Hamburgers and French fries were sent up to him from the nearby New York Delicatessen. His body ballooned, his hair curled down his neck.
Like John Connally, the former governor of Texas, Trump had millions of dollars signed away in personal guarantees. In one astonishing decade, Donald Trump had become the Brazil of Manhattan. Donald had already cut a swath in this preserve of the New York establishment; we were immediately seated between the columns in the old upstairs room, then decorated with black paneling and red Naugahyde banquettes.
It was the autumn of , a fine season in New York. Donald was new then, thirty-four years old and very brash, just beginning to make copy and loving it. He was already fodder for the dailies and the weeklies, but he was desperate for national attention. Then, as now, he was all cheeks and jaw, with a tendency to look soft in the middle.
He retains the blond hair, youthful swagger, and elastic face that give him the quality of the cartoon tough Baby Huey. Trump is a head swiveler, always looking around to see who else is in the room. As a boy, he was equally restless. He was already married to Ivana, a former model and athlete from Czechoslovakia. It was the place where flight attendants hoped to find bankers, and models looked for dates.
Donald met his model, Ivana Zelnickova, visiting from Montreal. She liked to tell the story of how she had gone skiing with Donald, pretending to be a learner like him, and then humiliated him by whizzing past him down the slopes. They were married in New York during Easter of Mayor Beame attended the wedding at Marble Collegiate Church. Donald had already made his alliance with Roy Cohn, who would become his lawyer and mentor. Two years later, Trump had made his own fortune. Donald was determined to have a large family. The Trumps and their baby, Donald junior, lived in a Fifth Avenue apartment decorated with beige velvet sectional sofas and a bone-and-goatskin table from the Italian furniture store Casa Bella.
They had a collection of Steuben glass animals which they displayed on glass shelves in the front hall. The shelves were outlined with a string of tiny white lights usually seen on a Christmas tree. Donald was trying to make time in the world of aesthetes and little black cocktail dresses. He had put together the Fifth Avenue parcel that would become Trump Tower and had enraged the city establishment with his demolition of the cherished Art Deco friezes that had decorated the Bonwit Teller building. Do you think blowing up the sculptures has hurt me?
They would have just put them in their basement. Do you think, if I failed, these guys in New York would be unhappy? They would be thrilled! Because they have never tried anything on the scale that I am trying things in this city. Donald was like an overgrown kid, all rough edges and inflated ego. He had brought the broad style of Brooklyn and Queens into Manhattan, flouting what he considered effete conventions, such as landmark preservation.
His suits were badly cut, with wide cuffs on his trousers; he was a shade away from cigars. Donald and I were not alone at lunch that day. He had invited Stanley Friedman to join us. He was part of the Bronx political machine, and would soon be appointed the Bronx County leader. Later, Friedman would go to jail for his role in the city parking-meter scandal. Trump and Friedman spent most of our lunch swapping stories about Roy Cohn. Bob Tisch, like his brother, was a city booster, a man of goodwill and manners, a benefactor of hospitals and universities.
Very good friends. Late on summer Friday afternoons, the city of noise takes on an eerie quiet. The phone rang several times.
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Is that so? You would never know anything is wrong.
Trump stayed cool. The bankers and lawyers in the conference room looked at Trump with a combination of awe and disbelief. Whatever their cynical instincts, Trump, the Music Man of real estate, could set off in them the power of imagination, for his real skill has always been his ability to convince others of his possibilities. The line between a con man and an entrepreneur is often fuzzy. Who the hell knows what it is worth? It was an afternoon in July, when the dust seemed to be settling, and we were in the middle of a two-hour phone conversation.
The conversation itself was a negotiation. Trump attempted to put me on the defensive. I had written about him ten years before. Trump had talked about a close friend of his who was the son of a famous New York real-estate developer. I looked up my old notes. Just like the Merv Griffin deal. When I took him to the cleaners, the press wanted me to lose. Trump got taken! I guess I have a perverse personality. Deals had always been his only art.
He was reportedly getting unbelievable deals now from the contractors he had hired to build his casinos and the fiberglass elephants that decorate the Boardwalk in front of the Taj Mahal, for they were desperate, unsure that they would ever get paid for months of work. Trump was famous for his skill at squeezing every last bit out of his transactions. He was known to be making shocking deals now that he never could have made two months before.
Anything I did worked!
After a while it was too easy. He has a short attention span. He even gave the appearance of having grown bored with his wife. So I had built a building or two, big deal. They put me on the cover of the Daily News today with wars breaking out! You know why? Malcolm Forbes got thrown out of the Plaza by me! You know the story about me and Malcolm Forbes, when I kicked him out of the Plaza hotel? Well, I did. The same writer who wrote about this also wrote that Merv kicked my ass! The same writer is under investigation. He did not write that Trump was taken by Merv Griffin.
What is going on at Revlon is what has happened to Donald Trump. But no one makes Revlon a front-page story.
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Trump spoke in a hypnotic, unending torrent of words. Often he appeared to free-associate. Trump believes. He reminded me of a carnival barker trying to fill his tent. The real public has always liked Donald Trump.
The real public feels that Donald Trump is going through Trump-bashing. When I go out now, forget about it. Trump is often belligerent, as if to pep things up. Before the opening of the Taj Mahal, Marvin Roffman, a financial analyst from Philadelphia, correctly stated that the Taj was in for a rough ride. For that, Roffman believes, Trump had him fired. Trump submitted a plan for a convention center to city officials. It was unbelievable. He almost got us to name the convention center after his father in return for something he never really had to give away.
His partner at the time was the well-respected Pritzker family of Chicago, who owned the Hyatt chain. Their contract was specific: Trump and Jay Pritzker agreed that if there were any sticking points they would have a ten-day period to arbitrate their differences. At one point, they had a minor disagreement. He was on a mountain in Nepal. I gave you the ten days.
But you were in Nepal. Pritzker was his partner, not his enemy! This is how he acted on his first important deal. It was 50, fewer than that.