As one of a handful of well-known women poker players in the 90’s (and the only one with a full-time day job, unrelated to gambling), I was often introduced to casino executives by their poker room personnel. Donald Trump was a king in Atlantic City, even with a trail of controversial business moves in his resume. He was also a force to be reckoned with in New York. my hometown and the Trump Organization was an occasional client. Today, the most powerful man in the free world, Trump remains on my radar screen, even though I do not occupy an iota of space on his busy canvas, these days.
Shortly before he went full steam ahead with the development of the United States Open Poker Championship, at his Atlantic City flagship, the Taj Mahal Casino, Donald Trump invited a group of us from the poker room’s most notorious games to join him for a short chat about a “fantastic” poker tournament in the works.
“The Donald,” as he was known at that time, stopped traffic as he pranced through the poker room, knowingly, with his entourage and a beautiful woman, on his arm. He knew nothing about my life–not even that his company was a client or that I was the leading activist to stamp out smoking in his card room. EOLIS recommended legal counsel and acted as a headhunter in Trump’s search for an in-house senior lawyer. I ranked right up there with his favorite flesh peddlers!
He had no clue about my advisory role to Mayor Rudy Giuliani nor of my frequent presence at the Mayor’s office. City Hall operations, but when I proposed moderating the first live Internet-based coverage of his planned championship event in “real time” (30-second delay) he paid a bit of attention until he caught the raised hand of my friend Cyndy, a top pro player who was killing the seven card stud game. A Meg Ryan lookalike, she had been photographed for Playboy Magazine and still had the figure., while my erstwhile ties to the Playboy Corporation were far less obvious. mr. Trump took in a boatload of suggestions from our group-which consisted mostly of males among the highest stakes poker players on the east coast., And then, he went on his merry way with a smiling Marla Maples and a troupe of fearsome bodyguards in tow.
Mr. Trump remained intrigued with women poker players –casting a female poker pro on his Celebrity Apprentice show. As he is today, with Supreme Court candidates so he was then, duly impressed by academic credentials and negotiating skills. The poker player he chose was a smart, defiant, highly publicized pro with a BA from Columbia and additional studies in cognitive psychology at Mr. Trumps’ alma mater–U Penn. (but not Wharton). The poker “Dutchess” he selected, was not a personal friend of his, nor was she a household name around the country. In the end, Joan Rivers– a loyal friend of Mr. Trump was “hired.” The “Dutchess” was a runner-up who basked in the glory of her Celebrity Apprentice gig for years but leaves it invisible on her website, now thatMr. Trump is president.
By the time the US Poker Championship got underway, I had put in a full year as a special advisor in Mayor Giuliani’s City Hall.–long enough to develop and voice some political differences with the feisty, self-confident Mayor. I left the fading embrace of the Mayor’s Office to accept appointment as the first woman to hold the post of 1st Assistant and Senior Advisor to the Governor (in New York State). The title was far more distinguished than the portfolio, with a catch-all mix of responsibilities including responses to special requests by corporate and civic bigwigs.
When Mr. Trump wanted a favor from the City but failed to connect, the Governor’s office was often the next call, and I was on the receiving end. Mr.Trump never realized I was one of the poker players he met with or that I was a political appointee, or that I was the person who dodged his requests for landing rights for his private plane on Staten Island–until we met up in Florida at the home of a bigger than life real estate mogul, the late Lew Rudin–recognized in his world as Mr. New York.
Lew was adored by the real estate community, so Mr. Trump toed the line, attending the invitation to dinner at the Rudin Shangri-La, in honor of the Governor. Once he pegged me as the Governor’s tippy top “secretarial assistant,” and chief gopher, he took no chances. He was charming. Before dinner was over, Donald (yes, he offered his first name), insisted on introducing me to his entourage, ordering that I be chauffeured to Mar-a-Lago for the evening entertainment. Wayne Newton – Mr. Las Vegas – was in town.
I accepted the invitation. I couldn’t wait to establish my credentials for once and for all! Wayne Newton was a client and “Mr. Las Vegas” was a longtime friend, to boot. On arrival near the Mar-a-Lago pool, Mr. Trump hastened to impress me with HIS good friend Wayne, until Mr. Newton’s eye suddenly caught my presence as he walked toward us. mine. He turned the tables, introducing me to Donald.
We all chatted amiably. Mr. Trump finally opened his hand–connecting a bunch of dots, that surprised me; his company’s relationship with EOLIS International Group, his meeting with poker players, his request for airplane landing rights and my position in the Governor’s Office. No sooner than I thought that I made the grade, however, I ran into The Donald, again, walking solo on a reception line. There was not the slightest acknowledgment of prior close encounters. But you can bet your bottom dollar that the smarter- than- you think President will take the time to tip his hat f he has reason to believe such a gesture will be personally useful to him.