Trump the Money Man Is Just No Fun

By Sydney H. Schanberg

First published in Newsday, May 25, 1990

When is Donald Trump going to realize that money isn’t everything? Money’s not why we love him. Why is he going around now saying that when he grows up he wants to be the “King of Cash”?

I liked him better when he wanted to be in charge of nuclear arms negotiations for the United States and said it would take him no more than “an hour and a half” to master the subject. That’s the Donald who wormed himself into our hearts.

He just doesn’t understand. We loved him for his adorable self. That goes for all of us, from Marla to Leona to Ivana. Everybody loves a lover. A moneybags, on the other hand, commands only fear and awe and envy.

Donald, boychik, your mind has become clouded. I know things aren’t going so well, and you’re mortgaged to the hilt and you need some pocket money. But, remember, you’re our national soap opera, and in the soaps, when things are looking bleakest — when your wife, Rona, comes back from the doctor to tell you she has only six months to live, when your old flame Meredith shows up right then with a cripple teenager she says is yours, and the phone rings and it’s your lawyer saying you’re being indicted for tax fraud and you’re facing six years in the slammer — that’s when the violins build and the sun breaks through the clouds, and you realize that money isn’t everything and that only character will see you through.

So why then, Donald, are you running around protesting that you’re worth billions when the truth is closer to $400 million or $500 million? Yes, Forbes magazine and Business Week annoyed you by saying your assets were overvalued and your father had cut back on your weekly allowances, but that’s no reason to throw a tantrum and get Janney Montgomery Scott Inc. to fire the securities analyst who studied your books and reported that your empire was a bit rocky, founded as it is on junk bonds that are growing junkier.

And then you threatened a libel suit against a Wall Street Journal reporter if he even hinted in his story that you’re suffering from cash-flow blues.

Cripes, Donald, if you need a few bucks to tide you over, just ask around. But don’t get yourself into an uproar. You’re beginning to sound like your late friend, Roy Cohn, who was the world’s highest-living deadbeat. Anytime a store or a limousine garage tried to collect the money Cohn owed them, he sued them for harassment and defamation of the Jews.

Now, Donald, you’re refusing to pay your bill, and your story is that it’s the other guy’s fault. Take the contractors who built your Taj Mahal casino. You owe them $30 million and you choose to call it a billing dispute. Is that any way to treat the guys who made you the kind of the principality of High Tack?

And what about the stretch limousine manufacturers, Executive Coachbuilders, who made 35 custom vehicles for the Taj? You accused them of making four of them too short, by two to four inches, and you’ve refused to pay for them or even return them. That’s no way for a really big fella to behave, Donald. A big fella would bend a little and then I’m sure he would shoe-horn himself into those cabin cruisers.

People are not unsympathetic about your being a little tapped out. It’s not as if we haven’t been there ourselves a time or two. And we know why you’d rather hush it up. The sharks out there, if they smell blood, aren’t going to pay top dollar for the trinkets you’re trying to sell off for cash. But why fight it, Donald? It’s kind of obvious that a guy’s flat when he’s trying to sell an airline less than a year after he bought it and painted his name all over the planes.

The thing that bothers me most is the prospect of losing you. If you go down the tubes and become just another parvenu has-been, columnists like me are going to have one less tush to kick around. By being so outrageous and behaving like a world-class horse’s patootie for a decade, you’ve provided instant fodder for us. To be honest, I probably owe you maybe 2 percent of my salary for all the columns you’ve unselfishly served up to me over the years. Don’t try to collect, though. I’ll countersue and call it a billing dispute.

What got me worrying about losing you as a meal ticket were the gossip items about you souring on New York and moving your hustle to Los Angeles. Cindy and Liz say you’re going to buy yourself a movie studio with a stable of starlets.

Say it isn’t so, Donald. They’ll never love you in La-La-Land the way we do. Here, you’re an exotic species; out there you’ll be just another paper moon in a Barnum and Bailey world. 

Out there, you won’t get any headlines when you raze a building and destroy a valued bas-relief that you had promised to an art museum. No one will even notice when you throw widows out on the street in order to build yet another tower of glitz. It’s Hollywood and they’ve seen movie sets before.

In California, you’ll never find a mayor who’ll call you “Piggy, Piggy, Piggy”; they’re too laid back. And when you offer them the exclusive on your latest messy divorce, they will yawn — for messy divorces are a dime a dozen on Malibu Beach. 

Out there, Donald, you’ll be just another pretty face. Stay home where you belong. After all, who loves ya, baby?

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