For many years now – ever since I read an Indianapolis Monthly cover story on Steve Hilbert, the high-flying CEO who drove Canseco into a ditch a few years back – I’ve thought the best job in America is to be an ex-wife of one of these guys, preferably before they hit the skids. Best of all would be for your hubs to fall in love with his secretary, or personal art dealer, or, in Hilbert’s case, the woman who jumped out of a cake at his son’s bachelor party, at the absolute height of their wealth and power, which is when so many of these splits tend to happen.
Seriously, imagine that scenario. It would be like getting released from prison, only instead of a suit of clothes and a parole officer, you get a condo in Aspen and $40 million. Jane Welch’s deal – that’s the one I want. Or Ivana Trump’s. You never again have to listen to him carp about the office, the board or the tennis coach, all of whom are somehow failing him. You don’t have to fuck him, or supervise his social calendar, or make nice with his equally odious colleagues. You are free to downsize and sit in front of that crackling Aspen fireplace, holding a warm cup of something in both hands and considering the rest of your life. Maybe do some more traveling – to Vietnam, or Russia, or India, places your ex wouldn’t even consider – or just fill your days with low-key lunches, reading and maybe regular dates with the tennis coach.
Of course, I was put on this train of thought by reading about yet another Donald Trump scam. The NYT has been tireless on these myriad disasters, the university and the casinos and all the rest of it. The most believable theory of why Trump won’t release his tax returns, to me anyway (I think it’s Mark Cuban’s), is the one that says he doesn’t have anywhere near as much as he’s been claiming, and the truth is clear if you look at the evidence in front of our faces. What billionaire needs to run as many low-level grifts and cheesy schemes as Trump does? “Trump: The Game,” Trump University, Trump steaks, even his dumb TV show. When you get your B card, you stop doing things like this:
In Oregon, Phyllis Fread was in her 80s, dealing with Parkinson’s disease and had been retired from teaching for almost two decades when Cambridge started calling her at home, where she lived alone. Cambridge salespeople telephoned Ms. Fread — who did not use the internet — 42 times trying to sell her networking services, a website and other products she did not need, according to an investigation by the Oregon attorney general’s office.
Over a two-year period, Cambridge charged her $14,593 for a video biography, calendars, a plaque and other items, including a news release in June 2010 titled “Phyllis J. Fread Reveals Her Secret to a Long Career in Education.” The release included a mention of Donald Trump Jr., saying he “was eager to share his extensive experience” with Cambridge clients.
Eventually, Ms. Fread reached her credit card limit and her son disconnected her telephone to stop Cambridge from calling. In a recorded interview with an investigator from the attorney general’s office, Ms. Fread became emotional as she recalled how “there were all kinds of things they’d push and I’d say, ‘I don’t want it at all.’”
“I remember saying, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t need anything, I don’t want anything.’ And then you couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I probably should have hung up,” she said. “But I didn’t.”
Cambridge was accused by the state of “unfair, deceptive and unconscionable practices” and settled without admitting guilt, issuing a refund to Ms. Fread in 2012. She died 18 months later.
Cambridge Who’s Who, a vanity publisher promising “branding services” that seemed to complement the real estate business (another duped woman) hoped to create. She paid thousands of dollars to Cambridge, whose spokesman and “executive director of global branding” was Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr.
It’s not a Trump company, but when Junior joined it six years ago, his name became part of the call-center script. You wonder why a billionaire’s son would feel the need to work for such an outfit, even if he only stayed a year. My guess is, he learned at the foot of dad, and knows you never leave a dollar on the table, on the ground or in an 80-year-old woman’s pocket.
A good friend of mine died of AIDS 25 years or so ago, and one of the last arguments I remember having with him was over “The Art of the Deal,” which he was reading, becoming ever more besotted with Donald Trump as the pages turned. To him, Trump was about confidence, “class” and being unlike any other. I never read it, and in fact avoid all such books, even while I marvel over the stacks and stacks you see in places like airports. The format is as predictable as a rom-com: Photoshopped pic of the author on the cover, wearing a sweater; wide margins and big type; and air, nothing but air, between the covers.
Really, who thought that Bill Gates’ “The Road Ahead” would contain one secret to duplicating his own success on the road ahead? Who thought that after reading Welch’s “Winning,” one might go forth and, y’know, win? Thousands, evidently. Maybe millions.
If you’d have told me that one day this “author” of an empty-headed parade of “books” would be the GOP nominee for president, well… I’m sure you feel the same way.
On the other hand, if you’d told me that both Trump and Welch would run personally branded higher-ed programs at for-profit “institutions,” well, I’d believe that.
What am I talking about? I feel like I’ve sort of lost the plot here.
OK, then, moving on. NN.C is a full-service blog, so when you’re passing through my town, I will do my best to say hi in the flesh, as I did on Saturday, at Eastern Market with the bassets, Craig and Patty:
I seem to have gone blonde with my most recent highlights. Might want to tone that down, eh?
The week ahead sits with fanged teeth. (Pronounced “fanged” with two syllables, and you’ll get a sense of how much I’m not looking forward to it.) But in five more days, it’ll be over, so let’s get to it, eh?