Eyes wide open when Trump turned his gaze on Sydney

As Donald Trump makes his latest sales pitch to the American people, I'm forced to recall the time I helped him make his sales pitch to the people of Sydney, and when I first heard him described as a liar.

One day in late 1986, when I was working as New York correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald, I caught a glimpse of Sydney architect Harry Seidler on a plane going to Atlantic City.

At the time, the NSW government was seeking tenders for the building of Sydney's first (legal) casino. It had cancelled a deal with a US company called Harrah's when it learned the FBI was investigating Harrah's for alleged links with the Mafia.

US President Donald Trump.Credit:AP

Seidler jumped into a limo before I could catch him, so I was left to speculate on why a respectable – indeed puritanical – person such as Seidler might be visiting the sleazehole that was the gambling hub of east coast America.

I guessed he was seeing one of the casino bosses who were planning bids for Sydney and I started phoning around to find out who that might be.

It didn't take long to discover Seidler's host was a 40-year-old self-described billionaire named Donald Trump. He was eager to talk to me.

Trump confirmed he was a candidate: "Hopefully we'll be considered the best qualified because of our experience and reputation. Sydney's a wonderful city and if properly done, this could be a tremendous success both for Sydney and for everybody involved.

"It's a great concept if it's well-executed. It will be one of the great casinos anywhere in the world, and one of the great buildings, inside and out, anywhere in the world."

And yes, he'd been having "a series of conversations with Harry Seidler, who is a very wonderful architect and a nice man". I reported this on the front page of the Herald.

I got a kind of reference for Mr Trump from the US architect Philip Johnson (who had designed a never-completed project called Trump Castle on Madison Avenue in 1983): "Oh, he lies a great deal, but it's sheer exuberance, exaggeration. It's never about anything important. He's straight as an arrow in his business dealings."

The last sentence of that quote became moot a few months later when the NSW government rejected Trump's application, based on this police report: "Atlantic City would be a dubious model for Sydney and in our judgment, the Trump Mafia connection should exclude the Kern/Trump consortium."

I'm confident that now I have revealed this background information, the American people will apply the same scepticism to Trump's latest sales pitch.

David Dale teaches media at the University of NSW.

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