The Donald I Knew

Joni Evans reflects on a telling experience with the mogul who would be President

So around the fall of 1987, I was the publisher of Random House. I had inherited a fabulous book from my predecessor: Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal.” Trump was not yet a household name outside New York City, but he was working on it — changing the abandoned property that became the Jacob K. Javits Center, turning a seedy Central Park’s Wollman Rink into a vibrant playground again, transforming a sad old hotel into the flashy Grand Hyatt. And more.

No one knew how big “The Art of the Deal” (co-authored by Tony Schwartz) might become, and it was my responsibility to oversee the publication. While my memory is not perfect, I do recall we took a bold stance … starting our printing at 100,000 copies, then revising it upward to 200,000; then revising it again to 300,000 and before Christmas, flooding the market with an extra 50,000 copies or so. (These were considered spectacular printings for such a local personality and publishers — always cautious because books are returnable — knew the cost of overprinting a title.)

The book climbed up and up to the #1 position on the New York Times bestseller list and I left for the Christmas vacation in a very smug mood.

Until the phone rang mid-vacation.

It was The Donald (though he wasn’t yet “The” back then). He was calling from Aspen. Actually, he was shouting from Aspen. He was livid. The two bookstores in Aspen had no more copies of “The Art of the Deal!” They had sold out. He was stuck on his Christmas vacation and there were no books to sign; no books to sell. He was furious.

How upset was I? Muchly. I tried to tell him that this was the real life definition of a “runaway” bestseller. He was not amused .. he countered he could sell at least another 2000 copies over the holiday if only books were in the Aspen bookstores. I countered that it was Christmas — the Random House warehouse in Pennsylvania was closed — there would be no way to get the books out. And, even if we could get the books out of the warehouse, they would never get to Aspen in time. He countered: if “you want to get it done, you can.” He volunteered he send his PERSONAL 747 airplane to transport the books.

Long story short: my frantic calls to the owner of Random House; his instant orders to the warehouse personnel; etc etc etc. … books miraculously  loaded onto the Trump airplane to Aspen, 2000 books loaded into the two Aspen bookstores and (ta-dah!) all books sold out. The book eventually sold over a million copies.

The end of the story:  He was (goddamnit) right.

The moral of the story:  Never underestimate THE Donald.

80 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    Joni .   .   . Sharing The Donald tale from the past, telling it so well as you did, makes this one worth repeating.  As a woman in business, I read business books on a regular basis – the good ones – and always have.  Early on, Trump co-wrote this book (a pretty good one), filled with points. . . and not surprisingly (at least to me), I think I can remember one of them.  In big black letters, his topic of that chapter was “DELIVER THE GOODS”.  And – oh Lord – somehow in Aspen not enough of the GOODS were delivered.  To him, scandalous.  After all, it was a major point of his book. . . and it fits right into your story.

    Loved it — and NOTE: I didn’t say “love him!”


    • avatar O E says:

      I wonder: What ended up in the balance sheet for this Christmas Rush operation for The Donald?  After getting people to leave their Christmas plans to open the warehouse and load and later unload books to the bookstores?  Trump got his way, but I bet somebody lost money on this stunt.  The publisher? Trump?  And all to massage his ego!

      • avatar crystalclear says:

        Donald Trump is a successful businessman.   Put yourself in his shoes for a moment.   He invests heavily in his book.   The publisher doesn’t print enough of them not anticipating that they would fly off the shelves of bookstores!   He had the right to demand that more be delivered at once!    He was protecting his investment.    Had I been in his shoes I would’ve demanded the same.   This wasn’t about his ego, in my opinion, but a measure to protect his investment.

        We often times find ourselves in a position of wanting to hate successful people as if it is a bad person who strives for financial security.   I find that curious.    I, on the other hand, respect those who can take a one dollar bill and turn it into ten dollars.   We are a country of many opportunities.   Some will not take advantage of the many opportunities to become financially secure throughout their lifetimes.    Others will take advantage of opportunities and expand and explore.   Why anyone in the US would look down on successful people is something very difficult for me to understand.   Perhaps there is someone here who would entertain taking a few minutes to explain why successful people are considered greedy people with inflated egos.

  2. avatar Linda Myers says:

    I have no doubt, Donald Trump gets what he wants, but is it the making of a president for the people? I am not from NYC, though curious what he has done as an effort for the most destitute people of the city to improve their lives and how would those efforts reflect his ability to be president? Where is his balance point between wealth and humanity?

    • avatar Anais P says:

      The Donald has no record of helping anyone in need and in fact is now being questioned about his alleged racist rental policies that got him into trouble with the federal government. He inherited money and is not a self-made man. Didn’t he go bankrupt twice? So different from Obama, a former community organizer who tried to help others and who did not come from money. Now Trump is swearing and calling our leaders “stupid.” His temperment is decidedly UNpresidential.

      • avatar Linda Myers says:

        The story above indicates he will get what he wants at any cost, to satisfy his own ego and desires. Fiscal responsibility in comparison as president would not seem to be in the best interest of the country.

        At this point, his strategy seems more to discredit his opponent rather than outline a platform as president. Another Trump and win in play.

        • avatar Anais P says:

          Not at all. Trump comes off very badly. He’s all bluster and zero substance, standing for nothing. You can’t always be criticizing the other guy. If that were a recipe for Presidential success, Palin would be President by now.

      • avatar Lila says:

        So true! Temperament and bearing are important for a President! And the President is not… NOT… a CEO. Our system of checks and balances means that bullying behavior won’t get the President anywhere. We need leaders, not screamers and pompous bullies.

        • avatar Linda Myers says:

          If a presidents focus has been on business with a take all attitude, imagine the global affects as commander in chief – we do not have enough troops in this country to soothe the ego and at what cost?

          It is time people decided what their issues were and then looked at performance by the best person aligned to resolving the issues, rather than show boating an election.

    • avatar crystalclear says:

      Linda, most of our elected officials are millionaires or better.   They may have inherited family money or they may have made it on their own before deciding to play their hand in our congress.    We have no idea how much they have given to charities.    Why single out Donald Trump?   President Obama was criticized for giving very little of his income to charities.  Now, under the microscope, his 2010 tax return reflects more charitable contributions.   His income soared with his books!   Do you feel that because he has an income over $1 million a year that he is one of the wealthy bad guys?    I have a hard time understanding why some Americans resent the rich for being rich.    They contribute heavily to our tax base and since 45% (approx) of Americans pay no tax at all, I, for one, am thankful for the rich which carries the burden of paying the taxes.

      Yes, the middle class is getting clipped at the moment and we need to ask ourselves why and be very honest with ourselves before providing the answers.   Many businesses fall into the middle class income category.   Not one thing has been done since 2008 to help them through a recession.   Now they can look forward to higher taxes as the Bush Tax Cuts are lifted.   This administration is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.   They are manuevering through a back door raising taxes on the middle class and saying they are not.

      Leadership, honesty, clarity and planning for our country’s fiscally sound future is lacking in this administration.   In my opinion, they need to be removed one by one starting with President Obama.    There are those who who will disagree with me and I fully expect that.   When you do disagree please take into consideration that I am speaking from my point of view having voted for this President the same as you in 2008.    I can no longer support incompetence which has directly impacted the poor in our country as well as the middle class.

      We made a mistake. 

      • avatar Andromeda Jakes says:

        Based on your comments I dont believe you voted for the current President crystalclear. 

  3. avatar Bonnie O says:

    Good story, Joni.   Thank you for a different perspective of Donald Trump from what has been bandied about here for the last week.  I only know him as a real estate mogul and his rennovation of The Plaza;  I was unaware of the projects you mentioned,  i.e. the Javits Center.  Your story gives a more complete picture of the possbile GOP candidate.

  4. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    The end of the story:  He was (goddamnit) right.


    I remember what Leona Helmsley said about how women are perceived differently from men – had it been her, she wouldn’t have been right. She would have been a bitch.  I also remember what she said about Donald Trump. Of course at that point, well, I guess she was being a bitch.. But she was also right. As everyone will find out for themselves.

  5. avatar KarenR says:

    I wonder what the financial costs of that effort were (on both sides – Random House and Trump, airplane and all) were versus the sales profit of those 2,000 copies…

  6. avatar phyllis Doyle Pepe says:

    … Justin Elliott of Salon has been plumbing the history books lately. Today he reprises an old episode of Donald Trump’s problem with “the blacks.” It was a big problem. In the early 1970s, “his New York real estate company was sued by the federal government for discriminating against potential black renters. After a lengthy legal battle, it ultimately agreed to wide-ranging steps to offer rentals to nonwhites…. In 1978, the government filed a motion for supplemental relief, charging that the Trump company had not complied with the 1975 agreement.”

    Joni’s story illustrates Trump’s bellicosity, his kingship-like quality, and his determination to get his own way. He may have been right, but his method was wrong. Snook’s point is well taken––if that had been a woman, then…

    Joni’s story illus

    • avatar Paul Smith says:

      Phyllis, in all fairness, real estate has a long history of stark discrimination practices. There is nothing to say Mr. Trump is racist because he was slow to come around in the ancient 70’s.  Even you are probably aware of the recent dust up at the celebrated Dakota, the kingdom of many left-wing liberals, where a resident African-American Ivy-Leaguer, Investment Banker, former head of the co-op board, accused the board of persistant racist practices.  

      • avatar phyllis Doyle Pepe says:

        Paul: Of course I can say, in all fairness, that Trump is racist given his actions of late, along with his actions back, as you coined them, the ancient 70’s. He, obviously, was part of the sad long history of discrimination in the housing arena and your example of the Dakota situation suggests it is alive and well.

        • avatar crystalclear says:

          Everyone in the real estate arena would’ve been considered racists back in the day.  It wasn’t until 1968 that we ushered in the Fair Housing Act.  I remember growing up that  those in my neighborhood (the seller) had full authority to decide who they would sell their homes to.  It wasn’t against the law to discriminate on a federal level.   Fortunately, the Fair Housing Act in 1968 took care of that.  We had laws that promoted discrimination with the exception of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 forbiding discrimination but it wasn’t supported by a federal law.

          Things changed for the better….and then we regressed with the subprime mortgage (2003) lending practices which exploited minorities.  

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          The co-ops for the most part have kept Manhattan, at least in the “better” co-op buildings, segregated as Gloria Vanderbilt found out. She was acceptable.  Bobby Short was not.  I suppose the law just doesn’t apply to the very rich.  I have heard through the years that some units are merely “pulled from the market” once the  Fair Housing Act is mentioned by the few who risk “social annihilation” for even mentioning it.  But the Fair Housing Act doesn’t really apply. And that unfortunately is the one part of the Fair Housing Act that allows continued discrimination.  The Seller may pull the property from the market just as long as they have not accepted a contract. And in a co-op the Seler cannot accedpt a contract until the co-op board has approved the Buyer. Even if the board approves the Buyer the Seller can still pull the unit foorm the market. The same right every Sellear in the country has. And quite a few do pull it.  Blatantly in some cases. Denying that the contract from a minority that was presented had anything to do with it. They just decided not to sell. In reality the co-op boards can legally reject anyhone for any reason without having to state the reason simply because they have the right to. And I doubt a challenge of that right would stand up in court. Someone on the board doesn’t like you? Too bad. So sad. Start looking at condos. 

          Fair? Of course not. But then the Fair Housing Act was never really fair. Not in certain neighborhoods. Or in certain buildings.

        • avatar isa says:

          Exactly! And if you factor in gentrification, then you get the picture….

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            Most people don’t understand what gentrification is but without doubt it is the biggest threat to minorities in this country. Simply put people are taxed out of their own houses. Or find themselves losing their houses to condemnation under eminent domain when developers decide to “revitalize” a neighbhorhood. With the approval of HUD I might add.  But hey, rich people suddenly want to move closer in to the downtown business districts, you know? And they don’t want to live next door to a poor person. So, well, the poor person needs  to go. So. well, they do.

          • avatar crystalclear says:

            Without gentrification, we end up with slum areas.   Tell me how that is in anyway good.

          • avatar crystalclear says:

            correction:   ” in any way good.”

          • avatar Anais P says:

            OK, so you gentrify poor neighborhoods so the rich move in and the poor move out because their homes are taken by eminent domain, or maybe they were renters in the first place and can no longer afford to live there. Exactly where are poor people supposed to live? Or would you rather they be homeless and live on the streets and die there? Tell me how THAT is in any way good!

          • avatar isa says:

            Thank you Anais for your clarifications and….unfortunately, not only the poor, but also the black middle class has been hit over and over by the effects of gentrification.  Middle class blacks who have lived in the same neghborhood for years, over the last years with the whole real estate bubble mess kept witnessing “the white folks” moving in.  As Snooks pointed out, gentrification is not good news for blacks and minorities.  In a nut shell (to clarify for crystalclear) since minorities are not dealt the same cards in the game of social and financial competition, they are being squeezed out of their neighborhoods economically and socially.  Ideally, if fair housing were based on equal access for all and not on profit alone, gentrification would be obsolete.  Of course, gentrification, has always existed and on some level will always be present, regardless of progress, but the donalds of this world have thrived on it.  And that’s not cool.

          • avatar crystalclear says:

            Anais, we are a country built on capitalism.   We will not become a “nanny state” with equal & fair housing for all.   We will not be a country that provides a job for everyone much less provide a home for everyone.    I believe fair housing is provided for those who can afford it and for those who cannot we are nearly bankrupt providing welfare and health insurance.   As I said above or below, we are like a dog chasing its tail due to our mismanagement of taxpayer dollars.  

            I clearly remember the enormous “earmarks” that soaked the bailout plans late in 2008 and early in 2009.   Instead of addressing what could be done for the poor in our country our elected officials opted for frivolous studies in their states to secure their re-election.  It’s all wrong.   As we know, this course of action directly affects the poor because elected officials in their area deem the study of frogs and bees a far more worthier expenditure.

            I cannot in any way blame Donald Trump for being a highly successful real estate mogul.   As an American, he has the right to chart his own path financially by buying real estate at a low price, dumping his “bucks” into the refurbishing of a property to bring him a profit.    I find nothing wrong with that because he isn’t doing anything wrong.  

            Gentrification will always be necessary to maintain the infrastructure of our cities and towns.   If we do not embrace that then we can expect widespread slum areas across our country.   Take a minute to look at other countries who do not apply gentrification methods and you’ll see widespread deplorable living conditions spreading throughout their countries.     And, that’s not cool either.

          • avatar crystalclear says:

            Gentrification is necessary for rebuilding the infrastructure of our cities.  When there are no longer funds from landlords to maintain these structures they are then sold to someone who does have the means to restore, upgrade and then sell these properties to those who can afford the higher prices. 

            Our social programs are virtually bankrupt because of mismanagement of our taxpayer dollars.   We have not elected the right people to lead our country and in so doing provide adequately for the poor. 

            Until we can clean up the misappropriation of funds in our social systems we will never be able to adequately care for those in need.   It’s like a dog chasing his tail meanwhile the costs to maintain the poor have soared be it medicaid or welfare subsistance.   

            Seems that areas dedicated to the poor i.e. government subsidized living quarters eventually turn into gang infested neighborhoods and dangerous areas to live in.    There are areas, however, all over the country usually in more rural areas where government subsidized apartments remain well cared for but for the most part this is not the case.   

            Until we can pay down our country’s debt, pull out of two wars and avoid a third and fourth one, we will not have adequate funding for the poor.   I find that extremely sad.   As a voting democrat for years it was blatant that democratic states with large inner cities who always say they want to help the poor never seem to make a difference in their inner cities.

            I wish I had the answers to these serious issues via a plan but that is not my background.   We elect people to make these changes and they never do once in office.

            If run down areas are not gentrified then our country would have slum areas in every city dwellings not fit for a rat.   We cannot expect people to live in conditions that are uninhabitable.   The cost to refurbish them raises the cost to live there enormously.   Sadly, the poor are pushed out.   Nothing lasts forever as we can all witness with our tremendous debt to foreign countries and our bankrupt social security, medicare and medicaid.   

            The answer?    We need to elect honest people to lead and guide us. 

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            The attitude towards gentrification as being somehow “good” is just more of the “out of sight, out of mind” attitudes towards the poor in our country which in turn always seems focused, ever so discreetly, on minorities. In reality many of the victims of gentrification are elderly whites who like the elderly minorities worked their whole lives to buy something and maintain it despite the neighborhood itself not being maintained. One of the first indications that a developer has their eyes on a neighborhoood is when the streets are no longer repaired, parks are no longer maintained, and crime is allowed to run rampant. Despite the fact these are all services the property owners pay for through their property taxes.

            What makes it all the worse is the gentrification is usually acheived through “revitalization” by developers who form a “non-profit” community development corporation and then used HUD money, taxpayer money, to force property owners to sell at less than market value or risk losing their property through condemnation under eminent domain at which point the developers “flip” the land and make a lot of profit. Off the tazpayers I might add.  

            Anyone who wants to know how it works can google “Houston Renaiassance” which was pretty much the example everyone else follows. The Texas Attorney General’s Office is still “watching the situation” and could only force an agreement that the land purchased by Houston Renassance could only bve sold for the provision of affordable housing. Of course then HUD changed the rules and most of the people who need affordable housing really can’t afford it. Not in Houston anyway. According to one city councilmember they spent $24.5 million, all public funding including Fannie Mae loans never really explained to anyone including the Texas Attorney General’s Office, to purchase $6.5 million in land. Ethical? No. Legal? Apparenty it was. And still is. 

            Worse was the displacement of the minorities.  And yet despite the number of minority state and congressional representatives whose constitutent were affected, and displaced, not one of them said a word. Some of whom had “conflicts of interests” as they say. One hired a board member to run her congressional office in Houston promising more “transparency” with regard to the situation. He proceeded to fax notices of public hearings to everyone 15 minutes before the meetings began.

            Welcome to America. And to vulture capitalism.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            Houston Renaissance.  Apparently what you type is what you get on wowOwow these days. Even when you go back and correct yourself which you have  to since spellcheck seems to have vanished.