that, that she was a one-night stand. He said she was a little fast. Which I think, yeah, I probably was.
Now, would you want to come out and say you were the “Little Red Corvette” after all that?
CP: A good number of the lines in the song are physical descriptions, and are complimentary. But was that weird for you to know people were singing to it and dancing to it?
Stone Poole: “Got an ass like I’ve never seen.” Yes, that was weird. However, I did have an ass like he’d never seen. I was known for that back in the day, I’m sorry to say that. But, before Kim Kardashian, there was Mi-Ling. I had a little waist, and the curves, and, talk to some of the guys around town back then. Unfortunately, that’s what they remember! [Laughs] I was built. That’s all I can tell you is, I was curvy.
CP: Everyone knows what became of Prince, and his career. What happened to you?
Stone Poole: Well, when I left Minnesota I went to KU, University of Kansas, and I studied journalism. And I met my now-husband a couple weeks after I got there. We got engaged really quickly, but we didn’t get married until ’83. I got my master’s degree. I started an entertainment company, worked with celebrities. I booked talent.
I had a really great life. I traveled. I’ve been a writer, I interviewed people. I’ve had a really good life. I was allowed to do everything I really wanted to deal with. I was really respected… and now this! [Laughs] I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, that I got outed, but here it is.
I love the song. And, I will say, I’m proud to be the person that inspired this great man to go to the next level. Had I stayed there, maybe there would not have been that Prince, had we stayed in a relationship. I always think you meet certain people at a time in your life, or their life, for a particular reason. And I think that was our time to meet.
CP: How do you, and how will you, remember Prince?
Stone Poole: [Long pause] When I think about him, I smile, and I feel grateful. I’m sad that he went too soon. I want to go back in time, you know, try to be the person to help. [Pause] But I feel grateful. He inspired me. I wrote in my first book -- I had a decorating book -- that I was inspired by “major players in the Minneapolis sound.”
When it was all said and done, I was outed, because, quite frankly, my friends are tired of me not finishing the book when he was alive. They said, this is an incredible story, and you need to tell it. But I was hesitant, because all of those things we talked about -- family, husband, reputation. But it’s important. It is important.
Note: After our interview concluded, Stone Poole emailed City Pages to say she'd thought of something else she would remember: "His smile!"