Outside of show business, is anyone on earth as endlessly, awesomely, shamelessly entertaining as Donald Trump? For that matter, what actor or musician or comedian or trained animal has provided more amusement?
In the book that my Spy co-conspirators and I just published about the magazine we created, one of our self-congratulatory reminiscences concerns Spy’s obsessive, bilious coverage of the man we called “short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump.” We say in the book that whenever he wrote us, threatening lawsuits and extinction, “it was like talking to the TV during Looney Tunes and having Daffy Duck reply.”
Good times … but then, a couple of weeks ago, Daffy was suddenly sputtering at us again. Such a magnificent Trumpian performance, such an unexpected gift, such bliss. The venue, of course, was “Page Six.” “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body. From what I hear, the same cannot be said of editors of the failed Spy.”
OMG! Bragging to the Post about the size of his schlong! It was a flashback to 1990, when the paper turned his mistress and future ex-wife’s claim about him into a front-page headline: best sex i ever had. And what would a Trump outburst be without several outrageous claims—including that he hadn’t cashed the 13-cent check Spy sent him in a 1989 prank. Plus a magnificent kicker, pot-calling-kettle-black chutzpah that literally made my jaw drop: Donald Trump, a man with famously, preternaturally cantilevered blond swoops (at 60!), said that my pal and Spy co-founder has “bad hair.” Sweet.
Trump embodies and perpetrates a sort of genial public loathing that’s peculiar to New York, home of two tabloids and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. He is a singular artifact from another age, our 21st-century reincarnation of P. T. Barnum and Diamond Jim Brady, John Gotti minus the criminal organization, the only white New Yorker who lives as large as the blingiest, dissiest rapper—de trop personified.
And like only a few other belovedly vulgar New York institutions—Tavern on the Green, Murdoch’s Post, Joe Franklin—he never changes. In 2006 as in 1976, he is every inch the cocksure hustler. He’s still seething, a sore winner (“You’re fired!”) as well as a sore loser. His version of swank always involves reflective surfaces and gigantic renditions of his surname, and he is perpetually married to some flashy young dame. (Prediction: In 2010, he trades in the 40-year-old third wife for a Hilton sister.) His USFL collapsed after only three seasons, but he always finds a new meretricious realm in which to make a splash—if not football, then casinos, or a threat to run for president, or reality TV, or motivational speaking, or his own brand of vodka.
In realistic fiction, such a character would be impossible—an over-the-top, unbelievable grotesque. His former lawyer, Roy Cohn, is now familiar mainly as a theatrical character, from Angels in America. But Donald Trump walks among us still, freakishly real, alive as you and me. Enjoy him while he lasts.