When Prince Made a Chambermaid His Queen For a Day
In 1986, a young motel chambermaid won an MTV dream date with Prince in her tiny Wyoming hometown. On TV, it seemed like a fairy tale. Behind the scenes, coke-fueled chaos reigned.
On a muggy summer morning in Big Sky Country 30 years ago, Prince Charming stepped out of a private Learjet and into a fairytale. Except in this case, His Royal Highness really was Prince—as in multiplatinum-selling pop-rock sensation Prince. “Act your age, mama, not your shoe size”-vintage Prince. All around sexy motherfucker Prince, who at the peak of his global superstardom in 1986, journeyed to Sheridan, Wyoming (population at that time: 10,369) to premiere the black-and-white musical romance he directed and in which he stars, Under the Cherry Moon.
Circumstance rather than choice had brought the five-foot-three sex symbol to this frontier town where African-Americans comprise less than one percent of the population and cattle outnumber people by more than two to one. As part of a minutely choreographed Cinderella scenario—really, a promotional campaign by MTV and Prince’s music label/movie studio Warner Bros.—the performer had come to whisk a shy, curly-haired motel chambermaid named Lisa Barber off her feet in front of a national televised audience.
Barber, then 20, had been the lucky 10,000th caller in MTV’s Win a Date With Prince contest. As such, she was entitled to 500 tickets to the screening which she could distribute at will (plus VIP access to an intimate after-party concert). And more crucially, Barber bore almost sole responsibility for the star’s appearance in the Cowboy State that June day. “Prince, the Revolution and the cast will arrive in your hometown for the worldwide premiere of his long awaited new movie,” an MTV commercial announced.