Unless you’re a pro athlete, it’s not typical to be interviewed by mulptiple news outlets immediately after applying for a job — but then, this was no typical job interview for Kat Dady of Brooklyn Park. She was one of the first people to apply for a job working at Prince’s house: Paisley Park.
“I have a huge music background,” she said, “so I love hanging out with fans and connecting with people on that personal level. I think it would be pretty awesome.” She said she doesn’t have a lot of Prince’s music, but she’s definitely a fan. “Who doesn’t like Prince?”
A job fair that started this morning marks the first opportunity members of the public have to apply to work at Paisley Park, which will open for public tours on Oct. 6 under the co-management of Graceland and Prince’s estate. “There’s nothing like this,” said Kevin Kern, “except for Graceland.”
Kern, Graceland’s director of public relations, said that over the years, the Presley property has received a number of calls from families of celebrities with estates they’re considering opening to the public, but this was the first time Graceland has agreed to partner with an outside estate to manage a tourist attraction.
“We’re oftentimes contacted,” said Kern. “We’re sometimes the first call for other families after an incident of this nature. Being that first call, we do have advice to give. We’ve been through it.”
Why did Graceland step up to not only share advice with Prince’s family, but to actively co-manage Paisley Park as a public attraction?
“There are so many similarities that it just made perfect sense,” said Kern. “They’re both iconic places associated with a celebrity and music, and the fans were always welcome at both places. They were more than just homes, they were gathering spots. That is the magic of Graceland, that is the magic of Paisley Park.”
The job fair, at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres — right next to the transit hub where fans were shuttled to Paisley when Prince himself opened his doors for parties, and within eyesight of the Chanhassen Cinema, which Prince used to rent out for spontaneous private screenings — was supposed to begin at 9 a.m., but Marisa Papsin said interviews began shortly after 8, due to the crowd of applicants. It will continue until 3:00 today, then run again tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Papsin, a human resources professional who was hired to help at the fair, estimated that by 9:45 about 25 to 35 applications had been filed. Hopefuls sat quietly at tables in the main dining room, filling out applications and waiting for their interviews. “No sense in just waiting,” said Kern about the early start.
The stage, basked in purple and decorated with a single giant rose, might have been set for the occasion — but in fact, it was set for Beauty and the Beast, the show currently playing on the theatres’ Main Stage. Throughout the lobby, purple lighting helped set a Princely mood.
Prince himself played onstage at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres this spring — albeit on another stage, the Fireside Theatre — just weeks before his death, jumping up to contribute a guitar solo at a Ray Charles tribute concert with so little warning that even the band members weren’t expecting it. (“So blown away I almost fell off my piano bench,” wrote keyboardist Scottie Miller.)
“The number of people we’ve seen is overwhelming and exciting,” said Kern, “especially considering the 3% unemployment rate in this region. This region is very lucky to have such a low unemployment rate, and to have the number of folks that have already come through the door this morning, not to mention what we’ll see throughout the day, it’s very encouraging.”
One job applicant, Sufia Babar of Eden Prairie, brought a Prince-inspired original painting that she created shortly after she heard the news of the music icon’s death. “I actually did it so that I could give it to Tyka Nelson, his sister,” said Babar. “I thought, you know, I’m here and…bring it!”
“We have a variety of positions,” explained Kern. “We have part-time, full-time, entry-level, managerial roles. It kind of runs the gamut. We’re looking to staff out to about 100 folks in this initial phase; that’s what it’s going to take to get things up and running.”
Being a Prince fan is a plus, said Kern, but fundamentally Paisley Park is looking for people who will succeed in a hospitality setting.
“First and foremost,” said Kern, “this is a tourist attraction. These are people who are going to invest a lot of money to go on vacation, and when you arrive you want to have a great experience. You want to encounter people that are happy, in a good mood, and knowledgeable. We want people who can smile and have personality, but also know how to help manage the crowd and deliver what Prince would have wanted his fans to experience.”
Standing outside the theater’s front doors, Robb Rasmussen — wearing purple, like many of the applicants — waited for his job interview as he watched TV crews grab his fellow applicants for post-interview interviews. Rasmussen, a musician himself who also does lighting and sound at local shows (and was formerly an intern with APM/MPR’s classical music services), said that he hopes Paisley Park will bring more people to appreciate the rich local music scene.
“Having worked in the metro area music scene for going on a decade,” said Rasmussen, “and, since I was a kid, hearing about Prince — you grow up with those themes and it’s a big part of your life and development.” He said he hopes “to have that come full circle and to be able to be a part of it and teach tourists what Minnesota has to offer. You can see a great show every night of the week.”
Kern couldn’t comment on exactly what’s going on inside the walls of Paisley Park right now, but he also sounded an enthusiastic note about what Paisley Park opening to the public will mean for local tourism. “You can not only drive by Paisley Park, you will be able to go inside. That is certainly going to draw a lot of not only Prince fans, but music enthusiasts. Not everybody that walks through the front door of Graceland is an Elvis fan, and you’re going to see that here as well. People that appreciate music, history, culture — not only domestically, but also internationally.”
Regarding the current job opportunities, Kern said that though they have “a little bit of everything” available, they’re particularly “looking for people who have experience in the industry. This is a very unique industry in terms of ticketing and catering to groups that will come in on tour buses, whether they’re landing in Minneapolis from somewhere in Asia and you’ve got a group of 50 to 100 coming in…you need folks who have some of that tourism operation history.”
The reception Graceland’s team has received has been very warm, said Kern. “We often talk about southern hospitality — that’s what we’re famous for in Memphis — and I believe we’ve learned about Minnesota nice, because everybody is so welcoming. It’s wonderful to make new friends and neighbors.”