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Vows of Silence

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EVER SINCE HE CONFOUNDED FANS by dropping his name and adopting a symbol in its place—and, more recently, scrawling the word “slave” across his cheek to protest the gross unfairness of a Warner Music contract he says is worth $100 million—the artist formerly known as Prince has become the artist currently known as strange. Thus, when the 37-year-old, as-yet-unwed musician announced that he would marry one of his dancers, an exotic beauty named Mayte Garcia, in Paris on Valentine’s Day, even those who still take the star’s music seriously weren’t certain how to respond. “I don’t know whether this is love or a marketing gimmick,” says Cecile Bernier, a former member of Prince’s Parisian fan club. “I think there’ll be a record following behind this.”

And behold! Kamasutra, a recording Prince “commissioned” his band to create “as a gift to his bride,” according to a press announcement, will be released later this year after live performances at wedding “celebration parties” in Paris and London. And as the couple exchange vows in private, details of the ceremony will first be divulged on a World Wide Web site emceed by supermodel Veronica Webb. Prince’s publicist, Kristin Poe, insists the wedding is not a publicity stunt. “He wouldn’t be getting married if he wasn’t in love,” she says.

But many are left to wonder. Prince’s handlers have refused to reveal information about the bride-to-be, though Mayte—variously reported to be 22 or 26 and from Puerto Rico or Germany—has been seen wearing a large diamond engagement ring and reportedly has met Prince’s mother, longtime Minneapolis public school teacher Mattie Shaw Nelson. Paris officials say Prince has not yet registered to marry, and even Prince’s father, musician John Nelson, who lives in Prince’s purple former home in suburban Minneapolis, apparently remains in the dark. “He didn’t know anything about it, and he talks to Prince a lot,” says cousin Marge Turner. “So I have no idea if [Prince] is really getting married.” As Prince would script it, they’ll ½ W8 & C.