As the Iowa caucuses near — and front-runner/self-described potential Fifth Avenue shooter Donald Trump commands outsized headlines — it’s time for a Westport-connections story.
Everything here is true. I couldn’t make this up — even if I wanted to.
JP Vellotti is a longtime Westporter. About 10 years ago — working as a photojournalist — he was a stage photographer for ABC Studios in New York.
He worked mostly on the Tony Danza morning show. It was filled with B-list guests, but the host was always polite and attentive to his staff and crew.
JP never knew who would be on the show until he arrived. One day, during the height of “The Apprentice,” it was a rare A-lister: Donald Trump.
He was there to promote his show, plus an officially licensed line of board games, towels, etc.
Donald Trump and Tony Danza. (Photo/JP Vellotti)
In typical The Donald fashion (literally), he brought suits with his own label to plug too. The staff found some mannequins, and rolled them onstage.
Trump was — well, Trump. But it’s what happened afterward that JP never forgot.
As the star was leaving, JP mentioned he’d read his book.
“Did you like it?” Trump asked.
“Yes,” JP replied. “I learned more about negotiating from it than anywhere else.”
Trump — carrying one of his suits from the segment — immediately asked JP what size he wore. “44 regular,” JP replied.
Trump handed it to him to try on. It was awful: baggy, badly cut, with very cheap fabric. But JP thought it was a nice gesture for Trump to give him a suit.
Hah! As JP was taking it off Trump said, “These are $1200 suits. But I’ll give it to you for $200.”
“This is a 46 long. It’s too…” JP protested.
Trump was undeterred. “Do you know anyone who can sew? Your mother? Grandmother? You can bring it to a tailor. I’ll take something off the price.”
JP actually started thinking, This is a good deal. But he looked at the pants: They were a 40. He’s a 36.
“The pants are too big,” he said. “Thanks anyway.”
It’s hard to imagine the insanity of haggling with Donald Trump, in the back of a TV studio. He clearly didn’t need the money — or to sell a suit — but JP could tell he was burned at not being able to make the deal.
“Look, I can tell you read my book,” Trump persisted. “Just give me $50 for the suit. You can sell it and make a profit. It’s got my name on it. That’s worth it alone.”
“No thanks,” JP said. “But have a good day.”
As he walked away, Trump moved on to someone else.
Since then, JP has always thought of Donald Trump as a cheap suit salesman. But he really is a master negotiator. Perhaps, JP says, “if he can’t convince America of his latest deal, he can try somewhere else.