Donald was the kid who threw cake at the birthday party

Tina Brown in 1986
Photo: Bernard Gotfryd

In 1983, at the age of thirty-one, British journalist Tina Brown moved to New York to become editor-in-chief at Vanity Fair, marking the start of a transformative era for the magazine. During her legendary nine-year tenure, she catapulted the magazine into its golden age and quadrupled its circulation—a turnaround made possible thanks to a perfectly balanced blend of celebrity exposés, hard-hitting journalism, and iconic covers. Brown documented the whole journey in a personal diary that was published decades later, and the result is a candid, glitzy, enthralling snapshot of New York at its most glamorous and gritty. A character who pops up regularly is Donald Trump, then an omnipresent businessman and soon-to-be extra in Home Alone 2 whose provocative behaviour already made him impossible to ignore. When Brown wrote the following entry, she and her team were finalising a profile on the future U.S. President as he worked through his divorce—an article that would, she later reveals, incite the “petulant infant” to pour a glass of wine down Marie Brenner’s back in 1991.

The Diary Entry

Monday, July 2, 1990

Have been closing Marie Brenner’s terrific piece on Donald and Ivana Trump. We wanted to capture their fascinating repositioning now that they are divorcing and Ivana has been upgraded to superstar victim of a brutish, philandering husband, which she is playing to the hilt. Toiling with Marie and Wayne to get the copy right. Wayne is so remarkable, the way he can enable writers to be their best. He’s a seamless tailor, sewing and stitching and cutting. Marie has been able to establish such a pattern of lying and loudmouthing in Trump that it’s incredible he still prospers and gets banks to loan him money. Great quote where his brother says Donald was the kid who threw cake at the birthday party. He’s like some monstrous id creation of his father, a cartoon assemblage of all his worst characteristics mixed with the particular excesses of the new media age. And the portrait of Ivana as a Stockholm syndrome enabler, reconstructing her whole face and body to try to win favor, absorbing all his delusions and adding her own striving, desperate pretensions is really great stuff. The revelation that he has a collection of Hitler’s speeches at the office is going to make a lot of news.

Further Reading

The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983–1992 was first published in 2017 by Henry Holt and Co., New York. It’s an exhilarating read, the pace of which never lets up. Some people take issue with the sometimes relentless name-dropping in these diaries; however, given Brown’s role at the time, and the very nature of the book, it would be odd for her to have left them out.

You can read Marie Brenner’s Trump article on the Vanity Fair website.

Diary entry excerpted from The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983–1992 by Tina Brown. Copyright © 2017 by Tina Brown. Orion Publishing Group Limited. Reproduced with permission of the Licensor through PLSclear.

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