DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene, broadcasting this morning from New York City, which is a town that, even in this age of screens, still loves its pulpy tabloid newspapers, like the Daily News and the New York Post. And no section of any paper captures the celebrity culture, the gossip and the scandals of New York like the Post's Page Six. Susan Mulcahy was editor of Page Six in the 1980s, as the city was well on the way back from its economic collapse of a decade earlier.
SUSAN MULCAHY: Page Six was the first gossip column to break the mold. It had a real point of view that was a little bit snarky. It embraced the city at a time when the city was going through this major transformation. My mandate was always take the readers down the corridors of power. And write about deals and moguls and the people who make New York City run and the great characters, like Donald Trump.
GREENE: We invited Mulcahy in because we had seen a piece she wrote in Politico, headlined "Confessions Of A Trump Tabloid Scribe." We figured Mulcahy was perfect to capture that younger version of the man in a very particular time and place. In terms of sort of the glitz that he seems to have represented at that time, in no small part because Page Six sort of used him as a symbol of that, it is...
MULCAHY: Well, we used him as a symbol of a tacky kind of rich more than anything else. Everything is gold-plated, it's not solid gold. That's the Donald Trump story. And he and Ivanka, when they opened Trump Tower, could there be that much peach marble in the world? There it was.
GREENE: But what also came through in this conversation was the unfiltered exasperation of a reporter who worked the Trump beat in the years when he was still building his brand. Mulcahy alleges that in his dealings with reporters, Trump tended to play fast and loose with the facts.
MULCAHY: There was one story that he denied. He had a three-hour meeting with Richard Nixon. I thought that was pretty interesting. This is in the mid-80s. What is Donald Trump meeting with Richard Nixon about?
GREENE: The former president...
GREENE: ...Who had left office in...
GREENE: ...In not the best circumstances.
MULCAHY: Precisely - and did not exactly have a reputation for being totally truthful. But when I called, I knew from the source that had given this to me that it had happened. I called Trump's - totally denies it - nope, didn't have a meeting with Nixon. So then Nixon's office confirmed it. And it was a pretty innocuous situation. He was - Nixon was looking for an apartment. Why lie about that? What difference does it make?
GREENE: You use words like tacky, outrageous. What is one over-the-top moment you remember that goes beyond outrageous covering him back then?
MULCAHY: It was when he destroyed Bonwit Teller on 57th Street, which is this gorgeous building. It had these art deco sculptures on the outside. He destroyed it to build Trump Tower. The Metropolitan Museum of Art wanted these sculptures - art deco sculptures on the outside - for their collection. And he's like, no, they're useless. And he smashes them. He wants to be taken seriously, but he just can't control himself.
GREENE: Do you see, in this moment of frustration with American politics, that people would be drawn to someone like the man you were covering in the 1980s, who would just sort of say - you know what? - I'm going to smash those sculptures? You know what, I'm just going to whatever - I'm going to do this. They kind of want someone who will just go do stuff.
MULCAHY: Well, they also like to go to the circus. And that's what - I mean, he's a carnival barker. He'll say whatever he needs to say to get you inside his tent. If you get in there and the two-headed dog he promised you isn't there, he's got you inside. He'll find something else. But I really do think that now that it really does look as though he is going to be the candidate, that people have to put his feet to the fire.
GREENE: That was Susan Mulcahy. She edited the New York Post's Page Six. And she joined us in our bureau here in New York City.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.