Coachella Organizer Was ‘Offended’ by the Festival Owner’s Anti-Gay Donations

Coachella. Photo: Karl Walter/Getty Images for Coachella

Earlier this year, just shortly after Coachella announced its 2017 lineup, resurfaced reports of its owner Philip Anschutz’s past donations to anti-gay hate groups went viral. Moral debates over whether or not to attend the festival erupted among concertgoers and a petition was eventually started urging the headliners, then with Beyoncé still included, to donate their earnings to pro-LGBTQ groups. Now, the man who’s been stacking the Coachella lineup down to the finest print for nearly two decades admits the controversy hurt the festival’s image. Reflecting on the outrage, Goldenvoice CEO Paul Tollett tells The New Yorker, “No one wants to wake up to see a headline that says, ‘Coachella owner anti-gay.’ I was offended. I run the festival, but it’s rude to say that when you’re a partner with someone.” (Goldenvoice organizes Coachella, but Tollett shares half the festival’s ownership with Anschutz’s AEG.)

Anschutz later released a statement claiming that the donations were a mistake and he was no longer making them, but even Tollett found the message to be too boilerplate. “He’d better say, ‘No fucking way.’ Anything short of that …” Tollett remembers thinking of the statement he’d have drafted. (He also wasn’t happy that Anschutz called the reports of his donations “fake news.”) Tollett says the whole incident reminded him of advice Bill Gates once gave him about how nothing, not even a festival as lucrative as Coachella, is unsinkable:

“I’m telling you, these types of things can kill you,” [Tollett] said. “There are big ships that go down over small things. You’re riding high, but one wrong thing and you’re voted off the island. It’s scary.” He noted that Bill Gates had come to Coachella one year, and, after first telling Tollett that he thought the festival could last forever, ticked off on his fingers all the “isms” that could bring it down. “Terrorism, botulism—you name it. The guy’s a walking actuarial table.”
Coachella Organizer ‘Offended’ by Owner’s Anti-Gay Donations