In 1990, Frank Sinatra was scheduled to play at the opening of Donald Trump's Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, but after Trump's Taj Mahal chief, Mark Grossinger Etess, died in a helicopter crash in 1989, Trump decided to renegotiate Sinatra's pending contract, according to a new book by Sinatra's longtime manager Eliot Weisman.
Trump's opening move was declaring the terms of Sinatra's 12-show agreement "a little rich," Weisman writes in The Way It Was, to be published later this month, and then he decided to cut Sinatra's supporting acts, Sammy Davis Jr. — just diagnosed with cancer — and Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé. When Trump asked, "Who's Steve and Eydie?" Weisman writes, he moved to strangle Trump by the tie before his son stepped in and held him back.
Weisman said that when he called Sinatra with Trump's offer, Sinatra responded that Weisman could either tell Trump to "go f--k himself," or give Sinatra Trump's number and he would tell him himself. Weisman, who managed Sinatra from 1975 until 1998, said he went and delivered the message to Trump: "Sinatra says go f--k yourself!" Sinatra played the Sands in Las Vegas instead, and in a twist, Trump picked Sinatra's "My Way" as the first dance at his inaugural ball.
To be fair, the Taj Mahal was bleeding money from the beginning, and apparently had terrible service and failing slot machines. Michael Jackson got a tour of the Taj from Trump, and Merv Griffin spoke at the opening ceremonies, but "with the exception of heavyweight boxer Michael Spinks and former Miss America Suzette Charles, celebrities were scarce" at the grand opening, The Press of Atlantic City reported at the time. "There was some speculation that many stars who'd been invited to the event stayed away because they didn't want to compete with Trump's ego."