PLAYBOY: What gave you the idea that you could do more?
TRUMP: A combination of my mother and my father, I think. My mother was a great homemaker. She also had good promotional skills and was a great storyteller. She came from Scotland, and she would sit and read about the English royal family any chance she could. If there was a royal wedding on TV, she could watch it for 24 straight hours. She loved pomp and pageantry. My father wasn't into pomp and pageantry. That's why he loved Brooklyn and Queens and why he was so good at what he did there. Pomp and pageantry and a love of business—if you put the two of them together, perhaps you have Donald Trump.
PLAYBOY: Are you someone who talks out your parent issues with a psychiatrist?
TRUMP: Because I'm too busy and because I enjoy my life. A lot of people see psychiatrists because they don't have enough on their mind. I spend so much time thinking about buildings and deals and clubs and doing what I do that I don't have time to get into trouble mentally. I don't knock psychiatry. I have friends who can't live without it. They look forward to it and go five, six, seven times a week. But I don't like that. It's a crutch.
PLAYBOY: We always read about your famous fear of germs. A psychiatrist would have a field day with that one. Is it still an issue?
TRUMP: The concept of shaking hands is absolutely terrible, and statistically I've been proven right. Many studies have found that you catch colds and who knows what else from shaking hands. A guy walked into my office two weeks ago. He shook my hand, hugged me, sat down and said, "I have the worst flu I've ever had." The guy looked like he was dying, and he'd just shaken my hand. I said, "Why did you shake my hand?" People don't have a clue. It's disgusting. Then he wanted to shake my hand when I left. I said, "Look, you just told me you're dying of the flu and I'm supposed to shake your hand?" But honestly, I don't feel crippled by it. I just wash my hands.
PLAYBOY: What about your temper? In the book Trumped!, an unauthorized biography, your former employee John O'Donnell describes your ripping upholstery out of a limo, ramming your fist through tile in a casino, yelling at pilots for rough landings. How's that Donald doing these days, and why didn't we see him on The Apprentice?
TRUMP: O'Donnell is a loser. He totally made that up. I hardly even knew this guy. He wasn't very good at what he did. I've had many books written about me, and in almost all instances they just make things up and say whatever they want, even if it's total nonsense. I ripped the interior out of limousines? Give me a break.
PLAYBOY: When was the last time you screamed at an employee?
TRUMP: It might have been two days ago, but it wasn't out of anger; it was a method of getting them to do a better job. Sometimes that works better than honey. I don't actually have a bad temper. I call it controlled violence. I get angry at people for incompetence. I get angry at people who are getting paid a lot of money and don't look sharp when they work for me. That's one reason I do better than everybody else. That's one reason I get more per square foot than other real estate people. That's part of why I'm so successful.
PLAYBOY: Does one project stand out?
TRUMP: I've always loved Trump Tower. It's not my most successful building because of the size. It's a big building, 68 stories. Many of my jobs are more financially successful. A perfect example is Manhattan's west side rail yards, where I built Trump Place, which has almost 6,000 units and 10 million square feet. It's actually the most successful job in New York, but nobody knows about it because it's along the Hudson River. By comparison, the new Time-Warner Center in Columbus Circle is only 2 million square feet. Trump Place is at a location where it's not so evident, yet it's five times the size of Time-Warner.
PLAYBOY: And the road to building it was a long one. It took you 10 years to get that job done. Practically everybody on Manhattan's Upper West Side hated you because they thought it would cast shadows and change the culture of a beloved neighborhood.
TRUMP: They hated me. There were riots on the west side when I was building it. To be honest, the near collapse of New York during the 1990s is what got it done. If New York had been doing well, we would never have gotten the zoning for that job. It's always good to get zoning in bad times and build in good times. It took 10 years, and now it's paying off, which says everything about sticking to it. Never give up. It was a tough job, but it was an amazing experience. I think I'm somebody with a great imagination who understands people and understands quality, and when I put it all together I do some interesting things.
PLAYBOY: It would have been great to hear your ideas for some of the team projects on The Apprentice. For instance, how would you have sold lemonade on the streets of New York?
TRUMP: The women did an amazing job. They were dressed beautifully, and a lot of guys wanted to buy lemonade from them. So naturally, the women blew the men out of the water. As for the men, I certainly wouldn't have been at the Fulton Fish Market—that was a terrible idea. And I wouldn't have dressed in a suit and tie, because who buys lemonade from a man in a suit and tie? No way. I would have gone immediately to a gay section of Manhattan.
TRUMP: Because I think a gay man would feel really comfortable buying lemonade from another man. Or else I would have hired beautiful women to sell the lemonade. The men picked the worst location. Kwame picked the Fulton Fish Market, and it was a disappointing choice. He was lucky to have survived that one.
PLAYBOY: Do you ever worry about losing it all?
TRUMP: I try not to. In the early 1990s I was highly leveraged when the real estate market collapsed. I'd borrowed a lot and had lots of debt. Many of my friends and enemies in the real estate business filed for bankruptcy, but I never had to. I got it all back. Actually, the Guinness Book of World Records lists me as having made the greatest personal financial comeback in history. Through it all, I had great relationships with banks. The ones I used then I still use today. The hardest I've ever worked in my life was the period from 1990 to 1994, but my business is now bigger and stronger than ever before. I wouldn't want to do it again, but I learned that the world can change on the head of a dime, and that keeps things in perspective.
PLAYBOY: Now that you've achieved so much, why not give it all away, as Bill Gates and David Geffen have done?
TRUMP: I do give millions of dollars a year, but I do it personally. I just write checks and give it away.
PLAYBOY: But the Donald J. Trump Foundation contributed only $287,000, according to its most recent report.
TRUMP: I'm surprised it's even that high, because it's not what you'd call a living foundation. It's set up for after I... when it's no longer my time. The foundation will become very active at that point. But my business is a little different from Bill Gates's business. Bricks and mortar—buildings—don't necessarily divide as easily as stock in a public company. I also have my son in the business. My daughter will be coming in, and I have another son coming up. They all like the real estate business, and as long as that's the situation, I'd be more inclined to leave it to the children than give it all to charity.