Unless you’re living under a rock, it shouldn’t be news that uber reality star Donald Trump is toying with the idea of running for president. Whether the real estate developer will seriously decide to turn his sights and his formidable purse strings toward D.C. is anyone’s guess, but for now he is reveling in the “will he or won’t he” debate.
Trump is one of those guys who is larger than life, and his unique hairstyle, Day-glo hair color, and bronzed skin tone make him ideal for caricaturizing. I think if he decides to run, candidate Trump will spawn a long line of bobble-head dolls, pull-string figures, and all manner of kitschy memorabilia and playthings. Unlike lesser mortals who might be bothered by being lampooned, “the Donald” comes alive when he is being discussed, photographed, and listened to. We all know the maxim “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”; Donald Trump lives that.
Interestingly, Trump is flooding the airwaves today and dominating the Internet headlines because of the release of President Obama’s birth certificate. Where journalists, pundits, and conspiracists have failed, the “Celebrity Apprentice” bigwig forced the president to release his long form. That’s a pretty amazing feat. And it makes me chuckle, because Mr. Trump, for all his showboating about transparency, still has not answered my question that I posed 15 years ago: “How much did you bid tonight, Mr. Trump? Did you win any dolls for Marla?” To which, the very eloquent and articulate Trump responded, “None of your fudging business.” (Only, he didn’t say “fudging.”)
Rewind back to 1996. I am a cub reporter working for Collector Communications Corporation, the then-publisher of DOLLS, Teddy Bear Review, and Collector Editions. I am at Roseland Ballroom—a huge disco and dance palace in New York City’s theater district. The hot spot is decorated to the nines, and is filled with A-listers and world-famous celebrities who have all come to bid on Robert Tonner fashion dolls for charity. The event is co-chaired by Demi Moore and Greg Louganis. Moore, who is married to Bruce Willis at the time, is joined at the event by her “Diehard” spouse. Sheryl Crow, who is bigger than Lady Gaga at the time, is the night’s headline performer. She’s strumming a guitar and singing while well-known athletes, actors, socialites, and designers are boogying on the dance floor. It is a surreal setting.
Amid all of this glitter and glamour, I am like a kid in a candy store. It is unbelievable that I am chatting with Mr. Willis and probing him for his take on the world of doll artistry. “I really r-respect and admire ‘f-figural art,’” he stammers. (It’s obvious he has been coached on how to respond. His wife, Demi, is known to be nuts for top-of-the-line, expensive creations. He wants to make her proud. It’s actually quite sweet.)
All through the evening, I approach dolled-up celebs and get their reactions on the doll benefit, which is seeking to raise awareness and funds for AIDS research. Most of the attendees are very cooperative and find it amusing to talk about buying and bidding on dolls. This is a lovely lark for them—a chance to be interviewed and swooned over.
The most talkative and approachable guest that night? It’s none other than Donald Trump’s wife, Marla Maples. Marla knows she has been beaten up by the mainstream press. She has become tabloid fodder, and has been scoffed at and ridiculed for being a “social climber and a gold digger.” She wants a friend: and the blond beauty has temporarily found it in me. Mrs. Trump attaches herself to my side, introduces me to her mother, who is holding her daughter’s purse, and talks at huge length about growing up a tomboy, loving Hot Wheels, and wanting to score a lot of dolls for herself and for Tiffany, her little daughter with Trump.
We are fast friends, and she leads me around, introducing me to other luminaries who are also in need of some kind, non-judgmental coverage. After all, my press badge says DOLLS magazine. I am no danger. “I know you’re a living doll,” Marla says with a laugh and a wink.
Yes, that night in Manhattan was a turning point for me. It made me temporarily famous and infamous within the doll world as I reported on the elegant aura and the underhanded aftermath. As a fund-raiser, the silent doll auction brought in nearly $300,000 for amfAR, which is definitely worth applauding. But an oddity occurred the very next day when people who thought they had successfully won a doll learned their bids were canceled out by Demi Moore. (Apparently, she had unannounced, reserved bids on all of the dolls, and went home with a bunch of them.) This unsportsmanlike conduct rightfully angered the “losers,” who turned to me with their angst. I printed the complaints, and made an enemy of Miss Moore in the process. (Come to think of it, Demi, too, refused to answer my questions about the doll scandal when I met her at Toy Fair. There’s something about dolls and disclosure, isn’t there?)
However, that irregular practice didn’t come to light until the next morning. At the end of the amfAR auction, as the clock struck midnight, spirits were still high, love was in the air, and Manhattanites were patting themselves on the back for doing a good thing.
Enter Donald Trump. After spending 45 minutes with Marla, who took me by the hand and showed me the dolls that she was personally targeting, I guess I lost my head a little. I had been touched by “fame,” and thought I was its equal. As I was preparing to leave the jet-setting beautiful people behind, and ride my subway train back to Brooklyn, I spotted the land baron striding, alone, to the front door. I sidled up beside him. “How much did you bid tonight, Mr. Trump? Did you win any dolls for Marla?” I asked. Let’s face it, enquiring minds wanted to know!
That’s when he turned toward me, his camel-hair overcoat swinging and the knot of his power tie barely visible. He looked down at me (he was taller than I imagined) and stated: “None of your f—ing business.” Then he pushed open the door and got into a waiting limousine. I was crestfallen.
As I write this week’s blog, I hear the news reporting on the president finally releasing his long-form birth certificate. As a two-time adoptive parent, I had to release my long-form each and every time I went to court. It’s not an international incident; it shouldn’t take three years to locate and to showcase. So, that bizarre haze surrounding Obama’s origins should finally be put to rest, but Trump will still go on to another issue, another clandestine cover-up.
I am sure he will find confirmation for his candidacy in this White House capitulation. He went head to head with the commander-in-chief, and Donald came out the victor. The certificate has been shown! Kudos to you.
So, in the matter of full disclosure, Mr. Trump, how much did you bid that night? And did you win any dolls for Marla? This enquiring mind still wants to know.