In 1990, Donald Trump guested in a music video alongside all-female rock band Precious Metal, playing the titular “Mr. Big Stuff” in their cover of the 1971 Jean Knight hit.
Sadly for the band (and history), the original clip never saw the light of day. After shooting his scenes, Trump demanded $250,000 payment instead of the agreed-upon $10,000 appearance fee. The last-minute price hike made minor headlines in Feb. 1991, with Trump’s then-current spokesman saying the mogul deserved more money because “they wanted him to do much more work” than initially agreed upon.
It wasn’t until years later that the band discovered there was an inside backstory. Now, with Trump looking increasingly like the Republican Party’s presidential candidate, Precious Metal singer Leslie Knauer is sharing the full story for the first time with Billboard, explaining how she and her bandmates were used as “playthings for the rich people” in this debacle.
“Danny Pritzker was co-owner of our label, Chameleon. And Jay Pritzker [co-founder of Hyatt Corporation, one-time Braniff Airlines owner] was his dad. Jay was kind of a friend of Trump’s, and he told Danny, ‘Why don’t I get Donald Trump to be in your band’s video?'” Knauer says.
A deal was struck, and the Hollywood-based pop-metal band flew to New York for the video. Playing a record company executive, Trump was seated behind a desk while Precious Metal “berated him with ‘Mr. Big Stuff.’ It was awesome. He knew all the words, and I thought, He’s got a good sense of humor,” remembers Knauer. “Yet he lies flat out, because he shook our hands and said, ‘Oh, I love the song, yes, it will be fun to do this,'” before demanding more money after the fact. Plus, “he was kinda hot for [lead guitar player] Janet [Robin],” remembers Knauer, “saying, ‘oh my god Janet, you have a tight body.’ Janet is gay and was like, ‘Yuck, whatever, gross.'”
That distasteful incident and reshooting with a double was bad enough, but it wasn’t until years later that the band’s then-manager revealed the entire true story to Knauer, who hasn’t shared it publicly until now.
“Jay Pritzker, knowing that Donald Trump wanted to sell his Trump Shuttle” — the LaGuardia-based airline owned by Trump from 1989 to 1992 — “told Trump, ‘if you’re in the video for my son’s all-girl band, then I might buy your Trump Shuttle.’ This is what I understand to be the truth. I wasn’t supposed to tell anybody this, but what the fuck. Trump then said, ‘Are you going to buy it?’ Pritzker went, ‘no, fuck you,’ but no one told us.”
After the video was edited for airplay and Trump demanded the higher fee, an Associated Press story at the time quoted then-Trump spokesman Dan Klores as saying, “Mr. Trump said he was only too happy to participate in the video for charity, and he feels there is nothing wrong with asking for more of a donation when they wanted him to do much more work.”
Knauer says, “Trump had the script, he played all the parts, shot them, so later to say, ‘I thought I was only going to be in one part’ — then why did you shoot all those parts? We were just a struggling band, wondering why he would do that to us. He full-on just lied. I hate to think the guy had any power over me at all, but he hurt our career at that moment.” It was the band’s last album, and as a small label, Chameleon couldn’t pay Trump’s fee, nor shoot a new video, nor risk a lawsuit by releasing the clip without Trump’s OK.
It wasn’t the final nail in Precious Metal’s coffin, but the Trump incident “took the air right out of our tires. Our band was sounding tougher and tougher, and MTV was saying of the Trump video, ‘we’ll put it on MTV as soon as we have it.’ If we had had that momentum…” Knauer says. “It didn’t end our band, but it didn’t help. It hurt our label’s support for us. ”
Billboard reached out to a current Trump rep for comment on this story and did not hear back at time of publishing.