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The Night Keith Richards Pulled a Knife Over a Disagreement With Donald Trump

Rick Diamond / Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Rick Diamond / Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Back in 1989, the Rolling Stones had reluctantly agreed to a pay-per-view event at Donald Trump’s Atlantic City property when things got ugly.

Concert promoter Michael Cohl told Pollstar last year that the partnership, forged during a blockbuster reunion tour in support of the band’s Steel Wheels album, specifically limited involvement by the current Republican Party front-runner. But Trump, Cohl said, inserted himself into the promotional push for the event anyway – sending Keith Richards nearly over the edge.

“Keith pulls out his knife and slams it on the table and says, ‘What the hell do I have you for? Do I have to go over there and fire him myself? One of us is leaving the building – either him or us,'” Cohl remembered the Stones guitarist telling him. “I said, ‘No. I’ll go do it. Don’t you worry.'”

Cohl — who has since promoted tours for U2, Michael Jackson and Barbra Streisand while serving as former chairman of Live Nation — said he brought up the the boxing-style event in hopes of maximizing earnings for the Rolling Stones’ first concerts since 1981-82. Unfortunately, he found that no one in Las Vegas was interested in taking a chance on his new idea. “They didn’t get it,” Cohl added. “They didn’t like rock music yet.”

That’s when Trump stepped in. The only problem, Trump’s new partners were less than enthusiastic about being directly linked with their new Atlantic City-based benefactor, Cohl said. “I opened my big mouth in the meeting with the Rolling Stones, where they go, ‘This is all great, but we’re not going to be affiliated with Donald Trump. At all. Screw you,'” Cohl said. “And I go, ‘I will control Donald Trump!”

Cohl even made Trump agree not to attend the show, but the real-estate businessman went off script. At 6PM on concert night, Cohl discovered Trump in the venue press room, holding court with reporters. A terse discussion resulted in Trump promising to stop talking to the media, Cohl said.

But once the promoter left, Trump resumed his news conference – and that prompted Richards’ angry ultimatum. Cohl returned for a second confrontation with Trump, and he said it quickly got out of hand. Trump brought along three brass-knuckled bodyguards, according to Cohl, and then went “berserk.”

Increasingly worried, Cohl said he called his own security detail, which was already en route with “tire irons and hockey sticks and screwdrivers,” Cohl recalled. “‘Now are you gonna go, Donald?’ And off he went, and that was the night I fired Donald Trump.”

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