1990 – A New York Summer filled with Donald Trump and Darryl Strawberry

I spent the summer of 1990 in New York. Nassau County on Long Island to be exact. I was 16 years old and it was a mixture of vacationing and part-time work. 10 years previously my parents had made the decision to leave Long Island and return home to Ireland. So this trip in 1990 was an anniversary of sorts, to visit relatives and friends they left behind.

It’s funny I have lived in many, many places during my life and forgotten most of them.  But I guess your first address is like your first love – tough to forget.

Take a bow  –  210 Atlantic Avenue, Lynbrook.

As a citizen of the United States, it’s kind of remarkable that I’ve never returned. With the benefit of time, I can look back now and wonder if one of the reasons for this might be due to the experiences I had that summer. As crazy as it sounds 16 year old’s in Ireland had more freedom. Or at least my 16 year old self did.

When I say Freedom, what I really should say is – Freedom to break the law. As a 16 year old I was at least one year drinking alcohol more or less openly. Most 16 year old’s I knew were too. I drank, smoked and frequented discos and nightclubs without much objection or parental interference.

Of course, officially, I or any of my peers weren’t really supposed to be engaged in any of these activities – but law enforcement in this area was more a theoretical than a practical exercise in 1990 Ireland.

In New York alcohol was an over 21’s activity and it was strictly enforced. At least in the neck of Long Island I was staying in that summer. So I mostly worked, went to the movies and devoured the New York Post.

The New York Post introduced me, for the first time, to baseball and it was love at first sight. I think the thing I loved about it most was the statistics. Literally the newspapers were filled with facts and figures concerning every conceivable act and move performed on the field of play.

Most novices are familiar with the basics like home runs and Strike-outs. But there was a world of other information like RBI’s, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging average and a gazillion more I have forgotten.

The New York Post provided all the data and I read it voraciously every day. As a result of this daily consumption, the paper provided two central figures that dominated the headlines that summer.

Darryl Strawberry and Donald Trump.

As often as not the former was on the back pages and the latter was on the front pages. Strawberry played for the NY Mets out in his place of business – Shea stadium. He possessed this idiosyncratic way of striking a baseball. His stance incorporated this high knee or leg kick prior to swinging that I found mesmerizing. I was hooked. 1990 wasn’t the greatest year in his all-star career but I remember devouring his stats after every game that summer.

However I probably wouldn’t be writing this article but for the second central leading man of that summer. Donald Trump.

He was Front Page news for two reasons. The first was for business. His companies and Casinos were in trouble. Or at least according to the New York Post they were in trouble. A lot of people were saying he was bankrupt and a number of banks were trying to put The Donald out of business.

The Donald scoffed and assured the readers of the NY Post this would not happen.

The funny thing is, the majority of New Yorkers loved him in 1990. I certainly remember that he had a lot more defenders than detractors. His father was a successful developer in the boroughs but it was the son, Donald J Trump, that took the family business into Manhattan. He had that brash, aggressive, New Yorker attitude more commonly associated with a Bronx, Queens or Brooklyn guy. At least that was my impression.

I smile, today, when I hear media wondering how the working class could possibly identify with a multi-billionaire as their President. How could they be so stupid as to vote for him they cry!

For the most part 1990 New Yorkers identified with him in exactly the same way as today’s working man or woman. Today he is taking on the Democratic party – in the 1980’s he was taking on Manhattan.

Donald Trump is the brash, boastful billionaire that other billionaire’s quietly look down on. The outsider in the Billionaire’s club.

The second reason he was constant fodder in the papers was far more sexy.

He was in a grey area with regard to his personal life. Not quite finished with wife number one and not quite public about the woman who would become wife number two.

Ivana Trump and Marla Maples.

New Yorkers were divided. Actually that is not correct they were on Ivana Trump’s side. Ivana was an integral part of his success up to that point. She was involved with his hotel and casino businesses on a day to day basis. Many observers felt that he was threatened by her own burgeoning starlight.

New York is and was a city of immigrants. Ivana Trump in heavily accented English still communicated perfectly her mixture of beauty, brains and yes……balls. New Yorkers loved her.

Marla Maples was the younger model and flat out gorgeous.

Two weeks before I returned to Ireland to face into my final year in school I went to Atlantic City with some relatives. They were going down primarily for a weekend of gambling in one of the casinos. A Trump Casino as luck would have it. As a 16 year old I wasn’t able to gain access to the gaming areas. Most of the weekend involved walking around the large hotel and casino foyer.

Early on the Saturday evening the scene was pretty busy with people milling in and out. There was a large marble looking staircase that led upstairs for VIP guests. More theatrical than functional. Most patrons used the elevators.

I was lounging on a couch drinking a coke when I heard two women behind me talking in hushed tones.

” Is that HER…I think that’s her……Is it her? ” the first said

” Gawd……she soooo fucking beautiful ” the second added

I turned around and descending the staircase, slowly and deliberately was Donald J. Trump in the flesh.

As I look around me the crowd in the lobby seemed to double in size within 30 seconds. They started clapping and then broke out into a frenzied kind of roar. A roar of approval. Shouting his name and their support in unison. I’ve never seen a spontaneous reaction like it before or since in a non sporting arena.

Photographers popped out of nowhere to take snaps. Shouting questions. He merely smiled, shouted something I couldn’t hear in response, waved and before I knew it he was gone.

Today, it’s a reminder that the man is over 35 years dealing with intense public interest and media scrutiny.

And indeed, the ladies behind me were right. The woman on his elbow ‘was her’

The kind of beautiful that hurt to behold.

G.

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