Donald Trump taps Vanity Fair to help him launch his comeback

The Trump Timeline

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Beginning in the first week of December, Vanity Fair’s Edward Klein spends a few days throughout the month following Donald Trump for a feature piece that he requested himself. Trump is trying to launch his comeback: a new IPO he thinks will make him billions (it doesn’t), a perfect marriage to Marla Maples (it wasn’t), etc.

What was there left to say about Donald Trump? Hadn’t he lost control of everything—his yacht, his plane, his airline, his casinos, his hotels, his apartment buildings, his credit with the banks, his credibility with the press? Wasn’t he, like those tarnished icons of the garish 1980s Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky, history?

Edward Klein

Trump thinks he’s doing Vanity Fair a favor, too. He tells Klein that the media knows “that once they’ve cut you down, the best story is to build you back up again.”

The piece comes out in March 1994. Here are the highlights:

1. Trump’s marriage to Marla Maples isn’t entirely about love. Maples gave him a deadline that they have to be married by Christmas or she’ll leave and take newborn Tiffany with her. Trump believes he owes Marla for her loyalty, and he thinks he can make more money when his casinos launch on the stock market if he seems like a respectable, settled down businessman.

2. Trump says giving contradicting reports of his own worth is a technique to keep people on their toes. No one really knows if he’s worth more or less than he says at any given time. “I want people to be skeptical of me, of my real net worth. Otherwise, how can I expect them to compromise with me and allow me to do what I want to do?”

3. Trump takes Klein to an event where he is an honoree. Then-Mayor-elect Rudy Giuliani is there, along with Mayor David Dinkins, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and Trump friend Lewis Rudin who Trump claims convinced him to expand the family business outside of Brooklyn and Queens.

4. Trump’s future Commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, is interviewed for the piece: “I think he is the world’s greatest promoter and P.R. person. In Atlantic City, you’re selling them entertainment, pageantry, wishful thinking, a dream. So having someone like Trump lends itself to that. . . . He has captured the public imagination and turned it into a resource for himself. People may joke that he’s always promoting himself, but he’s figured out a way to make it more than an ego trip. He’s turned it into money.”

5. When his casino business can be traded on the stock market, Trump estimates that he’ll make $4 billion ($3 billion after his debts are paid) from the IPO. But when that happens, he only makes $140 million.

6. When discussing one of his breakups with Marla, Trump uses a phrase that will later become a trademark of his time in office. “I left her. Not only that. I left her like a dog.”

7. “Marla knew how to push Donald’s buttons. She taunted him in public for being overweight. She played with the hair on his head, lifting it up and exposing his scalp, and poking fun at his efforts to hide his hair loss. She derided his sexual prowess in front of his friends and associates.”

8. On the eve of Trump’s second wedding, he sends a dozen red roses to Ivana. He had kept her on a string for the two years following their divorce.

9. When asked about people turning on him when he lost his money, Trump’s response is a warning of what’s to come as he ascends to the presidency.

You have to remember who the loyal ones were and who were not, and if you don’t, you’re a total schmuck. And if I have a chance to hurt these people who weren’t loyal to me, I will.


Vanity Fair (Archived)

Stock Market / Casinos

Photo: CBS News

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