We’ve got it! Secret stuff on Donald Trump from the video archives! Everything from how to get rich quick (buy a copy of his book The Art Of The Deal for $19.95, get him to autograph it, then flip it quick: “I tell you, these books sell, when signed, on the open market for $500 a book!”) to the quickest way to finance your acquisition of an airline. (“When other people couldn’t get financing, all we have to do is call up Citibank — they give it to us in 15 seconds!”)
Scandal? Not so much. Though the discovery last week of a tape of Trump’s vulgar talk about women on the set of an entertainment-news TV show has sent reporters scrambling through video archives across the country, so far they’ve come up empty.
“What we’ve got might be considered interesting by some people, but it’s not really scandalous,” said Rene Ramos, director of the Wolfson Florida Moving Image Archives at Miami Dade College, which houses about 35,000 hours of old TV news video from around the state.
Trump’s longtime presence in South Florida as a real estate mogul, golf impresario, beauty-pageant host and occasional resident make the Wolfson archives’ TV collection a prime hunting ground for reporters in search of hot-mic gaffes like the one that made headlines last week.
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But what Miami Herald reporters who spent a couple of hours rummaging through the Wolfson collection found was mostly routine and only occasionally reached the level of eccentric. Even that remark about selling his book for $500 isn’t as braggadocious as you might guess — a quick look at the Internet shows autographed first-edition copies of The Art Of The Deal selling for as much as $1,860.
It’s possible that Trump’s 1989 crack about the ease with which he got a loan from Citibank will cause some squirming — but at Citibank’s offices, not at Trump’s home. He was talking about a $380 million loan from a syndicate of banks headed by Citibank, with which he financed the purchase of the old Eastern Airlines shuttle service linking Boston, New York, Washington and Orlando. But the renamed Trump Shuttle never made money and he defaulted on the loan a year later, leaving the banks to eat a huge loss.
If you made a reality TV show called
Michael Holland, the city archivist of Los Angeles
Mostly, though, the video clips offer a peek into his proudly opulent lifestyle, including a visit to the lavish, $30 million, 282-foot yacht Trump once owned, a sort of floating discotheque full of lacquered finishes, 24-carat gold fixtures and a bar that emerges from an end table (fully stocked with champagne and bottles of designer water). Or his 1989 board game, Trump: The Game, a cutthroat Monopoly clone played with $100 million bills bearing the picture of guess who? The game’s slogan: “It’s not whether you win or lose — it’s whether you win!”
Most of the television archives around the country besieged by reporters this week — including the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the Vanderbilt Television News Archive and the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles — collect only the tightly edited final TV shows that made the air, not rough cuts likely to include raw comments somebody made not knowing they were near a live microphone.
“You’re not going to find the sort of screw-ups that will make news in those sort of archives,” said Michael Holland, the city archivist of Los Angeles. “You need outtakes, the stuff that was edited out before broadcast.”
Outtakes from reality shows like Trump’s The Apprentice certainly exist. But they’re mired in legal swamps of ownership questions and contractual rights of stars to approve public releases. And, one veteran television publicist told the Herald, nobody in Hollywood is eager to set a precedent for revealing unseemly remarks made near hot mics.
“If you made public everything said on hot mics, it wouldn’t just be Trump — nobody in television would be working ever again,” he said. “If you made a reality TV show called Hot Mic and aired everything that happens on the sets, it would be the highest-rated show ever produced, it would be must-see TV, and it would also be the end of TV.”
The Wolfson archives tapes do include some outtakes that never made it to air. But if anything, they reveal more about journalists than about Trump, from the blood-curdling oaths of cameramen jockeying for position in press conference scrums to the hardball question shouted by a reporter as Trump enters a private Miami Beach party: “What do you think of Ocean Drive magazine? … Do you think it’s changed the face of Miami?”