Monday, March 14, 2016

Trump Palace in Aspen? No Deal.

Recently I listened to yet another Donald Trump presidential campaign pep rally.  His views and attitude are outrageous and embarrassing to me as an American. Trump's primary claim to fame is that he is rich, and successful at business deals.  Is that enough to make us trust and respect him with our future?  Not for me. However, since he incessantly boasts about the size of account, I wondered what and where his ski house might be.  Is there a Trump ski house?  Surely someone with his wealth must have one (or more than one), right?  I was expecting to find something really huge, garish, and oh-so-expensive.  But, I discovered an even better representation of Trump than a personal ski of his famous "deals" in an iconic ski town.

But first, here's where the real skiers, the locals as well as the competent, experienced, skillful visitors, challenge themselves in Aspen, (not a place for braggarts and loudmouths like Trump)...Highlands Bowl Hike. Majestic and fragile, it takes skill to ski here (and skill even to get here if you actually hike it);  it's an environment where people like Trump (for whom trash-talk substitutes for skill) could not even presume to be able to succeed:
Photographer: Tim Swain

Beneath those majestic mountains is the quaint yet glitzy ski mecca of Aspen, Colorado. This is the story of Trump's failed ski hotel deal in this historic, fragile town.

It was to be called the Trump Palace.  (Really?  Trump Palace - in Aspen?).  According to the Washington Post, in the spring of 1987 Trump was confident that he had worked out all the details of a "deal" to purchase a prime piece of real estate at the base of Ajax, Aspen's main slope. With the property in foreclosure, Trump artfully put down about $17 million to get his big hands on this enviable ski that would surely generate a great fortune.  However, it turns out that he was getting out in front of his skis. While he was planning the design of his proposed ski "palace", another developer, Mohamed Hadid was taking steps to purchase the same property.  But apparently unlike Trump, Hadid actually did his homework and learned the all-important facts.  Hadid discovered an outstanding priority debt on the property, paid it off, and under the law of Colorado the site became Hadid's at the last minute of the "deal." Whether it was ignorance of the law, or not bothering to uncover the facts, or maybe smug arrogance, I don't know;  but Trump's efforts failed and it cost him this valuable Aspen ski property.

About a year later, in Ski Magazine (Jan 1989), I. William Berry pointed out that the locals were in fact distrustful of Trump.  Revered long-time Aspen local, Gretl Uhl (who established and ran the famous Gretl's on Ajax for many years, and who earned great respect and admiration in Aspen), told Berry "I don't trust the big developers and their sweet talk...businessmen like Donald Trump and his kind have no feel for this fragile town."  (Thought-provoking words, indeed, from a wise woman who in her youth had seen the ugly side of power and politics converge when another charismatic sweet-talker seized political power and in her Bavarian mountain village the Nazi's confiscated her family's business and drafted her to work for them against her will).

Shortly after the failed Aspen deal, Trump recycled the proposed name into his new apartment building on the upper east side in NYC (where you can get a nice 2-bedroom condo for about $3 million, but you certainly can't ski).

Despite that failed Aspen ski hotel deal, Trump's most infamous episode in Aspen, according to the Aspen Times, is the 1989 on-snow fight between him and his then wife Ivana, and his then girlfriend, Marla. Apparently Trump's idea of a family Christmas was to go to Aspen with his wife (an expert skier, by the way) and his girlfriend....same town, same slopes, same restaurants, same parties, different hotels. Good times.  It came to a huge head one afternoon just outside of a trail-side restaurant (formerly Gretl's)--with all the shouting/fighting/cheating/rich guy/wife-meets-mistress/dirty laundry being thrown down right out on the ski slopes for all to witness!  Vanity Fair called the scene a cat-fight.  This behavior might be a good plot for a B-movie, a trashy novel or a reality TV show in the making; but presidential?  I think not.  That on-ski spectacle is more predictive of the behavior we are now witnessing as Trump tries to use the "low-educated" that he claims to love in order to bully his way into the White House.

In fact, in watching his roller-derby style political rallies over the past few months, it occurs to me that Trump would probably have thrown Samuel Adams out of a Trump rally labeling him a "troublemaker" for voicing his revolutionary calls for freedom; he would surely have thrown out Thomas Jefferson for protesting against Trump's religious intolerance; and likewise the common sense words and Thomas Paine himself would have been expelled with jeers and ridicule.  "Get him out of here."  "Knock the crap out of him."  How different our country might have been if Trump and his kind were perverting the course of justice on their bully pulpit at our country's inception.

Considering her thought-provoking criticism of Trump, he would probably even expel the beloved Aspen icon Gretl Uhl, too.

Which brings me back to the thoughts of the Aspen locals like Gretl....distrustful of Trump's sweet talk, and perceptively understanding that Trump and his kind have no feel for their fragile town.  Maybe Gretl's sentiments are even more significant today in a broader sense than just Aspen...maybe Trump and his kind have no feel for this fragile democracy of ours.

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