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Lifestyles of the Rich and Swinish

In 1990 Gary Indiana covered the greed of the greediest, otherwise known as Donald Trump’s first divorce

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Over sixty-plus years many fabulous writers have graced the pages, whether in ink or pixels, of the Village Voice. Back in the days of hot wax and X-Acto knives, one of those wordsmiths was Gary Indiana, whose ability to boil blood and elicit guffaws — often in the same sentence — remains unparalleled.

In his March 6, 1990, Spectacle column he turned his sagacious vitriol on a most deserving target — the dissolution of Donald and Ivana Trump’s marriage. In these seven paragraphs we meet a cast of characters that might have come from an Off-Broadway farce: that “incorrigible publicity freak Cardinal O’Connor…a tirelessly carping eunuch”; columnist Cindy Adams, “a shamelessly obsequious birdbrain”; and that “porcine, duck-lipped real-estate mogul” Donald Trump.

In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton carried New York City 79 percent to 19 percent over Queens native Trump. As Indiana reported back in 1990, “The Daily News’s ‘Inquiring Photographer’ posed its people-in-the-street question: ‘Had enough of the Trump story?’ Just about everybody had…” Too bad that a quarter-century on, the rest of the country didn’t know what the locals had already gotten sick of.

Spectacle: “Billion Dollar Blowjob”

March 6, 1990

Remember Vicki Morgan? Back in the nasty old age of greed that we are now all so sick of that even Drexel Burnham blah blah blah has declared bankruptcy, Alfred Bloomingdale, husband of Betsy, who was best friends with Nancy, had an importunate and beautiful mistress named Vicki who had, according to rumor, a number of videotapes in which numerous highly placed persons in the Reagan administration could be seen playing “horsie,” a frolic involving riding crops and panties and heaven only knows what else.

Vicki Morgan also had a boyfriend named Marvin Pancoast who, in the very thick of an unraveling sex scandal, bashed her head in with a baseball bat. At the time, it was widely believed that the previously docile Marvin had been “gotten to” by interested persons unknown, either with promises of cash or a combination of both and maybe assurances about the insanity defense — well, we just don’t know. The story, sensational as it was, didn’t play too well. It was the age of greed. The elements of the story promised to lead into places the press didn’t really want to go. Vicki Morgan’s murder scarcely made a ripple in the brackish sludge that passes for reporting in our daily tabloids. We were too damned mired in the age of greed. Now, of course, that age is over, or at least that’s the lesson being extracted from the dissolution of the Donald and Ivana Trump marriage. “It had been the New York marriage of the nasty ’80s: the epitome of greed, vulgarity and self-promotion,” opines Newsweek. “In a decade of glitz,” harrumphs People, “they were the glitziest; in a decade of greed, they were the greediest . . . ”

The story, like so many trivialities made elephantine by an intellectually bankrupt news industry, has become a story about making a story: the Trump “scandal” —exemplary of nothing more remarkable than the absolutely standard practice of successful males dumping their spouses in midlife for women half their age — provides the press an occasion to moralize about money and success and etcetera without further muddying the cesspool with politics. The circus freaks who inhabit the filler pages of the dailies, Cindy Adams for example, have been kicked up to the front page for the duration: Adams, a shamelessly obsequious birdbrain, has “taken sides” with Donald Trump, and devotes a February 20 Post article to “discrediting” all statements by Marla Maples implying intimacy with said Trump. The Post itself, of course, has loudly trumpeted the claim that said Maples has been getting banged by said Trump, ‘”boasting to her pals” that the porcine, duck-lipped real-estate mogul was “BEST SEX I’VE EVER HAD.”

Even incorrigible publicity freak Cardinal O’Connor has seized the occasion, once again striking the unpalatable pose of a tirelessly carping eunuch congenitally unable to mind his own business. “In a private, 45-minute meeting Friday . . . O’Connor comforted the platinum-haired Ivana Trump and suggested she try a prayer or two . . . ,” Newsday reports. Newsday attributes to the cardinal a quote that should serve as the epigram for his autobiography: “The more visible one is, the more intense the problem is.”

For the weekly slicks and the so-called paper of record, this is the kind of sweetheart story in which everything can be had both ways: reporting on the story of the story, these “news organs” can wax imperious about the scuzzy level of coverage in the dailies, at the same time reproducing it word for word. Here’s Newsweek: “The media frenzy continued, in a kind of Gresham’s law of escalating sleaze. The papers kept reworking the instant joke: ‘Donald finally bounced a Czech.’ Anonymous sources surface with ever more improbable quotes and trashier stories.”

The Daily News’s “Inquiring Photographer” posed its people-in-the-street question: “Had enough of the Trump story?” Just about everybody had, and two people thought it shabby that the Trumps had wiped Nelson Mandela’s release off the front pages. I don’t think it’s too farfetched to suggest that this is precisely what the story was designed to do. Why encourage people to think about race relations when they can be bludgeoned into wondering, as so many of us have, whether Liz Smith will lure Ivana Trump to the Cubbyhole? Is Cardinal O’Connor hard for Father Ritter? Will Peggy McMartin and Father Bruce start a comprehensive preschool-to-college care center called CAT HOUSE? Will poor Ivana have to settle for only $25 million? Inquiring minds want to know.

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