Stormy Daniels and Anderson Cooper may have cost me big time in that “60 Minutes” interview on March 25.
Why? From my New To Las Vegas headquarters, I had been trying to sell on Ebay an original edition of a 2006 issue of Forbes magazine with now-U.S. President Donald J. Trump on the cover. That was since Mother Jones magazine reported in January that Daniels had spanked Trump with an issue of Forbes bearing his cover image during a tryst at a Nevada hotel during a golf tournament in 2006. That Mother Jones reported she used an issue of big-money chronicler Forbes–with which I have been associated going back more than three decades–helped make this a more-talked-about incident than if it had been, say, Reader’s Digest.
I happened to own a copy of the only Forbes issue with Trump on the cover that year, the 2006 edition of the annual list of the 400 richest Americans. Putting two and two together and hoping it added up to a cool thou or even more, I ran to Ebay aiming to make America great again for me.
To a “60 Minutes” audience of 22 million viewers undoubtedly hanging on every word, adult-film actress Daniels confirmed her spanking of Trump. But she said it was with a copy of what Trump called “my new magazine,” which just happened to be lying around in his hotel room.
Damn! Those of us who long have written about Trump’s business career know that he had been involved over the years with a number of publications bearing his name (not unlike Oprah Winfrey and her O, The Oprah Magazine). Trump’s title, not Forbes, is what got applied to his derriere. The image of the cover is nearby.
I since have done further research, looking especially closely at timing. I now realize the Forbes issue I was trying in good faith to peddle wasn’t even published until long after the now-legendary encounter between the poohbah and the porn star on the beautiful Nevada shores of shimmering Lake Tahoe.
Still, on top of whatever this incident confirms about Trump’s personal morals–his latest wife had just given birth to his fifth child–the fact that this magazine issue was even with Trump in his hotel room also illustrates something about his overall character and business m.o. Allow me to explain.
But first I must express my continuing amazement about the propensity of Nevada–an isolated desert state with minimal natural resources or industry and a population of less than 3 million–to find itself in so many national scandals. There was the mob’s long corrupt casino control of the Las Vegas Strip. By some accounts, the Watergate scandal in the 1970s that did in President Richard M. Nixon had its origins in a bribe he took from tycoon Howard Hughes, then holed up in a Las Vegas hotel. Unknown burglars unsuccessfully tried to crack the safe of Las Vegas Sun founder and editor Hank Greenspun, who supposedly had some of the documentation.
Even Trump administration pre-election dealings with meddling Russians may have had their origins in a 2013 party in Las Vegas attended by Trump, assorted folks from Moscow and Rob Goldstone. He’s the British publicist who later wrote the now-infamous email to Donald J. Trump Jr. promising Russian government dirt on Hillary Clinton, leading to that now-infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump staffers and Russians that seems to be a focus of inquiry by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. (I nominated Trump’s appearance at the 2013 party, video of which can be seen here, for my list It Didn’t Stay Here, which focuses on folks in trouble elsewhere for things that happened in Las Vegas. It’s a playful refutation of “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the famous marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Other nominees can be found elsewhere on this page.)
In her “60 Minutes” interview, Daniels said for the first time she had been threatened in a Las Vegas parking lot by an unknown man in 2011 warning her to “forget the story,” presumably her account of the Trump affair that at the time she was trying to sell to a news outlet. The clear implication is that only Trump or someone connected with him–cronies like his lawyer, who has acknowledged paying Daniels $130,000 to keep her silent just before the 2016 presidential election, or his bodyguards–would have known about the story and thus could be responsible for the alleged threat. More Las Vegas in the national news.
Long before he found Twitter a more appealing media outlet, Trump was involved in a series of magazines. His first foray was Trump Style, a vanity publication distributed mainly at his hotel, casino, resort and condo properties from 1997 to 2002. The first issue in February 1997 included a photo of Trump with Marla Maples, the second of his three wives. Circulation was said to be 130,000 and it was distributed free, existing solely on advertising revenue. It appears that Trump owned the magazine, meaning he bore any losses, which were likely, and significant.
In 2002 Trump Style was replaced with Trump World. The content was similar but the financial structure more resembled what became Trump’s real estate practice of avoiding personal risk by investing no capital and leasing out his name. A private company, Lockwood Publishing, published Trump World. Trump got a cut of profits and had a right of editorial approval. Circulation was pegged at 100,000.
Trump World lasted only two issues before suspending publication in 2003 partly in a dispute among principals of Lockwood Publishing. In 2004 it resumed publishing under a new corporate ownership, Premiere Publishing Group, and a reported circulation of 200,000, some of which was actually paid. Trump earned a royalty fee of $120,000 from each issue and retained editorial approval. The target audience was readers age 21 to 55 and the content included lifestyle coverage of arts, entertainment, travel food and wine. Altogether, it wasn’t a very successful venture. Losses to Premiere Publishing were said to top $3 million from 2002 to 2005.
In 2006, Trump World renamed itself Trump Magazine, aimed for quarterly publication, and aligned itself even more closely with the lifestyle of Trump, hoping to take advantage of the growing popularity of his TV reality show, “The Apprentice.” The magazine took on more of a men’s magazine persona, even as the parent Premiere Publishing Group was taking itself public in the OTC Bulletin Board, a stock market of frequently iffy companies. While retaining a per-issue royalty payment that was increased to $135,000, Trump was given 3.6 million shares, a 14.6% stake in the company, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
It was the first issue of the rebranded Trump Magazine in the spring of 2006 that had a carefully coiffed Trump on its cover–which more than a decade later would leap into infamy at the hand of Stormy Daniels. But in retrospect some of the other content had far shorter shelf lives. One headline plugged “Atlantic City Resurgence,” which didn’t last. Another headline on the cover: “BUBBLE? WHAT BUBBLE? Real estate tips from Trump U.” The overheated national real estate market started exploding within a year. Trump University was later shut down, branded a fraud by regulators, and forced to pay $25 million to settle class-action lawsuits by disgruntled students.
Enhancing its appeal to male readers, the second issue of Trump Magazine in the summer of 2006 had Trump’s glamorous older daughter, Ivanka Trump, on the cover. But in Stormy Daniels’ telling, it was not the latest issue touting Ivanka but the earlier one with Trump’s mug that he displayed–and she, uh, used–after the two met on July 13, 2006, at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship. It was held at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Stateline, Nev., on the southeastern corner of Lake Tahoe, at 6,200 feet above sea level America’s largest alpine body of water. Trump had just turned 60. Daniels was 27.
Daniels was there plugging her porn film career and the company she worked for, Wicked Pictures. Trump was there, it appears, having a good time. Amazing as it seems, during the same weekend he started a fling that lasted months with ex-Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal, according to a TV interview she gave the omnipresent Anderson Cooper earlier this month on CNN.
The Trump-Daniels escapade took place in Trump’s suite at the nearby Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Resort and Casino. Here is Daniels’ account on “60 Minutes” of the Swat Heard ‘Round The World:
Anderson Cooper: How was the conversation?
Stormy Daniels: Ummm (LAUGH) it started off–all about him just talking about himself. And he’s like–“Have you seen my new magazine?”
Anderson Cooper: He was showing you his own picture on the cover of a magazine.
Stormy Daniels: Right, right. And so I was like, “Does this– does this normally work for you?” And he looked very taken– taken back, like, he didn’t really understand what I was saying. Like, I was, “does, just, you know, talking about yourself normally work?” And I was like, “Someone should take that magazine and spank you with it.” (LAUGH) And I’ll never forget the look on his face. He was like–
Anderson Cooper: What–what was his look?
Stormy Daniels: Just, I don’t think anyone’s ever spoken to him like that, especially, you know, a young woman who looked like me. And I said, you know, “Give me that,” and I just remember him going, “You wouldn’t.” “Hand it over.” And– so he did, and I was like, “turn around, drop ’em.”
Anderson Cooper: You–you told Donald Trump to turn around and take off his pants.
Stormy Daniels: Yes.
Anderson Cooper: And did he?
Stormy Daniels: Yes. So he turned around and pulled his pants down a little — you know had underwear on and stuff and I just gave him a couple swats.
Anderson Cooper: This was done in a joking manner.
Stormy Daniels: Yes. And–from that moment on, he was a completely different person.
Anderson Cooper: How so?
Stormy Daniels: He quit talking about himself and he asked me things and I asked him things and it just became like more appropriate.
On January 18, 2018, Mother Jones had posted on its website a story with this headline: “Stormy Daniels Once Claims She Spanked Donald Trump With A Copy of Forbes Magazine.” Illustrating the article was an image of the cover (you can see my own copy nearby) of the issue, also portraying Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., that I quickly tried to sell.
The Mother Jones story sourced the claim to an email exchange in 2009 between two political consultants retained by Daniels. She was contemplating a run for political office in her native Louisiana (using as a possible campaign slogan, “Stormy Daniels: Screwing People Honestly.”)
Referring to Daniels and Trump, and quoting Daniels, one consultant wrote, “She says … another time, he had her spank him with a Forbes magazine.” The Mother Jones article displayed a redacted image of the email.
The account suggested that Trump invited the spanking and that the Daniels-Trump affair went on for some period of time. But Daniels on “60 Minutes” said the swatting was her idea and they were intimate only on that one occasion.
Sadly for Mother Jones–and especially for me–it now turns out the Forbes issue bearing the Trump family on the cover did not even exist at the time of that frisky Nevada golf tournament. The issue bears the date October 9, 2006 (remember, I have a copy). In those days, print editions of Forbes appeared about 17 days before the issue date of record, meaning that the edition hit the street around September 22, or more than two months after the scandalous Trump-Daniels encounter. I have it on pretty good authority that Trump’s image had not appeared on a Forbes cover for at least several years before that.
Trump Magazine never made money. The parent company lost $1.8 million on revenues of $5.4 million in 2006 and sometimes had trouble filing financial reports on time. According to SEC filings, the subsidiary publishing Trump Magazine was forced into bankruptcy in 2007 by creditors. The Trump Magazine title went to another company. By 2009 the publication had disappeared altogether, perhaps a victim of the Great Recession.
The demise of Trump’s publishing ventures followed a pattern well known to those who have followed Trump’s career, especially in casinos. In spectacularly failing ventures he made money while investors didn’t.
As for Ebay, I originally listed the Forbes issue for auction sale in late January–carefully sourcing Mother Jones–for $1,000. I got an offer for that amount from someone listing a Bellingham, Wash., address. But after the auction closed, I received no responses to my request for payment. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I relisted the issue in early February for $2,000. I quickly received an off-Ebay bid of $2,350–exciting, until I realized that the offeror had just signed up on Ebay that day and thus probably wasn’t legitimate. I didn’t even bother responding.
So thanks to Stormy and Anderson, I still have the issue. But hope springs eternal. Bids anyone?