“PLAZA HOTELLOADING GARAGE”
A man in her security detail opened the side door of the vehicle and held it open so it blocked the view of the handful of photographers and pedestrians on the sidewalk as Clinton stepped out.
The City of New York had voted for Clinton overwhelmingly every time she had been on a ballot, but she now disappeared into the building without allowing anybody in the street so much as a glimpse and offering not so much as a wave. She had rich people to thank.
The guests at her big “thank you event” for big money donors looked the part as they arrived by the grand front entrance. Most of them suffered Thursday night’s bitter cold for only the few strides from their own gleaming black vehicles and up the eight carpeted steps. They passed on through the brass revolving door into the warm glow.
Former campaign chairman John Podesta was one of the first to enter, five minutes after Clinton, in a dark gray overcoat. A woman came up and embraced him.
“John, I sent you an email!” she said without the slightest hint of irony.
Podetsa just smiled and the two continued on to the third floor and the 4,800-square-foot Grand Ballroom for the gathering of “mega donors.” The “mega” pertaining only to the number of dollars. Not to how hard-earned a particular dollar might have been. Or to how much of a squeeze it might have been to give it. Or to how pure a spirit accompanied the giving.
More guests arrived, some complaining that they had been delayed. The usual traffic holiday congestion was compounded by the heavy post-election security being maintained around Trump Tower just a block and a half down Fifth Avenue.
“The traffic!” a guest exclaimed.
A bellman stood in a brocade uniform, and the sight of him brought to mind one of his profession who had been listed among thousands of Clinton donors who were mega by another measure in the Federal Election Commission records, which include occupation and amount.
Hotel bellman—$45School librarian—$100Registered nurse—$38Retired horticulturalist—$100Retired Episcopal priest—$100Student—$10Teacher—$25Unemployed bank teller—$5Rabbi—$25
If the Clinton campaign had used meaning and not just moolah as a measure of mega, if she had insisted that a dollar from a contributor who did not have a dollar to spare and was giving it with no expectation of anything in return meant more than millions from a mogul looking to buy influence and cachet, then she might have had a party at the grand ballroom of the Plaza Hotel to outdo any in its storied history.
Just imagine if the guest list to Clinton’s “thank you event” had included the hotel bellman who had given $45 rather than a hedge-fund guy who had given $20 million. Picture the bellman and the unemployed bank clerk and the school librarian and the registered nurse and the others partying with their candidate in the same ballroom where Truman Capote held his legendary Black and White Ball in 1966.
And this other “thank you event” of true megas would have been all the more remarkable for the Plaza Hotel having once belonged to none other than Donald Trump. He had purchased it in 1988 and placed his then wife, Ivana, in charge of the renovations. He himself took a particular interest in the railings of the balconies in the grand ballroom, and spent a considerable sum deploying everything from hair driers to sandblasters to remove layers of paint and restore the wood’s smooth finish.
All had been just how Trump wanted it by 1993, when he married his second wife, Marla Maples, in the ballroom. The guests included big money guys Carl Icahn and Ronald O. Perlman, as well as Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi. The comedian Rosie O’Donnell—whom Trump would years later call a “fat pig”—joined other B-list celebrities ranging from O.J. Simpson to Howard Stern.
“It’s just like I was afraid of, I’m the biggest name here,” Stern told the New York Daily News. “I don’t see any big stars."
In 1995, financial troubles forced Trump to sell the hotel at a loss to foreign investors. His third wedding was at Mar-a-Lago. The guests sitting in the front row included Hillary Clinton.
The new owners of the Plaza renovated the ballroom, but it was essentially the Trump-ian same when Hillary Clinton held a fundraiser there in June 2015.
A birthday party for Rep. Charles Rangel of New York had originally been slated for the space on that day, but that event was moved to the summer. Clinton supporters paid $2,700 a person, which seemed reasonable enough given that campaigns do need considerable sums.
But more than money, a campaign needs meaning. And this comes from small contributors as surely as millions come from millionaires. Five dollars from an unemployed bank teller means more than ten thousand times that amount from a banker.
In the end, the Clinton campaign had more than enough money, but it came up short on meaning for too many working people. The result surprised even Trump.
The failed Clinton campaign had cash left over and is said to have used $100,000 for the party at the Plaza. The money had been raised from bellmen as well as billionaires. Clinton here had a chance to restore some meaning.
But the only bellman present at the Plaza on Thursday night was the uniformed one on duty, directing the big-money invitees to the elevator that would take them to the ballroom, where the balcony railings are still as smooth to the touch as the short-fingered one insisted upon. One couple listened to the directions, but stopped in confusion when they had to choose whether to turn one way or the other.
“I wasn’t paying attention,” the woman said.
Other guests came and the couple followed them up to the ballroom to be thanked by Hillary Clinton. The outcome of it all had surprised even the man who should be thanking her for choosing moolah over meaning.
“Do you believe this shit?” Trump remarked to a fellow native of Queens after he was elected our next president.