I am a big fan of Fred C. Trump, father of that guy who simply won't shut up. The elder Trump stood for something; he was a self-made real estate mogul who, unlike his slicker, stranger, galling son, was quite low key and parked his ego at the office door. He originated my favorite business saying: You don't get anything done in the office.
Hard-working, paternal, a fair man, and sincere to a fault, he took credit only for what he did. But the son, alas, fell pretty far from this tree, to mangle a metaphor.
Born and raised in Queens, my hometown, Fred Trump knew from an early age that he wanted to work with his hands. His wish was carpentry, but when he was 11, his father died, and he had to help support his mother and a younger brother by working in a local fruit store 12 hours a day for $5 a week. He graduated from high school in 1922 and eventually formed his own home construction company, in partnership with his older sister. His mother had to sign the legal papers because he was just 17. From this modest beginning, he went on to build one of the most substantial real estate empires in the United States, later managing more than 25,000 apartment units, most of which he built himself, during a career spanning more than 70 years. What a guy.
The story the family tells about Poppa Trump is that he was a Horatio Alger hero, a man who came from nothing during that first Great Depression. In fact, his own father, Fred Trump, Sr., was a builder who left a sizable estate to Fred, some $30,000. Still, Junior worked as if he had nothing. He taught his children to get dirty -- in the construction field.
That did not happen with Fred Trump, Jr.'s grandstanding son Don. And so today we have to deal with the DTs (people who scream about their wonderful selves when the truth belies these fallacies) getting us to admire them or pay them heed. My term Trumpism means admiring someone who wants us to believe he is an icon when he is a well-worn poseur, a bizarre publicity hound, and an overall cretin.
For those of us who think of ourselves as slightly egotistical, Donald J. Trump is an icon for mediocrity. The Don has been celebrated purely for his ability to make noise.
What happened with Trump was predictable. With the confidence of an army, and a pretty disgusting one, it was a matter of time before he became the latest thing to make noise in reality television, which to those of us who remember them is very much like those "900" porn lines of the early 1990s.
Trump isn't anything like he is cracked up to be, so let's do a reality check on what his newfound fame has wrought. I saw half of an episode ofThe Apprentice once, and it was neither entertaining nor compelling nor enlightening. Give something away on television? That's nothing new.
Ben Stein earned money and doled it out to contestants who answered some goofily intelligent questions with a wink and a nod. It was good TV -- and it was entertaining. Oh and you learned something, too.
But America, and eventually a large swath of the world, got Trumped by The Apprentice, and the man took many slow news periods and did a good turn for the media with stunts that were tiring and without much effort. (You are experiencing this with the ferocious anti-Obama talk that I don't even think he believes.)
Here's a review of his utter craziness: The lame attempt to trademark "You're fired," the vile attack on another PR-hound, Rosie O'Donnell, before Premiere Week, and the host of strange tirades like the one against Martha Stewart for her failed version of Apprentice, which Trump said brought down his own ratings... even though his show was simultaneously boring us to tears. This past week he threw his weight against Jerry Seinfeld, who pulled out of a Trump-family sponsored benefit because Seinfeld couldn't breathe the same air as Donald Trump.
So, what attracted viewers in the first place? His smirk is not charming, and regardless of what his wives have stated in the press, there is no allure. In the 2000s, NBC went down the proverbial tubes by pushing a duo-roster of The Apprentice and the equally gross Fear Factor and this was when smart people discovered basic cable.
Many of us who work in media see this as the moment when broadcast television became something you did when there was nothing else to do, as opposed to what was once called appointment television viewing. Imagine: NBC was once home to Hill Street Blues.
And now Trump is hitting that fabulous point where he is no longer amusing to anyone. I read a story recently where Trump talked like he was reincarnating Leona Helmsley: "I have a great relationship with the blacks," he muttered without irony.
This is the perfect moment for the bad person to fade. Let's watch, with prayer, as DJ Trump becomes nothing but a Trivial Pursuit answer -- a huckster who hocks "Trump Vodka," "The Trump Haberdashery," "Trump Water," "Trump University," and a series of Trump reality shows about beauty contestants and advice that he needs to bestow upon a puzzled public.
My prediction: Trump will become the Pia Zadora of this generation. For those too young or lazy, Zadora was a laughably popular punchline in the '80s, a Paris Hiltonish non-actress who made a slew of movies, won a Golden Globe for Best Actress (playing someone who seduced her father -- Stacy Keach in what was his finest hour), and then disappeared forever. Her husband was sickeningly rich, and financed everything... enough about Pia.
So here we go. I list a whole bunch of reasons why society will move into a shinier era with fewer people like this chump:
1. Most people are not happy to hear someone flipping off, "You're fired!" with glee. What this world needs is more positive role models, and we'll get them, too.
2. Most people would not hire the actors on The Apprentice. Can't we hire our own actors from any local restaurant?
3. Most people have been told by the major media that Trump is not as rich as he thinks he is and that many of his developments merely lease his name. Advice from a faker is no longer welcomed. Face it: you can't sell hype to a demographic that invented hype. In North Miami, the Trump Tower has absolutely nothing to do with him. In the desert of California, the Native American tribe he shared a casino with bought him out to get rid of the bad juju of his name!)
4. Most people don't want to be watching someone who is sexist and proud of it. His use of the term "gals" was bad enough, but the way he rolled his eyes at the females on his show was painful to watch.
5. Most people standing at the water cooler, or clicking on a virtual one, do not want to admit to their friends they are addicted to a show about an ego-inflamed madman, particularly when we work for one already.
6. Most people do not want their kids to be looking up to someone who is so obviously without morals. I hear Trump's a teetotaler; that information itself is suspect.
7. Most people do not want to go eat at a restaurant that uses Trump in its ads, or so studies have proven in recent years. For instance, KFC got embroiled in a scam to hire someone from the show for a finger-licking sales job. The guy didn't accept -- and KFC had grease all over its face.
Most of us have figured out that life is not a game show! We are not going to be kicked off any islands anytime soon. Sure, you do have to fight for what you want (the show's decent motto), but not necessarily with the spirit of mean as the guiding force. Finally, do you want to learn from a man who, when you add up all his efforts, is a lot of hot air?
This old guy may have hubris but he is no strategic thinker. If my surname were his, I'd be hawking the Ultimate Trump Bridge Set. That would be Humorous Donald. And maybe then we'd get a good time from seeing him in ads.
I sure would love to learn to play bridge.