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Ralph Reiland

Trump's tattered Taj legacy

| Sunday, March 26, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

By President Donald Trump's description, he and his Cabinet picks, policies, judicial nominees, crowd sizes, businesses, residences, ideas and commercial properties are always the best, the finest, the greatest, the biggest.

Prior to its multiple bankruptcies, Trump once called his failed Taj Mahal casino and hotel in Atlantic City “the eighth wonder of the world” with its 4.2 million square feet, a casino the size of four football fields, doormen in feathered turbans, the country's first strip club in a casino, three two-ton elephant figures out front, New Delhi Deli, “Thank you for calling the Trump Taj Mahal where wonders never cease” telephone greeting, and enough candy-colored onion domes and fake minarets to fill a Disneyland in Calcutta.

Built on junk bonds and excessive costs in a style The New York Times called “themed” and “kitschy,” with oversized rooms named after the greatest people and priced as high as $10,000 a night with personal butlers and panoramic views of burned-out buildings and all-night pawn shops, it's a wonder the Taj, as the locals call it, lasted as long as it did.

“The biggest, and the most exuberantly kitsch, is the Alexander the Great suite,” reported The Times, “a 4,200-square-foot extravaganza of gold-flecked purple carpeting, marble and bronze statuary with a sunken Jacuzzi bath flanked by gilded Ionic columns.” There was also ”the Michelangelo suite, with — of course — painted ceiling frescoes; the Cleopatra with an Egyptian theme, and the Napoleon with a cobalt blue ceiling lighted in neon.”

The project was more about cheap glitz and unstable financing than good taste and rational investing. From Associated Press business writer Bernard Condon's report last June, “‘Little guy' contractors still angry at Trump Taj bankruptcy,” it's clear that the hardworking and forgotten people whom Trump targeted in his campaign still hadn't been fully paid for all the elephants, gold mirrors, neon, purple carpets, murals, marble, fake minarets, gaming tables, poker machines, crystal chandeliers, turbans, feathers, onion domes, genie lamps and mock pilasters they supplied.

Condon's report highlighted Patricia Paone, “weak from heart surgery and a sepsis infection that would soon kill her,” resting at home when an “apparition appeared on the TV — a famous businessman who had struck a deal with her husband years before.” According to a son with her that day, she roared, “He's a crook! I can't listen to this.” Condon reported that “a quarter of a century had passed since Donald Trump refused to pay $1.2 million for the paving stones her late husband installed at Atlantic City's Taj Mahal casino.”

Lawyer Arthur Abramowitz, who worked with contractors for years after the Taj went bankrupt, told Condon: “Anytime I went to Atlantic City and I'd see that Trump sign, I'd think of the little guys. It wasn't just the money; a lot of these guys went into depression.”

And the legacy left by the Taj Mahal with its tacky architecture and faux ornaments? Reported Condon, “The contractor who provided the onion domes atop the Taj had to eat $2 million in losses.”

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (rrreiland@aol.com).

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