NEW YORK - Most journalists have a list of people they would love to interview. Business magnate, television personality and author Donald Trump was always on my list as I was working my way up in the news and entertainment business.
A couple of years ago, I got the opportunity to interview Mr. Trump via satellite. Second and third satellite opportunities followed. Those interviews were fun, but when I recently learned I could meet Mr. Trump in person, I was thrilled. This opportunity felt special.
I boarded a plane for LaGuardia Airport this month, carrying a garment bag because I didn’t want my dress for the interview to get wrinkled. Of course, it was a tough decision which dress to bring. I opted for a blue and green dress that went well with my new tan leather jacket.
I have family in New York City and visit the city several times a year, but seeing the lights of Manhattan that Monday, April 9 night felt cooler than usual. I was in the Big Apple for a big interview.
The next morning, I left my midtown hotel, hopped in a cab and headed to Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. When I arrived at the 58-story skyscraper, I saw the revolving doors dozens of celebrities have walked out of after getting “fired” by Mr. Trump on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” I walked through those same doors and was met by an NBC producer who escorted me into a private elevator and to the boardroom.
I was in Mr. Trump’s real boardroom -- not the one used on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” The room was surrounded by large windows, and the views were ridiculous! One side overlooked Central Park, and the other side featured a fancy Fifth Avenue view.
After hearing that Mr. Trump was "on his way down," a producer put me in place for the interview. Mr. Trump lives on the top floors of Trump Tower, so “on his way down,” meant he was just an elevator ride away.
Tape on the floor marked my spot, but when I heard the elevator door ding and Mr. Trump started walking toward me, I moved off the tape to greet him.
Mr. Trump and I shook hands, and he seemed warm. We chit-chatted for a couple minutes before the producer showed me back to my marked spot. Immediately, I got the sense that if you got to know Mr. Trump, he would be a fun friend to have.
I was surprised that Mr. Trump was so tall. I always imagined he was shorter. At about 6 feet 2 inches tall, I was almost a head shorter than him wearing 5-inch heels. As I was thinking about that, I got the cue from the producer to start the interview.
First, I asked Mr. Trump about the current season of “The Celebrity Apprentice.” It’s a wild one! I wanted to know who he didn’t expect to be controversial.
“I think Arsenio Hall has become very controversial. I didn’t expect quite this controversy. Lisa Lampanelli -- you would expect that,” said Mr. Trump.
Almost every person on the show has been involved in some type of drama this season -- even the favorites who are impressing Mr. Trump.
“Dayana Mendoza, who is Miss Universe, is totally captivating people with her beauty. She’s a great beauty, but she has turned out to be very smart. Clay Aiken has turned out to be amazing,” said Mr. Trump.
Aiken has definitely impressed me. I’ve become a fan of him and hope he wins. The show makes you a fan of people. I told Mr. Trump I became a big fan of Joan Rivers the year she won.
“She was 76 years old when she won. We’ve had these great athletes who can hit a baseball 500-feet, and yet they petered out after a week or two. They just didn’t have the strength,” said Mr. Trump.
While some sluggers couldn’t cut it, two country singers and a television host were tough enough to get Mr. Trump’s approval.
“I think Trace Adkins, who didn’t win, was amazing. He became the biggest country singer because of ‘The Apprentice’ and because of his talent. He’s a great guy. Piers Morgan, who won, has taken Larry King’s place now. John Rich won last season. He’s terrific,” said Mr. Trump.
Each of those celebrities raised a lot money for their charities on the show.
“A lot of them have raised $500,000 and $1 million for their charities. Marlee Matlin raised $1 million in one night,” said Mr. Trump.
That’s quite impressive. And, talk about impressive -- I told Mr. Trump he must be so proud of his children.
“I am proud of them. Don, Ivanka and Eric are fantastic people,” said Mr. Trump.
When he’s not spending time with his family, working or raising money for charities, what does Mr. Trump do for fun?
“I’m sort of always working, but it’s fun. I do clubs, and I do buildings,” said Mr. Trump.
Guess which Pittsburgh family belongs to Mr. Trump’s club in Florida -- the Rooney family.
“The family is just a great family. What a job they’ve done with that team (Pittsburgh Steelers). It’s a family that’s very special. Believe me, I know them, and they are very special,” said Mr. Trump.
After my interview, two NBC affiliate reporters interviewed Mr. Trump. Following their interviews, the reporters got out their camera phones to take photos with Mr. Trump. I pulled a big Canon out of my purse, and Mr. Trump said, “Oh, let’s use that for all of the photos.” We had a little photo shoot.
Here’s the best piece of information I took from my visit that I can share with you: Mr. Trump said when interviewing a job candidate, he always asks that person how long he or she has been with their previous and current companies. He said he’s interested in people who have stayed at one company for awhile. He doesn’t like to see someone who spends "a year here and a year there." Good advice.
Thank you Mr. Trump and NBC for the wonderful interview opportunity!