This might be the closest President Trump ever came to “Julius Caesar” territory: A theme park that never opened.
Trump is at the center of yet another bizarre theater flap this week as corporate sponsors flee from a Shakespeare in the Park production of “Julius Caesar” that climaxes with the assassination of a blonde, suited tyrant whose wife happens to have a Slavic accent. Conservative outrage over that creative license has turned a free theater tradition in New York into the latest unlikely culture war in Trump’s America.
One underlying irony here is that it’s doubtful Trump is even familiar with the classic play or the other works of Shakespeare. He has, after all, admitted that he doesn’t read books, and there is no record of him quoting The Bard in public.
But Trump once waded into ancient Rome in the only way he knows how: With promises of an extravagant entertainment complex.
In the early ‘90s, when Trump’s fortunes had fallen so far that he was relegated to being a mere multimillionaire, he made a lot of odd attempts to step back into the spotlight. One of the oddest was his plan, in 1992, to build a Roman theme park in the New Jersey Meadowlands.
When he announced it, Trump made it sound like his Rome was ready to be built in a day.
“We’re ready to go, to make this into a major success,” Trump told the Star-Ledger in a now-archived article about his ambitions.
He claimed he had locked down all the funding he needed — estimated to be between $50 million and $80 million — and he expected his theme park to become “the talk of the country.”
“’It will have a high-tech Roman Empire theme, like something out of a Cecil B De Mille movie,” he said.
But right from his first boast, Trump’s Roman entertainment empire seemed a bit empty.
A New York Newsday story observed that the so-called complex was more like a carnival — Trump had only locked down 10 acres for building it.
Trump didn’t like hearing about the faults in his plans.
“You probably think I can’t do it,” he told Newsday.
“So, you know what you do — watch. And you know what else you do, go f— yourself.”
But even his partner in the project, Martin Garin, dismissed the venture as “a nice vest pocket-sized park,” and waved off Trump’s promises of a mini-Rome as “flamboyance.”
In the end, it wasn’t flamboyant — it was just a failure. The little Trump empire, like a lot of his proposed projects at that time, never came close to happening.
Not that anyone was really surprised.
Ronnie Eldridge — a New York City Council member and wife of Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin — was one of the first politicians to laugh off Trump’s plans to conquer Roman theme parks.
Asked by Newsday about the project, Eldridge replied, “I didn’t know he thought he was Julius Caesar.”
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