Introduction by Ron Worthy
I recently came across this intriguing and rare mini-movie called Mr. Christian’s Birthday by Prince associated trio Apollonia 6. The group included Patricia Kotero (renamed Apollonia by Prince), Prince’s co-star and love interest in Purple Rain, Brenda Bennett and Susan Moonsie. It formed when Vanity left the former incarnation, Vanity 6. The song, “Happy Birthday Mr. Christian,” tells the tale of a precocious teen, Apollonia, who has an illicit affair with her principal in exchange for good grades.
As it turns out, the Apollonia 6 self-titled album, which came out in 1984, was one of the first cassettes I ever purchased. I was 13 at the time and it was the beginning of Fall (album released on October 1, 1984). I was coming off of a full Purple Summer filled with all things Purple Rain. The title track from the film had just dropped the week prior and “Erotic City,” the B-side to “Let’s Go Crazy” was still burning up one of my favorite stations at the time, WKYS, with the legend, Donnie Simpson, and I was my entering my second month as a 9th grader.
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Saturday and I was at Kemp Mill Records, a local D.C. chain (now closed) that always had all of the Prince related artists on display. This album was no different given the incredible word of mouth caused by the movie and Prince being insanely popular. Walking up, all I could remember was seeing the trio of beautiful woman on the album cover in what seemed like some magical world. The lettering of their name reminded me of many of the heavy metal records that I dug at the time. Six ninety-nine plus tax later and I was back on the bus heading to my house on Capital Hill.
On the way home, I popped the cassette into my oversized General Electric portable player and read the liner notes with glee. As a side note, I later found out that the vinyl copy of the record included a mini-poster of the ladies on the beach. Even though I didn’t have a turntable at the time, I quickly bought the record on vinyl of course. Anyway, I could barely wait to hear the album, which was produced by The Starr Company AKA Prince. At the time, I was seriously amazed at the consistency and quality of his output so I knew I would love this record regardless. Everybody at my school did too. That album and Purple Rain were so popular that, at our talent show the following Spring, we had a piano solo played of “The Beautiful Ones” and two lip synched choreographed performances including The Time’s “Jungle Love” and a 14-year-old trio doing “Sex Shooter!”
About The Album
Apollonia 6, the album, includes some serious bangers like the lead single, “Sex Shooter,” “Ooo She She Wa Wa” “Blue Limousine” and one of the most underrated tracks of the Minneapolis Sound, “A Million Miles (I Love You).” “Happy Birthday Mr. Christian” is officially credited to all of the members of A6 and The Revolution, Prince’s band. Throughout the long player, the trio sung tales that made me blush at the time especially “…Mr. Christian.” With lyrics like “Compared to the size of my chest then, all the other girls looked sick,” the track was made for the imagination of a young teen like me.
Given Apollonia 6 was one of the few albums I owned, I REALLY listened to that album a lot….like A LOT so all of the tracks are indelibly burned into my subconscious. I remember loving the way they passed the mic and let each of the ladies have some of the spotlight although the group was named after Apollonia. Who could resist Apollonia singing “come and play with my affection” as the lead on the hit “Sex Shooter” or Susan playing with your emotions with “my name is Susan and I’ma oozin with desire…desire for you” on the sexy nu wave “Ooo She She Wa Wa?” That being said, I loved the super underrated lead vocals of Brenda Bennett, especially on the aforementioned “A Million Miles,” and “Blue Limousine” on which she adds an intense texture that makes those songs two of the best on the album.
About The Mini-Movie
Mr. Christian’s Birthday begins with Apollonia 6 clad in funeral garb, where they attend the will reading of Rupert Christian of Christian School for Young Ladies, presumably the same school that Apollonia graduates from in “Happy Birthday Mr. Christian.” From there, the narrative skips around a bit and then features various scenes with tracks from the rest of the album being showcased. The video ends with a twist, which we won’t spoil here. Overall, it was a quirky and fun ride through one of my favorite albums.
Directed by Brian Thomson, the project was shot in a Los Angeles film studio in 1985. In addition to the group, the film co-starred Ricky Nelson, Edy Williams and Buck Henry. According to a quote from group member, Brenda Bennett on fan site, Prince.org, it was unfinished.
The project was a concept of doing an extended EP per se, only in a video format as opposed to an audio EP: take one of the songs from the album (“Happy Birthday, Mr. Christian”); write a story line around the subject of that song and incorporate other songs from the album into the story to create a mini movie. It was a great idea and the project was a lot of work, but fun. I’m just sorry that it didn’t get completed and released. Someone out there got their hands on it and released it on YouTube in its unfinished version. It created a lot of cult interest and keeps appearing from time to time.
In addition, according to “Hold Me Closer: The Story of Brenda Bennett” by Rick Bellaire, Bennett loved working on the project, but Prince never liked it and didn’t give it much attention:
As long and hard as the hours were on this project, I really enjoyed doing it. I could see a lot of potential in this being a good tool for promotion. One of the biggest highlights of this project for me was working with Ricky Nelson. He played Mr. Christian. It was about a month later that he died in a plane crash.
Unfortunately, Prince never liked the “Mr. Christian” project and it never got any further than the first edits. Such a waste of time and money… The other project we did was a semi-nude photo session using live doves. There were a dozen or more cages of all these white doves that were set free once we got on the set and began to start posing. The photo session was to produce a poster. I never saw the finished product, but I do know it got out there finally.”
Here is the full rundown of the flick:
- Happy Birthday Mr. Christian
- “Opening of the will”
- Sex Shooter
- The Teddy Bears’ Picnic (John Walter Bratton/Jimmy Kennedy)
- Ooo She She Wa Wa
- Sex Shooter
- Blue Limousine
- Happy Birthday, Mr. Christian
Check out the Mini-Movie below:
Don’t own the album, Apollonia 6? BUY IT HERESupport Brenda Bennett’s new music project here.
Relive the entire Apollonia 6 album below:
Ron Worthy is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of soulhead.com. A passionate audiophile who has been a DJ for over 25 years, Ron studied classical music and plays 4 instruments. He loves discussing all things Prince, Hip-Hop, and Funk. When he is able, he shoots a mean game of pool, digs comedy, loves eating fried fish sandwiches, making crab cakes and drinking micro-brews from all over the World. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and cat. Check out some of his work for soulhead.