Trump has a great deal in common with Hilton, much more than a famous blond hair-do. Hilton is — or was, more on that in a bit — an heiress to a splendid fortune based in part on real estate. Trump, despite his eternal posturing as novus homo, is a New York City trust-fund brat who inherited a vast real-estate portfolio from his father. Hilton used her standing as a figure of public interest to create a career for herself as a celebrity, as someone who is “famous for being famous,” as the saying goes. Trump still owns a great deal of real estate, but his largest asset, according to his own financial statements, is his celebrity: He values his personal brand at many billions of dollars, more than any building or golf course or property he owns.
Which is to say, Trump and Hilton are in the same racket.
And there’s real money in that, of course. A great many properties that say Trump on the front door aren’t actually owned by Trump or his business interests, but simply pay him for the use of his name. (De gustibus . . . ) One notable monstrosity that used to be a Trump property — the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City — slipped through his fingers, as he was obliged to give up most of his equity in bankruptcy proceedings. Trump is averse to using the word “bankruptcy,” instead talking about taking a property and “throwing it into a chapter.” A chapter of what, you might wonder? In the case of the casino, that was Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.