Presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump — whose tornadic campaign whipped hearts and butts into a frenzy of adoration and rage, won the most primary votes in party history, and zoomed the family brand into the exosphere — will sweep into the Republican National Convention in Ohio next week like a human Storm of the Century.
But the blustery billionaire was a whirlwind even as a lad, says legendary photographer and former Courier Life shutterbug Jim Romano, 87, who caught the adolescent Trump in action on Staten Island one summer in the late 1950s.
Romano was a busy New York Daily News cameraman — a born schmoozer who talked like Jimmy Cagney and looked like a movie star — in high demand for his gritty, spot-news images taken with a hefty Speed Graphic. He was also a popular paparazzo whose evocative, Life Magazine-esque black-and-whites immortalized the super-famous, including Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and President John F. Kennedy, whom he once informed: “You, sir, are a leader of men and a follower of women.”
Romano found average Joes equally compelling, and now as he parked his black ’39 Pontiac on Arlo Road in Grymes Hill and strolled to meet his date, he stopped to say “hiya” to a group of landscapers toiling in front of an apartment complex, riveting his attention on a young teen propelling a hand-held lawn mower like a jumbo jet.
“I told him, ‘Boy, you must have taken your B12 vitamin today!’ and asked him who he was,” says Romano. “He presented himself very nicely and respectfully, and said, ‘I’m Donald Trump, my father owns this building.’ ”
The surname, now world famous, took the worldly pressman by surprise.
I thought it was an odd name, I had never heard it before,” says Romano, whom Fred Trump later hired as his photographer on the Rock.
The youth’s other characteristic — destined to become his hallmark — also struck the newshound as extraordinary.
“He had a shock of thick, yellow hair slicked into an Elvis-style pompadour,” he says. “It was unusually outstanding.”
Half a century later, the Democratic county committeeman — who hasn’t seen The Donald since Arlo Road — isn’t wigging out over the typhoon-teen-turned-tycoon-pol’s hair-raising political success.
He even has some friendly advice to offer: “Keep punching like Jake LaMotta, knock ’em dead like Jack Dempsey, and make America great again!”
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