When Mark Singer set out to write a profile of Donald Trump for The New Yorker 20 years ago, he decided his objective was “to apprehend the person within the persona”. In this, he failed. Or rather, he failed in the sense that he found Trump to be a consummate artist, a man with no interior life whatsoever, who seemed to live entirely in the moment. “He [has] aspired to and achieved the ultimate luxury,” as one of his acquaintances put it, “an existence unmolested by the rumbling of a soul.”
Once, says Singer in The Sunday Times, I was taken by Trump to see his apartment at the top of Trump Tower, with its “29ft high living room and its erupting fountain and vaulted ceiling decorated with neo-Romantic frescoes… Very few touches suggested that real people lived there – where was it, exactly, that Trump sat around in his boxers, eating roast-beef sandwiches, channel surfing and scratching where it itched?”
On another occasion Singer visited Mar-a-Lago, the 118-room Hispano-Moorish-Venetian castle in Palm Beach, Florida, which Trump bought for $10m in 1985. He got there in Trump’s Boeing 727: gold-plated fixtures… queen-sized bed and bidet etc. (During the flight Trump watched a film – a Jean-Claude Van Damme “slugfest” called Bloodsport – fast-forwarding through the “plot exposition” to get to the violent bits.) Though some of the restoration work done on Mar-a-Lago is quite subtle, subtlety is not the keynote.
Jay Golding, Trump’s lawyer, used to retreat there with his wife for a week each year. It wasn’t so much the murals, frescoes, 34ft ceilings or life-sized portrait of Trump (titled The Visionary) that “nudged” him “round the bend”, he says. It was the fruit.
“We were surrounded by a staff of 20 people, including a footman. I didn’t even know what that was. I thought maybe a chiropodist. Anyway, wherever I turned there was always a bowl of fresh fruit. So there I am, in our room, and I decide to step into the bathroom to take a leak. And on the way I grab a kumquat and eat it. Well, by the time I came out of the bathroom, the kumquat had been replaced.”
As Jacqui Goddard says in The Times, Mar-a-Lago, which Trump now runs as a private club, will be a nightmare for security staff. The members, who pay $100,000 to join, and $14,000 a year, “dine off Ms Merriweather Post’s fine china and Venetian crystal, head to the nearby Trump International Golf Club, or relax with a cocktail and admire an oil painting of their patron hung over the bar”.
A local historian, Laurence Leamer, says that Trump won’t want to kick the members out but may acquire secure digs along the street so he can continue to visit the club. “If I had billions of dollars would I want to spend my weekends with a bunch of wannabes hanging around me? No, but he loves it. He can’t stand to be alone.”
It’s hard to disagree with the view that he spends little time in self-examination. In The Sunday Telegraph, Bruce Anderson quotes a banker who knows Trump well: “It is impossible to know what he thinks or what he is going to say. How could it be otherwise? He has no idea what he will say – until he opens his mouth.”
Tabloid money… Clarkson has the last laugh at the BBC
• BBC executives must be engaged in a “collective gnashing of teeth”, says Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail. Amazon shelled out nearly £4.5m per episode for Jeremy Clarkson and the rest of the former Top Gear team’s new show, but The Grand Tour is “rock’n’roll TV” at its best.“One always sensed that the BBC was embarrassed about the huge popularity of Top Gear… perhaps that was because a show about cars is so fundamentally at odds with the left-leaning ethos of the Corporation… Even though they’re being paid a fortune, even though Amazon is a global corporation that avoids tax like the rest of them, it feels like, amid the smoke and gasoline, they’re putting two fingers up to the Establishment.”
• Trainers “are not a type of footwear I have ever entertained to a serious degree”, writes the Daily Mail’s “etiquette expert” William Hanson. “Yet lo and behold – they can be worn by the well-heeled, too.” So I decided to try a pair. “When they arrived I sat hesitantly on the edge of my favourite winged chair in the sitting room and opened the box… They fitted – and nicely, at that. How squishy and airy my feet now felt…It may have been one small step for a man, but one giant leap for this etiquette coach.” Still, “I was worried I may begin behaving differently. What if I started dropping my consonants in conversations with clients? Or tried to fist bump a Duke?”
• Interim England manager Gareth Southgate seems a shoo-in to get the job on a permanent basis after three wins, says Karren Brady in The Sun. Yet the Football Assocation still summoned him for a three-hour interview. What’s more, “many hint he’ll earn £1 million less than Sam Allardyce’s deal”, if he gets offered the job – as seems inevitable since he is, after all, the only candidate. “Serve them right if he said ‘No’.”