By Marco Colantonio
A few weeks ago I participated in an LGBT Rally in West Hollywood to protest President Trump’s recent policies. The demonstration was organized by Duke Mason and Robert Gamboa, members of the West Hollywood Lesbian Gay Advisory Board. As we marched together along Santa Monica Blvd. carrying our signs of Resistance, Unity and “No” to Illegitimate and Racist Trump Policies,” I recalled my encounter with “The Donald” in New York City more than 20 years ago.
I met Donald Trump in 1993 when he and his second wife Marla Maples happened into Prego, an Italian restaurant I owned in NYC. It was a small, neighborhood red sauce joint just a few blocks away from his eponymous Trump Tower in Manhattan. Marla loved the pasta, and after five or six visits, Donald suggested that he open a house account making it easier for Marla and her mother, whom I recall lived close by. After a few months and several subsequent dinners, lunches and take out orders later, we hadn’t seen Donald or Marla return, nor did we receive payment on that house account.
Comedian Jackie Mason, a regular at Prego stopped in for dinner with his usual entourage (which included his manager and press agent) and making small talk, he asked if Donald had been in lately? I answered, “no” and quipped “but he still has an open tab.” New York is a big city, but a small town when it comes to gossip and Donald was no stranger to the press, even back then. So, I wasn’t surprised when I received calls the next day from the Daily News, People Magazine, and Channel 4 News inquiring about Trumps’ s unpaid tab.
Phil Roura from Daily News did a column: “Trump Tab Testy Topic” in which Donald Trump said: “I’ve never heard of the restaurant. If Marla goes there, that’s nice. But I’ve never been there.” In a follow-up story and to jog his memory, Mitchell Fink over at People Magazine obtained and sent Trump a copy of his American Express receipt, signed by him for another meal at “Prego” in September of that year. Okay, says The Donald to Mitch, so maybe he spoke too soon about never having been there, but his “inclination” now is not to pay the amount still owed. “Prego is doing this just for publicity,” said Trump. “I hate to be ripped off, whether for millions of dollars or $115.”
Rosanna Scotto, Co-Anchor on Channel 4 News decided to pursue the story and posted five Amex receipts signed by Donald Trump for previous meals at Prego in a feature on the 6’oclock News, which clearly indicated that Trump had been a regular patron at Prego.
The next day, a mountain of a man in a black suit, and wearing a wired earpiece appeared at the front door of Prego, asking to see Marco. It was Trump’s bodyguard, Mike “the Squid” Calamari, and he threw two $100 bills at me and said: “You’re only doing this to use Mr. Trump for publicity.”
“Our dinners are usually $30-$40 per couple” and didn’t have house accounts, I told Phil Roura from the Daily News, but “made a special case for The Donald.” Trump responded: “Really? “Well, that’ll teach him not to have them in the future.”
From The Donald to The President, has anything really changed about Trump?