Keith Richards once threatened Truman Capote while on The Rolling Stones tour
In 1972, The Rolling Stones were the name on everybody’s collective rock and roll lips. The band had miraculously outlasted The Beatles and now remained as the last bastion of the first British invasion on American stereos. There was something different about The Stones though, something a little more dangerous and debauched.
The Rolling Stones had become the foreword in rock and roll, from the music to the gloriously debauched backstage antics, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and co. were the epitome of it all. Their magazine namesake saw this and was desperate to make a larger meal of this continued flirtation with danger.
As such, Rolling Stone, the mag, sent acclaimed novelist and the now-legendary writer of In Cold Blood, author Truman Capote to tag along as part of the band’s 1972 Cocaine and Tequila Sunrise Tour across America. The idea was to try and capture the essence of this monstrously hedonistic rock machine and package it in a way that the intellectual elite might find more appetising. It was a proposition that suggested two things; firstly, The Rolling Stones could sell magazines by the truckload and secondly, some artists aren’t meant for the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.
In an interview with HuffPost, the band’s publicist at the time, Carol Klenfer, shared some of the most ridiculous stories from that tour—it was The Rolling Stones after all. Some of the more notable moments include being jailed in Rhode Island and staying for days in Chicago’s Playboy Mansion, seemingly losing themselves in a cocktail or two. Or perhaps their lasting impression on the bar scene; the popularising of the newly created cocktail Tequila Sunrise.
One big clash came with the introduction of Capote: “This tour was when rock ‘n’ roll and cultural society converged or at least tried,” Klenfner said and highlighted that the band’s guitarist Keith Richards was particularly aggrieved at his inclusion on the tour. Mick Jagger was thought to be a little more at peace with the introduction of high society’s intelligentsia but Richards was “like the pirate” of the group and “did not enjoy snobs” and not very excited to see Capote arrive. The guitarist “basically hated what Capote stood for” according to Klenfner.
Judging by her accounts of the situation it seems that Richards’ bestowed moniker of “snob” may be more than fitting for Capote who required a lot of special treatment while on tour. The trip saw him continuously complaining about the noise levels and the non-stop partying. Keith did not take too lightly to such a person on his tour, especially considering his predisposition for debauchery.
Richards later recalled in his 2010 autobiography Life: “I remember, back at the hotel, kicking Truman’s door. I’d splatter it with ketchup I’d picked up off a trolley. Come out, you old Queen. What are you doing round here? You want cold blood?” Klenfer remembers that Keith teamed up with the head of the PR agency to trash Truman’s door with some stolen ketchup “so it looked like blood”. Klenfer then alleges that she remembered the practical joke coming with an added threat: “I’m going to beat the shit out of you.”
As one might expect, Capote did not come out of his room and that might’ve added to the fact that the varied stories from the Stones’ tour never found the pages of Rolling Stone in their entirety. Instead, he did share some stories across various interviews, one of which included Capote regaling Andy Warhol with this very story but it transpires very differently. “One night, about four o’clock in the morning when I was in bed but wasn’t asleep, Keith Richards came and he knocked on my door, and I said, ‘Yes?’ and he said, ‘It’s Keith,’ and I said, ‘Yes, Keith.’ He said, ‘Oh, come out, we’re having a terrific party upstairs.’
“I’m tired. I’ve had a long day and so have you and I think you should got to bed,” continues Capote. He claims the musician replied: “Aw, come out and see what a rock group’s really like.” It was not enough to tempt the writer into reneging on his agreement to stay away.
“‘I know what a rock group’s really like, Keith. I don’t have to come upstairs to see.’ And apparently he had a bottle of ketchup in his hand — he had a hamburger and a bottle of ketchup — and he just threw it all on the door of my room. [Laughs]”
So whether it was just some gentle ribbing between two of the music and literary world’s brightest stars or indeed a very real threat of violence. One thing’s for sure it is just another addition to the mythology and legacy of The Rolling Stones as the foremost rock and roll Gods of the time.