Talk of the Town - Boss wanted: gasbag billionaire April 08 2004

This is queued up

Americans spend five years of their lives waiting in line. And that’s just one trip to the DMV.

So why would 700 people add to that by queuing up outdoors, some for more than 24 hours — in hopes of working for an arbitrary, egomaniacal gasbag whose mantra is “You’re fired!”

Search me. But that’s what happened recently when producers of “The Apprentice,” the TV mega-hit starring Donald (“Last name first, first name preceded by ‘The’”) Trump, hit Atlanta to audition mammon fodder for the show’s next season.

What is our fascination with this man? Part of it is the coiffure. Figuring out where Donny Boy’s hairline begins is like trying to discover the source of the Nile. An entire pith-helmeted Light Brigade could perish in a dandruff storm before they’d ever find it.

Plus, he’s that ultimate icon — “a success.” Listen to me: His father was a multimillionaire real estate developer. If my dad had been hip-deep in cashola, I, too, would be an achiever in the family business. Trump’s most recent literary effort, How to Get Rich, should have a chapter titled, “Outlive Pop.”

How else do we know D.T. is a winner? Because he doesn’t smile. One of the first rules of business is that you look serious, even — and especially — if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. Proof of the latter comes with a bulletin off the newswire: Trump’s casino empire faces bankruptcy, weighted down by $1.8 billion in debt.

That sounds grim — I mean, how can you have that much red ink, still live in a penthouse and date lanky Eurotrash with a fetish for sapphires the size of Mallomars? But the great thing about owing tons of money is that people leave you be.

If I got heavily into hock (a sum 1/10,000th of The Donald’s tab would do it), the sheriff would simply come along and heave me out of the house. But if Trump goes down, that giant sucking sound will be a regiment of creditors going with him. So everyone is content to let him ham it up on the tube, strafe greater New York from an eponymous helicopter and plan “Apprentice II.”

I’ve got a better series idea: How about bringing back a custom from our colonial forebears? Ye Olde Debtor’s Prison. A season of Trump in the slammer would get ratings bigger than the last bauble handed out to his best girl. A role he would doubtless assume in prison for some strapping felon.

“You’re fired!” spake El Donaldo.

Yeah? How about “Pay up!”

Anyway, I’m looking at this endless vista of suited-up Atlanta contestants, all eagerly hoping for an encounter with “The Apprentice’s” sorcerer, and the question arises:

What happened to business casual? A few years ago it was de rigueur. CEOs ran around in Dockers and golf shirts, while fine tailoring was going the way of the pterodactyl.

Most of those guys wound up in a fiscal sand trap, along with the rest of the dot-bomb community. Trump takes us back to the three-button suit with full silk foulard. Which explains the $1.8 billion shortfall. A tightly knotted necktie cuts off blood flow to the brain.

And speaking of money, if you get that job working for The Don, the pay is $250,000. Sure, such a salary would put you in a six-bedroom McMansion here in the late Confederacy, but in NYC it only buys a middle-class lifestyle.

Do the math. Trump’s $250K equals a 33 percent tax bracket, meaning $82,000-plus goes straight to the IRS.

Leaving you with less than $150,000.

Report to The Donald and be prepared for sticker shock when renting a Manhattan apartment. Figure $2,500 per month for a modest pied-a-terre close enough to the Trump Tower boardroom that you avoid becoming a late-to-work “You’re fired!” statistic first day on the job.

Another 30 grand.

So you’re down to $120,000.

You’ll also need a new wardrobe befitting your stature in life. About $15,000. Plus a nice car, $60K for a respectable Beamer or Benz. And $300 a month for space in a Manhattan parking garage.

Leaving a little more than $40,000.

Subtract the high cost of wining and dining in the Big Town, say $1,500 a month. Plus the price of summer weekend quarters in the Hamptons — because only crack addicts with car trouble actually stay in New York during July and August — plus the occasional Broadway play.

$10,000 left.

You’re a well-known executive in the Trump organization. You’ve got to give, and give generously, to the boss’ favorite charities.

That leaves $175. Enough for a super-saver airfare to Atlanta.

When you come back, if you’re really homesick and decide to stick around, remember: We’ve got a zany billionaire right here you can work for.

And Ted Turner doesn’t do that combover.

Glen Slattery may be an egomaniacal gasbag in Alpharetta, but he is not arbitrary.