Prince – The spaghetti controversy!

Prince - Spaghetti commercial (

Prince And The Revolution - Around The World In A Day (

This article belongs to the story Prince creates psychedelic funk on Around The World In A Day.

As can be read in the article mentioned above, Prince®, the American pasta factory, aired a commercial in 1985, which clearly played into Prince’s Purple Rain mania that swooped across the nation. Prince’s (the artist) management wasn’t particularly charmed by the commercial and sent a letter to the Prince® pasta factory ‘kindly’ requesting them to never air the commercial again and stop selling pasta using their client’s name. Prince (the artist) learned about the letter as the media picked up on the story. By the way, he thought the commercial was rather funny and didn’t see any harm in it.

See what the fuss was all about in the commercial below and in a number of press clippings addressing the letter that was sent out.


The press had a field day with yet another Prince controversy, see the articles below.

Chicago Tribune - Logo (

Prince is turning purple over Stan Freberg’s “In concert, Prince!” TV commercials for Prince spaghetti sauce, which open on a brightly lighted concert stage. So sue us, say the spaghetti folks, who got a trademark on the Prince name in 1912. Lawyers for the rock star say they just might do that.

Chicago Tribune, May 2nd, 1985


By Robin Branch, Staff Columnist

Sun Sentinel - Logo (

It figures that Prince wouldn’t have even a rudimentary sense of humor.

That’s Prince the pop music star, not Prince the spaghetti.

Judging from any number of dreary, egocentric, self-indulgent, and not to mention largely incoherent, pronouncements dished out for public consumption by your various pop and rock music stars and their publicity agents, I begin to suspect it’s a lack common to the entire pop/rock music business (industry? dodge? whatever).

This is not to say that many of these people are not funny. They’re funny, OK. But somehow you don’t quite get the impression it’s intentional, besides which it’s as often what you call funny-peculiar as it is funny ha-ha, especially, if I may say so, the ones in drag.

I confess to wondering from time to time whether, when their fans aren’t looking, these performers don’t laugh, as the saying goes, all the way to the bank. The temptation would seem to be irresistible.

On the other hand, maybe not. Maybe when you make your living peddling promiscuity and drugs to 13-year-olds, you don’t take much joy from it, which might explain why these entertainers are such a dreary bunch, but that’s something else again.

What I wanted to say is it figures that a Prince would find a Stan Freberg beyond comprehension

Stan Freberg, at 58, has been the king of advertising satire for 20 years. That, according to my calculations, is since Prince (the flash-in-the-pan) was 6.

If you are a certain age, you probably recall even now Freberg’s efforts for Chun King, Excedrin and dozens of other clients for whom he has produced award-winning — and product-selling — advertising campaigns over the years.

Can you think of Sunsweet prunes without thinking “Today the pits, tomorrow the wrinkles . . .”?

Freberg’s latest effort, on behalf of Prince (the tomato sauce) evidently, comes a cropper on the fragile sensibilities of Prince (the pop music star) and the lawyers have been called into the fray.

In short, Prince (the pop music star) is cheesed off at Prince (the pasta company).

“Prince in concert,” yells the announcer, addressing thousands of screaming fans amid a thousand flashing lights.

And then the viewer sees the spotlighted stage. What the cheering is about is not Prince, the pop music star (who is on sabbatical, seeking, as he explained upon leaving South Florida after his Easter concert, “the ladder”) but Prince, the Italian food products.

I mean, what we have in this Stan Freberg production, is Prince the tomato sauce “in concert” with Prince the spaghetti. A clever bit, typically Freberg.

Prince (the pop music star), obviously not amused, left off seeking “the ladder” long enough to instruct his lawyers to send a letter to Joseph Pellegrino, the Prince pasta company’s president, complaining about the commercial and ordering the spaghetti-maker to stop using Prince’s name.

Pellegrino’s answer was that the company has the right to use its own name and will keep the ads on the air. One can’t help but see the fairness of this reply. Is the Prince pasta company all of a sudden going to start calling its products Muellers? Ronzoni? Or what?

Then, too, there’s a line of Prince tennis gear. Is that company courting litigation? There’s even, in England, an entire line of people who go around calling themselves Prince. Can Queen Elizabeth anticipate a sharp letter? (“Madam, about your sons . . .”)

Freberg, for his part, told Time magazine, “In all these years, I’ve never once been sued. I’ve never even got an angry letter.”

I should think not.

If Prince (the pop music star) had any class, he’d be honored that Stan Freberg ever heard of him.

Sun Sentinel, May 19th, 1985

Prince - Spaghetti commercial - Weekly World News - 06/04/1985 (

Prince – Spaghetti commercial – Weekly World News – 06/04/1985


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    • Jackie on 04/19/2020 at 9:39 PM
    • Reply

    Thank you for some light hearted reading for a change! Aaaahhhh, the good old days!!!!!

    1. You’re welcome. The good old days indeed!

    • Dave Idmarx on 04/07/2023 at 5:22 PM
    • Reply

    Not quite the full story. Prince apparently had no idea of the commercial or the C&D letter sent to the pasta company. Once he saw the actual commercial, he loved it.

    1. Thanks for your reply. He did love it, as is stated in the article. He also steted as such in big 1985 Rolling Stone interview (see Prince tries to control the damage: the big 1985 Rolling Stone interview).
      As for the story provided in your link: is there anybody any confirmation to that particular story?

Compliments/remarks? Yes, please!