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Left to right: Brenda Bennett, Vanity, and Susan Moonsie; 1983.
|Origin||Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.|
In 1981, Prince, himself a rising musical star, suggested that his three female friends—his girlfriend Susan Moonsie, Boston native Brenda Bennett, and Jamie Shoop form a girl group that would be called "The Hookers". Prince's vision was that the three women would perform in lingerie and sing sensual songs with lyrics about sex and fantasy. Prince had been wanting to mentor a girl singer or group since the late–1970s when he saw the film A Star is Born with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.
The original trio recorded a few demos before Prince met the then named Denise Matthews, a model and Canadian B movie actress, in January 1980. Matthews was Rick James' date at the American Music Awards when Prince persuaded her to join his girl group. Prince was so taken by her charisma that he decided she would be the perfect frontwoman for his "Hookers" project. Matthews was eventually re-christened Vanity. Prince had originally suggested that she use the stage name "Vagina," but instead they agreed upon "Vanity." Other versions of the story suggest that it was Prince himself who coined the name "Vanity," as he said that looking at her was like looking in a mirror at the female version of himself. Around this time, Prince and Vanity began a romantic relationship. With Vanity's arrival, Shoop was dropped from the group.
With the new trio finalized, Prince renamed the group Vanity 6. He provided the group, now dressed in lingerie and high heels, with provocative songs (although within the album credits, group members were sometimes given sole writing credits). Their first single, "He's So Dull", was a minor hit in Australia and the Netherlands, and appeared in the film National Lampoon's Vacation. The second single, "Nasty Girl", was a hit on both the U.S. R&B chart, peaking at number 7, and U.S. Dance chart (where it hit number one), and it also made an appearance on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart. "Nasty Girl" was a top 10 hit in the Netherlands, and a top 20 hit in the Flanders region of Belgium. The song was featured in the film Beverly Hills Cop, although it was not included on the soundtrack. "Nasty Girl" was also featured in the 1983 sex-comedy Private School. During the group's existence, members sometimes provided backing vocals on Prince's albums.
Dissension and dissolution
The third single, "Drive Me Wild", was another minor hit. Music videos were shot for all three singles. Their self-titled album, Vanity 6 (which would turn out to be their only release) was eventually certified gold. The group opened up on the 1999 Tour, between 1982 and 1983, which also featured The Time and Prince, as the headliner. The fact that The Time played behind a curtain during the Vanity 6 performance, caused a rift between the bands and friction within those friendships.
To the other group members' dismay, Prince chose Vanity to pose with him for a Richard Avedon photograph used on the cover of an issue of Rolling Stone magazine. The issue also contained a two-page Avedon photo of Vanity 6. In 1983, Vanity recorded a demo for a new song, "Sex Shooter", and started reading for her lead role in Purple Rain opposite Prince. Prior to the shooting of the movie, later in 1983, Vanity abruptly decided to leave the Prince camp and relinquish her role in the film. Many reasons were given for her sudden departure, including money, the end of their romantic relationship, and, most importantly, Vanity having been offered a lucrative solo deal from Motown Records.
Vanity was replaced in Purple Rain by Patricia Kotero, who would adopt the stage name Apollonia. She also inherited the lead role in Vanity 6, which was renamed Apollonia 6, alongside Bennett and Moonsie. The new trio recorded what would be their only album, Apollonia 6 in 1984.
In 1994, former front woman Vanity overdosed on crack cocaine and suffered from near-fatal renal failure. Upon recovering, she renounced her stage name and music and became a born again Christian. Vanity died on February 15, 2016 – aged 57 – from sclerosing encapsulating peritonitis, a complex form of a kidney disease.
- 1982: "He's So Dull" b/w "Make-Up" — AUS #92, NED #44
- 1982: "Nasty Girl" b/w "Drive Me Wild" — US #101, BEL(Flanders) #11, NED #7
- 1982: "Drive Me Wild" b/w "3 × 2 = 6"
- 1982: "Bite the Beat" b/w "3 × 2 = 6"
Scheduled for Vanity 6
A number of songs were in fact intended for the Vanity 6 follow up album, but due to Vanity's departure, these songs ended up performed by others.
- "Sex Shooter" was released by Apollonia 6. Vanity 6 did in fact record at least one version of this song which has been leaked on the internet extensively. The arrangement on this version is sparse and somewhat loose in performance which may indicate that this version was merely a rehearsal or demo version.
- "17 Days", the B-side to Prince's "When Doves Cry", ended up being released by Prince, with Bennett's background vocals still on the recording.
- "G-Spot", which ended up on Jill Jones debut album. The Vanity 6/Prince demo has been leaked on the internet as well.
- "Vibrator", which has been leaked extensively online. This song features Prince in a comedic sketch as well as Jill Jones. The song is about Vanity feeling ignored by her lover only to find solace with her (actual quote from the song) "body massager" which midway through the song loses power prompting Vanity to go purchase batteries at 2 different stores. The song is set in three distinct parts: 1) verse and chorus portions then 2) the comedic sketch and finally 3) Vanity achieving an orgasm with her vibrator.
- "Manic Monday", which Prince offered to and was eventually recorded by The Bangles for their album Different Light.
- Gelt, Jessica (February 15, 2016). "Prince protege Denise 'Vanity' Matthews dies at 57". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- Norment, Lynn (November 1987). "Prince's Intriguing Women". Ebony. Vol. 43 no. 1. p. 168. ISSN 0012-9011.
- Leon, Darren (June 9, 1985). "Vanity sheds 'nasty girl' image in film" (PDF). Monmouth. p. 5.
- Perrone, Pierre (February 23, 2016). "Vanity: Prince protégée who fronted the synth-pop trio Vanity 6, fell prey to drug abuse and became a born-again Christian". The Independent. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- Whitburn, Joel (2005). Bubbling Under The Billboard Hot 100 1959–2004 (2nd ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 277. ISBN 0-89820-162-4.
- "Do It All Night: The Story of Prince's Dirty Mind | Pitchfork". pitchfork.com. Retrieved 2017-11-04.
- "Her Romance with Prince Hit the Rocks, but Vanity's Singing Career Is Going Grrr-Eat". 15 Oct 1984.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St. Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 320. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "dutchcharts.nl > Discografie Vanity 6" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-02-20.
- Vanity at AllMusic
- "Ultratop > Vanity 6 — Nasty Girl" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-02-20.
- Rettenmund, Matthew (1996). Totally Awesome 80s: A Lexicon Of the Music, Videos, Movies, TV shows, Stars, and Trends Of That Decadent Decade. Macmillan. p. 57. ISBN 0-312-14436-9.
- "UKmix > Forums > Chart Chat > Chart Analysis > Chart Histories (page 209)". imgur.com. Retrieved 2016-02-20.