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 among them, but the king of Atlantic City had already made my acquaintance. With a trail of controversial business moves in his resume, years earlier the Trump Organization had asked one of its lawyers to hire EOLIS –for a small project before he ran up huge debt on the Jersey shore.
WHAT’S MY LINE?
The deal was proposed as a no fee opportunity with a top-shelf carrot–a big recommendation by The Man –if EOLIS performed up to expectations. EOLIS passed up the first opportunity but got more than one-second chance–and was among the few service providers fully paid–with or without a fight. I figured to rank right up there with his favorite flesh peddlers! The truth was a bit different The Donald made no connection between the poker player, the legal headhunter and the budding politico. He had no clue that his company was an occasional client or that I was the leading activist to stamp out smoking in his card room. And, he had no clue about my advisory role to Mayor Rudy Giuliani nor of my frequent presence at the Mayor’s office. It wasn’t until he was seated beside me at a dinner, in Palm Beach that he began to see the light.
As Donald pulled out from the starting gate, with the development of the United States Open Poker Championship, at his Atlantic City flagship, the Taj Mahal Casino, he invited a group of us from the card room’s most notorious games to join him for a short chat about a “fantastic” poker tournament in the works. He stopped traffic as he pranced through the high energy poker parlor, knowingly, with his entourage and a beautiful woman on his arm. Donald took in a boatload of suggestions from our group-which consisted mostly of males, and all of us 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.
Donald Trump remained intrigued with women poker players –reportedly bedding the cutest local pro and casting another on his Celebrity Apprentice show. As he is today, with Supreme Court candidates, so he was then, most impressed by academic credentials and negotiating skills. The poker player he chose for the Apprentice was a smart, defiant, highly publicized pro with a BA from Columbia with 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 nor was she quite as well-schooled as he had first heard, but she could hold her own–up to a point. 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 that Mr. Trump is president.
TRUMP GETS AROUND
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. As the Governor’s supposed right hand, I was invariably on the receiving end of all requests for favors. For many months, 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 as he breezed into the home of a true real estate mogul, the late Lew Rudin–recognized in his world as Mr. New York.
RUDIN SHANGRILA SHINES
Lew was adored in the real estate community, up and down the east coast, 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 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 at the Mar-a-Lago poolside party, 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. Mr. Las Vegas turned the tables on the Donald, introducing me as if I was his very best friend.
TRUMP PUTS ME IN MY PLACE
We all chatted amiably. Mr. Trump finally opened his hand–connecting an odd bunch of dots; 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. Today, President Trump 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. But, you can bet your bottom dollar that the smarter- than- you think-he-is President will take the time to tip his hat if he has reason to believe such a gesture will be personally useful to him.