NEW YORK -- Donald Trump's fiery descent from '80s icon to '90s nebbish has been greeted here with all the hand-wringing solemnity one would expect from the nation's financial capital.
"At last, all of us who've so loved the game of kicking Donald Trump when he was up will have the fiendish thrill of kicking Donald Trump when he's down," says Newsday columnist Robert Reno.
"People are cheering," says Raoul Lionel Felder, a celebrity divorce lawyer (but not either Trump's). "It's a perverse element of human nature. It's disgusting, the glee that has taken place. But it's natural against a guy who was a boasting braggart."
Amid all the chest-thumping and finger-wagging over Trump's sudden cash flow squeeze, there is one person who believes that the Queens-born mogul may simply be up to his old tricks. Ivana Trump, who has sued her estranged husband for half his estate, has told friends that The Donald's dramatic negotiations with his bankers may be no more than a tactical maneuver aimed at winning more favorable loan terms -- and an edge in their marital warfare.
"She doesn't think he's in all that much trouble," says one person who spoke to Ivana Trump this week. "She believes he's worth between $400 million and $600 million and doesn't need to be selling luxury items." Ivana Trump plans to go to court, the friend says, to stop her husband from unloading the 118-room Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., and the Trump Princess yacht.
More than a few harrumphing analysts say it was Trump's reckless cavorting with Marla "No Excuses" Maples, the 26-year-old Georgia actress, that soured investors on doing business with the man. The avalanche of negative publicity -- with Trump hiding Maples in the Hamptons while trying to enforce a chintzy prenuptial agreement on the mother of his three children -- is the first time the mega-developer has lost control of his carefully burnished image.
"Ivana still thinks she's in love with him, but she's pretty disgusted at the same time," her friend says. "She wavers between being furious and hurt. She feels totally humiliated by what he did, bringing Marla to Aspen and to parties. He didn't have the patience to go on hiding Marla. He wanted Ivana to just let him do what he wanted."
With creditors and bondholders circling like vultures, the former Czechoslovak model would now be lucky to get the $20 million or so provided by the prenuptial pact, Felder says. "Half of nothing is nothing. She could end up with very little."
Those who had the temerity to challenge Trump's financial standing, meanwhile, are finding their stock soaring as quickly as Trump's junk bonds are plummeting.
Marvin Roffman, the casino analyst fired by his Philadelphia brokerage after Trump accused him of insufficient enthusiasm for the debt-laden Trump Taj Mahal, has been besieged by the media. "I take a shower and I get 25 telephone calls," he says, fresh from an appearance on "Nightline."
Roffman says he is preparing a suit against Trump and his former brokerage, Janney Montgomery Scott, charging libel, slander and wrongful termination. Roffman, who told the Wall Street Journal that he was pessimistic about the Taj's prospects, says he was canned after refusing Trump's demand that he write a letter praising the casino and claiming he had been misquoted.
"Listen, I'm not gloating," Roffman says. "I was only saying that I felt that during the winter months the property would not cover debt service. I didn't think that was an outlandish remark at all. An analyst should have the right to come to a conclusion based on a lot of hard work, and whether he's right or wrong isn't the issue."
Trump likes to throw his weight around, Roffman says. Last year, he says, when an industry official harshly criticized him, Trump "called my boss and said he thought I was one of the best analysts on the street. Then he called me and said, 'You owe me one, baby.' ... I could tell you stories about Donald Trump that would make your pen fall off the paper."
Richard Stern, who penned the Forbes magazine cover story declaring that Emperor Donald had no clothes, has been on "Crossfire" and "Newsline New York" and has fielded inquiries from as far abroad as German television. Trump has denounced the Forbes story as unfair.
"You could just look around and see the whole thing about to collapse," Stern says now. "People talk about Donald Trump's empire. Wait a minute -- what empire? He's a man who built some condos, he has three casinos in Atlantic City, a couple of hotels and the Trump Shuttle. He's not Harry Helmsley or Olympia & York."
Now, Stern says, "He's a Third World nation. He's Brazil. What can he sell the assets for? A lot of these properties, like the Trump Shuttle, Trump's Castle, probably the Plaza, he can't sell with the debt he has."
It is remarkable to watch a man who blabbed about his love life on national television suddenly retreat behind a wall of tight-lipped publicists. After all, it wasn't that long ago that serious people spoke about Trump running for president. No one snickered when he took out full-page newspaper ads to air his views on U.S. military obligations and capital punishment. His book soared to the top of the bestseller lists. There was talk of naming a limousine after him. He was on the cover of Playboy. He was the Best Sex Marla Ever Had.
In retrospect, many now question why the financial world bought the hype for so long. Trump thought he could put up the world's tallest building on the Upper West Side and ignore the opposition of well-organized community activists. He used other people's money to buy whatever caught his fancy -- the Plaza Hotel, the Eastern Shuttle, Adnan Khashoggi's yacht -- at premium prices. If he owned two Atlantic City casinos, he had to have a third, and it would be the biggest, the glitziest, the "eighth wonder of the world."
But the real wonder was that the market would bear another $675 million in Trump junk bonds.
"The banks fooled themselves," Felder says. "They were star-struck. The bankers wanted to go home and tell the wife and kids that Donald Trump came to the bank, or they had dinner, or they got free tickets to the casino.
"There's really nothing to cheer. A lot of people are going to be out of work. A lot of poor people bought these bonds. Retired people bought this garbage."
At a time when Leona Helmsley has been dethroned, Michael Milken is headed for the slammer and Ronald Reagan has retired to his ranch, the Trump saga easily lends itself to end-of-an-era oratory.
"The culture has changed," says Michael M. Thomas, who writes the column "The Midas Watch" for the New York Observer, a weekly newspaper. "We lived in a world for nine years where anybody could borrow any amount of money for anything.
"We have a saying on Wall Street that a closed mouth gathers no feet, whether they are your feet or the feet of others only too happy to kick your teeth in," he says. "Here is a guy who talked too much, as if boasting would suspend the laws of financial gravity. I think Trump is the victim of his own fantasies about Donald Trump. I think he believed he was omnipotent."