The Trump Files: Donald Filmed a Music Video. It Didn’t Go Well.

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This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files”—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current President—on September 8, 2016.

National media buzzed in November 1990 when it was revealed that Donald Trump would be starring in the music video for a cover of the 1971 Jean Knight single “Mr. Big Stuff” by Precious Metal, an all-female glam metal band. The label’s press release noted that it was a “featured role” that would net Trump a $25,000 donation by the band to the charity of his choice. Trump’s appearance, it crowed, was a “giant act of generosity,” and it quoted Precious Metal’s lead vocalist, Leslie Knauer, calling Trump “a real gentleman to work with.”

“When we were done, he said, ‘This is great! Let’s take this [song] to number one!'” Knauer told Entertainment Week. The enthusiasm may have been linked to the reported bonuses, purportedly also for charity, that Trump would get if the record went gold or platinum. “I think he wanted to keep the money for himself,” Knauer guessed.

Still, all was well for a few months. Then things got Trumpy.

Once the video was done, Trump decided he’d been lowballed. His claim, according to the band, was that he’d been told his appearance was a cameo. But since he appeared throughout the video, Trump allegedly wanted the band to fork over $250,000 instead. Knauer, speaking to Billboard earlier this year, said the mix-up was a lie. “Trump had the script, he played all the parts, shot them,” she said. “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.”

He also creeped out the band’s lead guitarist, Janet Robin. “I had a moment with him where he put his hands around me, his arms around me,” Robin told the Huffington Post, “not around my shoulder but around, you know, my stomach area or whatever you want to call it. I thought that was a little strange.”

“Oh my god, Janet, you have a tight body,” she recalled Trump saying. Knauer remembered the same thing. “He was kinda hot for Janet,” she told Billboard, “saying, ‘Oh my god, Janet, you have a tight body.’ Janet is gay and was like, ‘Yuck, whatever, gross.'”

Precious Metal couldn’t fork over a quarter of a million bucks, so it found a Trump look-alike and reshot the video in a way that didn’t show his face. But Trump’s nonappearance meant the video, and the band, went nowhere. “It didn’t end our band, but it didn’t help,” Knauer told Billboard. “It hurt our label’s support for us.” The band never recorded another album.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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