As the US election looms, ‘Wild Bill’ Hoffmann, a regular visitor to West Cork, describes how Trump gave him that nickname, and how one tabloid article led to their erratic relationship
NO matter what my opinion of Donald Trump — and being a liberal New Yorker I’ll hold my tongue — I will admit: the man is a master showman.
I learned that first-hand in 1990 when The New York Post assigned me to cover the property czar’s divorce from his beautiful Czech wife, Ivana, amid his dalliance with blonde beauty queen Marla Maples.
In no time I located two starlets taking acting lessons with Marla. They told me she’d raved Trump was ‘The Best Sex I’ve Ever Had’ – a jaw-dropping phrase we splashed across Page One with a photo of the billionaire sporting an ear-to-ear grin.
That instantly made Trump my friend — after all, I’d just informed the world he was a mighty stud. From then on, he was available to me 24/7 for any quotes I needed. He affectionately nicknamed me ‘Wild Bill’.
I tried to cash in on that goodwill when, after the grand opening of the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, he offered me and a colleague a ride back to Manhattan in his stretch limo, a two-and-a-half-hour journey and just the three of us.
We tried to convince him we were the perfect team to write the sequel to his runaway bestseller The Art of the Deal. He liked our pitch and asked me to work up a proposal and deliver it to him at Trump Tower, which I did. So far, so good.
Visions of a Number 1 bestseller danced in my head.
Then disaster struck.
I found out Donald and Ivana had agreed that while their divorce was in progress, either party could date without repercussions. My Page One story screamed: ‘Donald and Ivana: Safe Sex!’
But days later, I was told they’d ripped up the agreement. The next day’s front page informed readers: ‘Donald and Ivana: Un-safe Sex!’ It was a straightforward news story the headline writers had a bit of fun with.
But not everybody laughed.
Word got out that one of Trump’s kids ran home from school cry-ing after a classmate taunted ‘Your father has unsafe sex!’
Then a letter on Trump’s official stationary arrived, telling me I was a disgrace to my profession and should be kicked out of journalism. He signed it: ‘Sincerely, Donald J Trump.’
There went the book deal!
But Trump couldn’t stay mad for long because he had stories to plant in the paper, so a few months later, we were talking again.
One morning I received a frantic call from him urging, ‘Wild Bill! Get a photographer up to Trump International Hotel and Tower. I’ve got a terrific story for you!’
And it was.
The newly-built Time Warner Center, across the street from Trump’s property, was selling $50m condos boasting panoramic, unspoiled views of Central Park and beyond. Well almost. Spoiling the view was Trump’s 52-storey hotel, sticking up like a sore thumb and blocking a piece of the park. So Time Warner had digitally removed it from its real estate ads!
That’s when Trump, master showman, shifted into high gear, hanging a gigantic banner from his building and facing the Time Warner Center.
It taunted: ‘Dear Prospective Condo Buyers, your views aren’t so good, are they? Come to the real Central Park address. Come to Trump International Hotel and Towers!’
I don’t know if it helped Trump sell any apartments, but it was a brilliant publicity stunt nonetheless.
If you ask me what I remember most about our relationship, it’s got to be Trump tagging me as ‘Wild Bill’.
That was years before he started giving out names to his political foes like ‘Sleepy Joe’, ‘Lyin’ Ted’ and ‘Crooked Hillary’.
Actually, I think I’m far from wild.
But then, if the President of the United States says so, well, OK!