Trump on Making It

How rich is Donald Trump?

One of the first rules of Hollywood is to ditch modesty, whether true or false. In a land where no CV is necessary, where hustlers reign and people lie about their educations if they went to college at all, he or she who doesn’t say they’re the best ever is instantly ignored, we don’t have time for that, there aren’t enough hours in the day to weed through those who beat their chests claiming they’re the best.

“After one Cohn coup, Mr. Trump rewarded him with a pair of diamond-encrusted cuff links and buttons in a Bulgari box.”

“He did get to keep the cuff links Mr. Trump had given Mr. Cohn. Years later, Mr. Fraser had them appraised; they were knockoffs, he said.”

That’s from today’s front page “Times” story on Trump and Roy Cohn, the pugilistic barrister who viewed the world as his oyster. ( That’s what they don’t tell you, the rich and powerful believe the game is to be manipulated, that the rules are an amorphous amalgamation they can bend to their will. Which is why despite Ivy League graduates being pillars of society they rarely effect change, they so often don’t rule, because this is anathema to their being.

You see on the east coast where you went to college is important. And sure, you try to pull strings, if you’re wealthy enough you donate a building, but mostly you do what’s expected of you, you play by the rules, you get good grades, study up for the SATs, do a ton of extracurricular activities, and when you’re accepted at the august institution you think you’ve made it.

Only you haven’t. Sure, you can get into medical school, or law school, maybe even get a gig at the bank, but that’s not where the action is today. Finance might make you rich, but it rarely gives you power, and power is everything.

Which is why those seeking it can be found outside the traditional system, in Los Angeles, in San Francisco, not in Miami, a haven of hedonism. Hunger is palpable on the west coast and it’s pooh-poohed by the east. Whether it be the slimy entertainment types or the Silicon Valleyites wreaking havoc on what once was and never more will be. The revolution is effected by the can-dos, and most of those playing by the rules are the can-nots.

And they cannot fathom Donald Trump. The east coast intelligentsia has its knickers in a twist, how can this be? Very easily, if you get out and see how the world really works. Whether it be YouTube stars or anybody else who hustled their way from the bottom to the top.

Most of what you read about entertainment is wrong, pure fiction, lies, drummed up by publicists for effect. But the media repeats it and the public buys it and the perpetrators have the last laugh. You don’t become the biggest star in the world because you have the most talent, but because you’ve been anointed by the machine, that’s the dirty little secret. And you get into position by hustling, telling everybody how great you are, making loyal friends and working the angles. Of course luck counts, so many projects end up failing, but not all of them.

Donald Trump knows the value of publicity. That’s how he earned his name, by cutting through red tape and funding the reconstruction of a skating rink. He branded himself as a can-do guy.

The same way a singer gets a duet or an appearance on an awards show…you’re in the public eye and then you capitalize on it.

And despite protesting that you’re warm and friendly, you’ve got sharp elbows, you keep others down, there are only a limited number of places at the top.

And then you leverage your success and suddenly where you came from and how you got there has been forgotten, or forgiven, we love winners. Isn’t that the American Way, picking yourself up by your bootstraps, even if you were born on third base?

Now that Donald Trump has won the nomination, true scrutiny has begun. You couldn’t depend upon the right wing to do this previously, there are no reporters at Fox News, only talking heads, and Rush Limbaugh is a gasbag who gets his talking points from the “Times.” And the “Times” detailed how Trump was a failure in Atlantic City.

But he told everybody he was a success.

And if you call him on it, he’ll blast you back to the stone age, possibly suing you in the process, or denying your press credentials along the way.

And the wimpy left wing establishment just doesn’t get it. They believe you build your resume honestly, that you play nicely with others…but that’s a route to the middle, and Trump needed to be on the top.

Trump kept leveraging his middling success, piling on publicity for more fame, getting his own television show, knowing that publicity is everything, that the news is subservient to those making it. And he hoodwinked the entire nation.

As performers have done before.

This is Entertainment Business 101 folks. Smoke and mirrors. Becoming a star because you say so. To the point where naysayers look like haters and you win in the end.

So much has changed in the past few decades. Most wealth is newly-earned, income inequality has burgeoned, there’s more media than ever. But what has not been acknowledged is the entertainmentification of our country. It started with Reagan, an actor who got Alzheimer’s who’s been recast as a god, with public places named after him ad infinitum. Do you think he earned it? Then you’ve got no idea how the game is played.

And then came MTV, which showed us stars could be bigger than we ever thought possible.

And despite techies owning all the systems and making all the billions, the content creators own the hearts and minds of our society, entertainment rules.

And Trump is an entertainer.

Are you?

P.S. “How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions”:

I don’t expect you to read this article, no one ever does. We don’t want facts, but talking points, we skew the news in our favor, we model it after what we want to believe. And our beliefs are most malleable when it comes to soft news, as opposed to wonky subjects. And that’s how Trump has succeeded, by focusing on soft topics we can repeat and discuss. He may ultimately fail at the polls, but this is a sea change, we’re never going back to what once was. Expect Mark Cuban to run for President and win. No one cares how he made his money, few even know, but he made a basketball team a success, standing up to the NBA all the while, and is on television every week. Mindshare is everything. Clinton thought she could succeed with Saturday debates and no press conferences, and Trump’s such a bad candidate, whose faux pas are catching up with him, that she probably will, but she’s the last gasp of a dying paradigm.

P.P.S. Are you a leader or a follower? If you think self-help books and websites can turn you into the former from the latter, you’re dreaming. Either you believe the world can be bent in your favor or you don’t.

P.P.P.S. Fame eclipses money every day of the week. An actor tragically gets pinned by his automobile and it’s front page news, Tom Perkins dies and most people have no idea who that is.

P.P.P.P.S. Say something long enough and loud enough and most people believe it, even if it’s untrue. John Oliver specializes in revealing this, tune in. Either you’re gushing for dollars or speaking the truth, you can’t do both, sorry to say.

P.P.P.P.P.S. No one blows the whistle because the government is in bed with the rich and you only get ahead by being in bed with the rich. So if you think someone is looking out for you, the common man, you’re wrong.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Before income inequality, some of those east coast hoop-jumpers went into music, believing they could gain power and make some coin in the process. But now those people are in search of safety, and there’s less of it in entertainment than anywhere. The establishment doesn’t like long odds, and is always flabbergasted when those who apply themselves triumph. This is the story of Elon Musk and Tesla. Despite the “Wall Street Journal” carping the company is the beneficiary of government subsidies, people don’t care, they glom on to those who break barriers and test limits. But in music all we’ve got is the uneducated unwashed who believe money is everything. Isn’t it funny that Shawn Fanning, Tim Westergren and Daniel Ek are bigger heroes than most of the players. Because these techies leveraged their smarts to break barriers and satiate the public. The music business hates YouTube, the public does not. And if you think you can win without the public on your side, you’re probably Marco Rubio or Jeb or the rest of the Republican wannabes who just could not see the game had changed. Kanye may be hated, but he’s gained tons of power by being in the news every damn day and scaring away critics who he excoriates every time they question him. He’s the biggest star in the land because he says so. Same with Donald Trump.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Business follows the money, absolutely. Whether it be P&G or Pfizer. A record company doesn’t care what it sells, as long as it sells. Trump got a TV show because he had a brand name and was a tireless self-promoter. TV would give Hitler a show if they thought it would garner good ratings. And isn’t it interesting that record labels support acts that shoot each other, never mind do drugs and get arrested.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Trump’s not that rich. But since he said he was we believe him. Now THAT’S the American Way.


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