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PLAYBOY: Let's begin with the most fundamental question of all. What's inside your wallet?
TRUMP: [Reaching into his pocket] Not much money, actually. A Platinum American Express card, some golf club cards, other credit cards, pictures of the family, a newspaper write-up on one of my new projects and, let's see, three $1 bills. One has a picture of my father on it. The other two are from bets I won.
PLAYBOY: But aren't you supposed to be a billionaire?
TRUMP: I guess $5 billion or more is the latest figure.
PLAYBOY: And you have only $3 in your wallet? What's the deal?
TRUMP: Honestly, I don't spend much during the day. I virtually never have to pay for things with cash. I've never used an ATM. Of course, I always have access to money, and I have hundreds of checking accounts. But I don't handle cash a lot. When I go to restaurants, especially since The Apprentice, I always get free meals—"Oh please, Mr. Trump, there's no charge"—even if I'm there with 10 or 15 people. The sad part is, if I were someone who needed money I'd have to pay.
PLAYBOY: You came close to bankruptcy during the real estate slump of the early 1990s, and the New York tabloids mocked you for years. What's it like being king of the hill again?
TRUMP: It's an amazing thing and a great honor. I had a really high profile before and didn't think it could be higher. I was on the cover of Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Playboy, you name it, long before The Apprentice, but there's even more heat this time. Certainly a businessperson on television has never had anything close to this success. It's like being a rock star. Six people do nothing but sort my mail. People come in and want my secretary Robin's autograph. If a limo pulls up in front of Trump Tower, hundreds of people gather around, even if it's not mine. I ask, "Can this be a normal life?" Maybe it's the power that comes from having the hottest show on television, but people like me much better than they did before The Apprentice. And if you think about it, all I did on the show was fire people, which proves how bad my reputation must have been before this.
PLAYBOY: You must be so sick of hearing the F word.
TRUMP: Nah, it's actually very cool and fun. Every time I walk outside, somebody says it, and the funny thing is, everybody thinks I'm hearing it for the first time. "You're fired!" I get it literally a hundred times a day. Little kids come up to me and say, "Mr. Trump, you're fired" and then run away laughing. It became a mania. YOU'RE FIRED hats and T-shirts sell like hotcakes. It's a beautiful phrase. It's harsh, it's ugly, it's mean, but it's concise and gets the job done fast, which is why I love it.
PLAYBOY: More than 20 million people a week watched The Apprentice, making it NBC's most successful new series in five years. But it also had a certain novelty that made it the watercooler show of the year. How will you up the ante this season?
TRUMP: When you have the greatest show on television, you don't want to make too many changes, but we've done some subtle things and, of course, have a new cast. We have 18 people instead of 16, and there's even more brainpower. We wanted sparks and high IQs, and we got the finest applicants from Harvard, Princeton and Wharton. They're also very attractive. Beyond that we had major corporations begging to be involved. Cunard wanted us to show the Queen Mary 2 throughout the show. We'll have access to the greatest restaurants, places we could never have gotten before.
PLAYBOY: Would you have a shot at winning The Apprentice today if you were 25?
TRUMP: I don't think so. I wouldn't have had the patience these contestants have had. I also don't know that I'd make the tremendous commitment necessary to make it work. I mean, it's possible that winning The Apprentice would have been my dream when I was 25, but these kids go through hell, and I don't know if I'd be willing to do the same.
PLAYBOY: Why were the most successful people from the first season—well, at least Bill and Kwame, the two finalists—so un-Trump-like, so bland?
TRUMP: They were all great, smart, attractive people, but not one of them is me. That said, all the apprentices will do well. Bill will make a lot of money over his lifetime, and he's going to learn a lot. Kwame has a Harvard MBA and an incredible career ahead of him. They're all articulate and engaging, and you can't beat the kind of publicity they got. Even Omarosa is doing well, if you believe her.
PLAYBOY: Omarosa became one of the great villains in the history of reality TV. She lied, she backstabbed, she even "misplaced" Jessica Simpson. How much of that was scripted?
TRUMP: Honestly, none of it. We chose her over 215,000 applicants, but I didn't know until midway through the show that she would be such a villain. I got along with her very well, but she was difficult for people to handle. I realized we had something when people like my dear friend Regis Philbin started asking me if she was too good to be true, if we'd concocted her in some way. It was all 100 percent Omarosa. I couldn't believe she was lying on camera like she was. She's got a problem or something.
PLAYBOY: Would you serve as a job reference if she asked?
TRUMP: It would depend on what kind of job it is.
PLAYBOY: The chief executive of a small company?
TRUMP: No, I really don't think so. But I might serve as a reference for her to be on a soap opera, because I think she'd be terrific at it. She's wonderful on TV, and she gets ratings. I just wouldn't necessarily want her running my church.
PLAYBOY: The winner, Bill Rancic, was an online cigar salesman from a lesser-known college who tended to micromanage on The Apprentice. Now you're having him oversee a complicated 90-story building project in Chicago. What if he screws up?
TRUMP: He's working with a tremendously talented group of people who do nothing but put up towers for me. So in all honesty, I don't think there's much room for screwups.
PLAYBOY: Is that code for "Bill won't be making any decisions"?
TRUMP: Bill will make decisions, and they'll be important ones, but they will always be checked by me and others who've done a lot of this before.
PLAYBOY: In real life things haven't been so rosy lately. Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, your one publicly traded enterprise, is drowning in billions of dollars of debt, and the stock price has fallen. According to The New York Times, it's because you either neglected the company or don't have the vision or ability to oversee an entertainment conglomerate.
TRUMP: The casinos have done very well from a business standpoint. People agree that they're well run, they look good and customers love them. The only problem is that over the years I've placed a lot of debt on them. Before I took them public I placed debt on the casinos and also took money out. It's like when you put a mortgage on your house and take money out. It's no different, just larger. I took out money and bought a lot of real estate in New York--a smart decision considering what's happened with real estate. But that left the casinos with a lot of debt, which I'm trying to alleviate.
PLAYBOY: Are you optimistic about the casinos' future?
TRUMP: I think and hope the casino company will be good in the years to come. The Taj Mahal has been the number one casino in Atlantic City history. And truthfully, it's a small portion of my net worth—two percent or less. But because the casinos are heavily leveraged, people go after them, especially The New York Times. Or else people criticize the hair.
PLAYBOY: Ah, the hair. Can you walk us through your daily routine?
TRUMP: I get up, take a shower and wash my hair. Then I read the newspapers and watch the news on television, and slowly the hair dries. It takes about an hour. I don't use a blow-dryer. Once it's dry I comb it. Once I have it the way I like it—even though nobody else likes it—I spray it and it's good for the day.
PLAYBOY: Who cuts it?
TRUMP: My girlfriend, Melania.
PLAYBOY: You must really trust her.
TRUMP: I do. And by the way, she's much more artistic than my hair would indicate. But she believes that if you like something the way it is, you should leave it. She doesn't fool with the hair. She's not trying to reinvent the wheel.
PLAYBOY: Can you explain why you're getting married again? You haven't been the poster boy for matrimonial bliss.
TRUMP: That's an interesting question coming from Playboy. Melania is a very special woman, a good woman. She's been loyal to me, and I'm a big believer in the great woman behind the man. I see it with Bob Wright, the chairman of NBC. His wife, Suzanne, is a great positive force, and Bob is an amazingly successful man. I've seen it the other way, too. When Andre Agassi was married to Brooke Shields, he couldn't play tennis. His ranking fell to 200, and he'd get blown off the court. I think Brooke Shields is a wonderful girl; I know her. But then he married Steffi Graf and all of a sudden he was at number one again.
PLAYBOY: What has Melania added to your life?
TRUMP: I've had a successful career with Melania in it. The last five years have been my most successful. So maybe it's the woman behind the man or the luck of the woman behind the man, but we've had a good run, and she's great.
PLAYBOY: She's a model. You're a billionaire. But do you ever just sit around in your ratty underwear watching Elimidate together?
TRUMP: We love to watch television together, but we don't get to hang out as much as I'd like. She does cook dinner for me every night, even if we're going out. In fact, her biggest problem is that she's too good of a cook—it's hard not to gain weight when you're with her.