Shaun Proulx, Trump and the sign of success

Shaun Proulx with his husband Patrick, in Chicago this past summer.

Shaun Proulx with his husband Patrick, in Chicago this past summer.

The Shaun Proulx Show is heard Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm EST and Sundays 4 pm EST on SiriusXM Canada Talks 167.


The other night at a dinner party, Donald Trump’s name came up – as it does – and I shared a story I thought you might like, too. Early this past summer I was in Chicago, which is such a fantastic city; it was great to be back. I was there for a Saturday workshop and my husband Patrick and I stayed at the Trump International Hotel and Tower right in the heart of things. Trump is in the details, I have to say. Excellence in service, a real knowing of quality guest care; thoughtful gestures and incredible staff attitude and luxurious rooms. My favourite part was that the carpeting there was so thick it felt like walking through sand.

Trump in the details – and Trump in the news, too, again, which we realized in our cab from the airport to downtown after we landed early Friday morning. A breakfast show was playing on the taxi radio and the hosts were talking a mile a minute about some sign that went up, urging listeners to tweet them with what the sign should say instead of what it did say: TRUMP. Many infantile options were suggested.

We still couldn’t make out what they were talking about, though, but there was no mistaking one thing: even Chicago’s mayor was really. Pissed. Off.

Our cab made a turn and suddenly there it was, our answer. Putting the tower in towering was our hotel, and on it the word TRUMP was spelled out in huge, dominant letters.

Still, was that it? I didn’t really get the reason for the upset.

We checked in – orchids and warm hand towels! – and got to enjoying our day in the city, quite forgetting the Trump broo-ha-ha. That is, until we spotted, by the river, a fair number of media camped out, all cameras pointing at the TRUMP sign.

I approached one of the reporters and asked what was up.

That TRUMP sign had only just gone up, I learned, literally completed the night before. Now that it was erected, people didn’t like. Hated. Loathed. They found it obnoxious in size, there was a problem with the fact it lit up at night; Trump was accused of sullying the area around the Magnificent Mile with his brand. Did I mention Chicago’s mayor was livid?

But the only thing I could see that Trump had done differently (to any building you’ve seen, where the major tenant gets their name at the top of it) was this: as major tenant, he had, smartly, had the word TRUMP placed way lower than usual – only about sixteen to twenty floors up.

Where you could easily see it.

Trump, I learned from the reporter, was not backing down. He argued that he had gotten city permission before any of it began, and didn’t understand why, when they knew his intentions, Chicago suddenly decided they didn’t like his idea once it had already come to life. Which I thought was a valid stance.

More so, I just appreciated he’d had the cleverness to position his brand where everyone could see it, lower and not way up in the sky. Business is business and, from an aesthetic stance – and know that I’m all about the beauty – I found nothing visually off-putting about the controversial sign. At all. That area of Chicago is all architecture porn anyway – letting your eye stay on a Trump sign would be like studying an ankle during a money shot.

That said, the next day, after the workshop, as Patrick and I took lunch by the Chicago River, countless boatloads of people on architectural tours all looked up in only one direction as they passed by the Trump International Hotel and Tower: that sign. In the heat of the media attention it was getting, ankle trumped money shot. The boatloads of people took pictures, many doubtlessly posting them to social media, promoting the Trump brand for him for free as they did.

And so as I watched, I couldn’t help but wonder if really, the noise all the complainers were making, wasn’t less about a sign and more about jealousy, that it wasn’t their name, synonymous with success (like it or not), living large on the side of a building, captivating thousands.

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