MANHATTAN, N.Y.–This is the spectacular view from the 26th floor of the Trump Tower. The Fifth Avenue landmark occupies a coveted corner of Manhattan real estate, as its savvy owner Donald Trump will tell you. His large corner office–cluttered with dozens of signed footballs and framed photos with no wall space left for them to be hung–looks out over Central Park, the magestic Plaza, and all the world below. No wonder Trump still has that blue sky, optimistic attitude. He can see everything he wants right outside his window.
Was a kick to get to meet the man in his lair. Trump is a busy fellow, so when he grants you 15 minutes, you jump.

Trump and Brioux. Combined net worth: US$3 billion

Our conversation was far more focused than our photo op (right). Not Rhona Graff’s fault. The Trump v.p. kindly snapped the shot, I just set it up wrong. Graff was featured on early editions of The Apprentice.
Was klutzy enough to forget my digital recorder, too, left running on Trump’s desk after our conversation ended and his next meeting commenced. Trump joked as the recorder was retrieved that I had landed an exclusive with my sneaky little leave-it-behind plan. If I was that smart, I  would have had the camera on the right setting!
Trump set up the new season of his NBC reality series, which has been on the air since 2003. The latest edition starts Sept. 16 at 9 p.m. on NBC and Global, and returns the series to its civilian roots. Another celebrity edition, featuring bigger names than ever, promises Trump, returns early in 2011.
Trump says the new edition reflects the new tough times. Episodes will be more aspirational, he says, although don’t expect any free rides. He still fires people and he still makes them earn it. Tough times call for tough people, says Trump.
He hears things are better in Canada and is bullish on his Toronto Trump Tower, which he says is on course. We talked about Joan Rivers (“she’s tough”), Letterman (“great guy”) and the war in Afghanistan (“a mess”). He said “I better not comment on that” when asked if he’d been approached to be an American Idol judge–the perfect answer.
The real estate and entertainment mogul deals charm without even trying. He couldn’t be friendlier. He draws you in with “off the record” banter. I’ll never forget a Frank Sinatra story he told several years ago when he was first promoting The Apprentice at press tour, it was fascinating and chilling.
What closes the deal, however, is that Trump is also genuine. He has the security of knowing exactly who he is and clearly loves what he does. He embraces his role as one of TV’s greatest anti-heroes, and he sells it with style.
Neither of us brought up hair. Hey, you won’t catch me throwing stones in that direction any more.
After Graff snapped our photo, he extended his hand and I shook it–so that bit on Wikipedia about him being a Howie Mandel-like handshake avoider? Not true.

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