“How did you know about the books?’’
The question was asked of me slowly, with an obvious sense of surprise and more than a slight dose of awe. It was asked by an individual who worked as a spokesperson for an Atlantic City casino magnate named Donald Trump.
The year was 1987 and Trump had just hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list with “The Art of the Deal.’’ At the time, I was writing a boxing column for Newsday and Trump, of course, was promoting many of Mike Tyson’s title fights at his Atlantic City hotels.
At the bottom of my column each week, I would tack on dot-dot-dot items which were basically a collection of wisecracks aimed at prominent boxing figures. It was a lot of inside stuff and often, the cracks I wrote were basically for my own amusement.
The week that Trump became a “best-selling author, I wrote this line: “I wonder how many of those books Donald Trump had to buy to put himself at the top of the best-seller list.’’
It was a throwaway line and I was pretty happy with it. It made me laugh.
That brought a phone call the next morning from Trump’s spokesperson, who no longer works for him but whose name I will not mention because the person still works in the industry. And when I heard the question – “How did you know about the books?’’ –I laughed into the receiver.
“I didn’t know about the books,’’ I said. “I just made it up. I thought it was a funny line.’’
Then the spokesperson said, “Well, it’s true. We have warehouses full of them.’’ The person didn’t need to ask me not to write that or to keep it anonymous. I had made my point, however inadvertently, and there was no point in pushing it any further or costing someone a job.
But it’s something I’ve never forgotten and on the day after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, it’s something I believe is worth sharing. And thinking about.