I never met The Donald, as was his exclusive moniker in 1986, but I came close. My boss, Hamilton, talked his way into a meeting with the underling who was screening agencies to pitch everything marketing and advertising for a condo/hotel/casino complex The Donald hoped to open on the grounds of his new acquisition, the crown jewel of Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago; or if not, in the empty office building he bought just over the bridge in downtown West Palm, just to hedge his bet.
At the appointed hour, I accompanied Hamilton and two female colleagues up the elevator in Trump’s empty tower to his temporary West Palm headquarters. The desks were metal and the chairs scuffed, but the view of the sparkling Intracoastal and the green ribbon of Palm Beach and the bright blue Atlantic beyond, anchored by the pink pimple of Mar-a-Lago – well, it was world-class. Add some marble and gold and it would be an office befitting The Donald.
Hamilton made haste to note all this before launching into a breathless pitch of our boutique agency’s experience. If there was anything we understood, it was world-class. Our clients paid world-class prices. And they got world-class materials and world-class results.
Trump’s lieutenant put an immediate stop to the spiel. “We’s here to talk about what to do, and not do, when you meet,” he drew it out, “The Donald.”
And thus began the strangest pitch meeting of 1986.
”First off, don’t go offering to shake hands. The Donald don’t like to shake hands. Got a thing about germs.”
We nodded. No hand shaking. Got it.
“Next, and this is important, see? You let him talk. He want to know what you think? He’ll ask ya. Trust me. Don’t try to do the talking.” His flat eyes cut deliberately to Hamilton.
I noticed the red stating to creep above his starched Egyptian cotton collar but Hamilton was a master at keeping his face neutral. I knew him well enough to hear what was raging in his head: some guy in a bad polyester sport coat was calling out country club Hamilton on etiquette?
“If The Donald wants to hear your opinion, he’ll ask. Otherwise, you listen.”
In other words, a pitch meeting where we’re not allowed to talk.
Bored brown eyes over a nose that had been broken a few too many times traveled deliberately over Hamilton’s three female cohorts, one of whom was me. We were beautiful in different ways; two tall, two blonde, all sassy and intelligent and wearing high heels and tan legs without panty hose, which was daring in those days. No comment, and no questions, from the louie. “Mr. Trump’s secretary? She’ll call,” he yawned in dismissal.
As happens every session in Florida, the legislature did not vote to expand gambling (Seminole compacts are so inconvenient) so The Donald’s secretary never arranged that meeting. From the perspective of 2017, I am mightily glad. My partner in market research, Sheila, was the other tall one with the kind of flowing blonde hair favored by The Donald. But New Jersey born-and-bred Sheila would have scrapped back had he attempted, or even intimated the intent, to grab her by any body part whatsoever.
And we were exactly the kind of small business that would have been left with devastating unpaid invoices.
The Donald was a good client to lose.
[The genesis of this post was an outtake from my manuscript, Sex & Drugs & Real Estate: Coming of Age in the New Age. The encounter had no bearing on the narrative arc, so it languished on the computer floor. Seemed timely to let the anecdote have its day.]
Loved this !
Thank you for retelling your Trump story. I relate to much of your own story and hope to have the opportunity to relate a little of mine to you. It involves both our so-called literary adventures and Trump. I currently am following you. Sounds more foreboding than it is.
Hi Laura – Thanks again for telling your “Trump story” I followed you on Twitter before going to your website just because of St. Petersburg and your being an author. A decade or so ago my spouse and I moved to Tampa so I could work at Safety Harbor Resort where I was a personal trainer/fitness instructor. Then I fell under the spell of the then hapless Tampa Bay Devil Rays. To get to the point now, as a boy of 15 in military school with Trump all those years ago, my relationship with him became, shall we say, nuanced and relatable, as was yours.
Now that I am age 71 and fulfilling my lifelong interest in writing, I sporadically and inconsistently find myself reaching out to “literary types” wherever I find them. Based, even rooted after 10 years in red state South Carolina, I sit marveling in front of the TV with my lap…communicating with the world, multitasking by watching and listening to C-Span 3 as the White House Russia hearings take form…
Please feel free to use my email to say hello. It is my pleasure to consider you a friend “in the bond” of bookish types, struggling with the apparent normalization of having a jackass as president of our land. (IMHO).