Move over Monopoly, The Donald's back big time

September 06, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

THE PACKAGE arrived in the mail from a big PR firm in New York, and after ripping through the brown wrapping with my fat little fingers, there it was: Trump, the Game, new from Parker Brothers.

You can't get away from this man, no matter how hard you try.

On the game's box is a huge picture of a glowering Donald Trump and his lacquered hair looming over the skyscrapers of Manhattan, with the cheery inscription: "I'm back and you're fired!"

Inside, on the back of the rule book, is a personal message from The Donald.

"The object of the game is to make the most money," it begins.

(I know, I know ... and you thought the object was to see who could open the most soup kitchens.)

"I'm talking about hundreds of millions of dollars," Trump goes on. "If you are clever, aggressive and lucky, you could end up with a billion or more!"

Terrific. Fun for the whole family!

Honey, get the kids! Let's see who's got the guts around here to backstab the other guy and make some serious iron!

The rollout of Trump, the Game - now available in stores nationwide, according to Trump's flacks - is just another sign of our times, of course.

It's a sign that greed and naked ambition and lust for power are back in style - not that they ever really went out of fashion.

And it's just the latest sign that The Donald's back in style, too.

Boy, is he ever. Americans love comeback stories, and this might be one of the great comeback stories of all time.

See, the original version of Trump, the Game, where players bid against each other to buy island resorts and office buildings and close multimillion-dollar deals, was released way back in 1989.

That was back when Trump was the poster boy for a form of 'roided-up capitalism that seemed new and exciting, when he was snapping up prime real estate and building big, fancy hotels and shimmering casinos with his name on them and turning everything he touched into gold.

This was back when he penned a best seller called The Art of the Deal and his marriage to the flashy Ivana Trump was played out in the tabloids, and it looked like the guy led the kind of charmed life you get only after a deal with the devil.

Within a year, though, The Donald was in The Doghouse.

First he was forced into bankruptcy over some $2 billion in bank loans. And shortly after that, he divorced Ivana, who came up with one of the greatest spurned-wife lines of all time: "Don't get mad - get everything."

The tabloids were hooting when he took up with the young and ditzy Marla Maples. And Trump, well, he seemed a sad, pathetic figure.

The old swagger was gone.

By the late '90s, though, Trump's businesses were on the rebound and the guy was again making money like he printed it in his basement.

Pretty soon he was King of the Universe again, so big that they gave him his own TV show last year, The Apprentice, which promptly turned into the season's top new show.

Now this revised edition of Trump, the Game, complete with cards that say "You're Fired!" - his warm and fuzzy signature line on the show - completes The Donald's stunning return to our national consciousness.

Are you kidding? The guy's bigger than ever.

Oh, sure, there's been a bump or two in the road. For instance, his casino group, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts Inc., just announced plans to file for bankruptcy again.

But ... bankruptcy, shmankruptcy.

The Apprentice, which begins its second season Thursday, has made Trump a genuine entertainment superstar, bay-bee!

The man is huge!

Forget Deion Sanders - this is the real Prime Time!

Not only was The Apprentice the No. 1 show on TV last season, but more than 20 million people watched it each week.

If you've never seen it, it showcases a bunch of edgy Type A personalities who have to grovel before Trump and bad mouth each other and perform ridiculous tasks that prove their aggressiveness and ingenuity - all for the chance to manage one of Trump's businesses and make a hefty six-figure salary.

At the end of each show, there's this climactic scene in the boardroom where The Donald gathers these poor schnooks and, as the tension mounts and pulse rates soar and nervous glances are exchanged, he points at one of them and snarls: "You're fired!"

Yep, watching someone lose their job - now that's entertainment.

And now you can live the thrill all over again with Trump, the Game.

Tell me this isn't a great, great country.

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