The Schadenfreude Files: Mar-a-Lago Mood is ‘Dispirited’ Lately, Y’all (LSP #176)

The Schadenfreude Files: Mar-a-Lago Mood is ‘Dispirited’ Lately, Y’all (LSP #176) January 25, 2021

Hi and welcome back! Oh boy, this was funny. Donald Trump runs a resort palace called Mar-a-Lago in Florida. It was his home away from home during his presidency, as well as a place where all kinds of wealthy people paid huge honkin’ piles of money to him for memberships there. But they’re having trouble justifying that expense lately. Today, Lord Snow Presides over the ‘sad’ and ‘dispirited’ feel at the Mar-a-Lago resort, leading to a potential future hemorrhage of paying members.

goodfellas laughing meme
No wait. Tell me another. (Meme from Goodfellas.)

Everyone, Meet Mar-a-Lago.

Mar-a-Lago is a palace-style resort in Florida that aims squarely at extremely wealthy older people. A wealthy philanthropist, Marjorie Merriweather Post (b. 1887 – d. 1973), had it built in the 1920s. She needed a palace designed from the ground up to suit her lavish entertaining needs. The results of her quest included gold bathroom fixtures (because she felt they were “easier to clean”), antique Spanish tiling and Genoese stone, a gorgeous tower, and rooms that copied and evoked famous places from around the world.

Workmen finished Post’s dream in 1927. From the start, she staged lavish parties there — like one in 1929 that involved the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Now, Post didn’t only use Mar-a-Lago for her entertaining. During World War II, she opened the palace grounds to soldiers needing occupational therapy and counseling in a relaxing space. When Post finally got too old to enjoy her palace, she offered it to the State of Florida — which turned it down due to its astronomical operating costs. The federal government accepted it instead in 1972, but returned it to her Post Foundation in 1981 — because again, it was way too expensive to operate (and also because it was an absolute security nightmare).

Then, in 1985 Donald Trump bought the place. I’ve seen variously estimates of him paying USD$8M-$10M for it. For that price, he got the palace itself, its furniture, and its antiques.

Soon enough, though, he ran into the same problems with expenses that its previous owners had.

When the government of Palm Beach refused to let him slice-n-dice the estate for private sale, he turned Mar-a-Lago into a membership club in 1995.

schadenfreude is coming soon
It’s coming.

The Winter White House and Huckster Show.

When he won the 2016 election, Donald Trump almost immediately began using his club as a “Winter White House,” as he put it.

Oh, I mean, Trump was still shilling memberships to the club, of course — while at the same time doing presidential business there and mingling with foreign heads of state and apparently considering club members for big government perks like ambassador positions. And just as it was still a nightmare of expenses to run, it was still a security nightmare.

But business was great, even so: La Wiki tells us it reached its maximum capacity of 500 paying members soon after the elction. Those members paid USD$200k each for memberships, plus $15k/year in annual dues. Even with all that spent, according to that last link, if members ever want to actually sleep there overnight, they get to pay another $2,000 smackers. If they want to stage an event there, like a wedding or whatever, well, that’s extra as well. Donald Trump staged events there too, selling tickets for $500-750 for members and guests.

I’m guessing most of the uptick in members after the 2016 election consisted of people who wanted to get close to the Conjob-in-Chief, similarly to how nobles sought places at Versailles centuries ago to get close to their king. Trump ain’t king anymore, so he can’t count on that motivation to bring in the TrumpBux in the future.

Now that he’s lost the presidency, Trump wants to return to Mar-a-Lago permanently. But that might not be legally possible under the terms of his 1995 legal agreement with Palm Beach. Also, many of his neighbors don’t want him there.

it's true
S’truth. (Also, I love the ‘perky smile’ here.)

Mar-a-Lago Feels All ‘Dispirited’ Lately.

The biggest problem Donald Trump faces is that Mar-a-Lago is bleeding members. CNN brought us the story earlier today. (Also, check this one out.)

It seems that paying members just don’t want to hang out there anymore. As we learn in CNN’s interview with Laurence Leamer, an expert on Mar-a-Lago:

Trump moved to the Palm Beach, Florida, estate after his term ended last week. But without the cachet of the sitting president of the United States working at the estate, guests are finding Mar-a-Lago lost a step. There isn’t any entertainment on the property during the pandemic, and Leamer added, “It’s a sad place … it’s not what it was.”

As well, that CNN article recounts a story from Jimmy Kimmel about Mar-a-Lago. Kimmel visited there around 2015 to visit its restaurant. Even then, the club was not exactly hoppin’:

[Kimmel] described the Mar-a-Lago attendees as “hunched-over people who are eating soft food” and he said the place is covered in Trump photos.
“It was just quiet and a terrible place,” Kimmel said. “And now he lives in this terrible place.”

Let’s all pause here to reflect on the way the pandemic got as bad as it did: because Donald Trump’s handling of it was beyond inept. Like evangelical leaders have, he painted himself into this corner. If he’d handled this challenge even halfway-decently well, Mar-a-Lago would still feature a circus of diversions for members. As it was, he threw a New Year’s Party that openly defied the area’s pandemic restrictions — in the middle of a serious local surge in cases.

So yeah, I’m not sad at all to learn that Mar-a-Lago might soon become a financial nightmare for evangelicals’ Orange Calf Idol. 

still true
Yep.

Gee, I Wonder Why Mar-a-Lago Might Be ‘Dispirited.’

But in recent days, a lot of those high-rollin’ members are rethinking how they want to spend their money in coming days.

Without entertainment, what’s left of Mar-a-Lago? An expensive hotel with garish, gaudy, outdated decor. I’m sure Palm Beach offers a lot of hotels these days, and I bet many of those competing places offer better-updated decor and better food — and no sad, sullen, pouty-pants ex-dictators wandering the grounds.

So today, Lord Snow Presides over a sad, lonely palace inhabited by the ghosts of past festivities — and an ex-President forlornly wandering its humongously-expensive grounds with memories of what-once-was and a fast-shrinking bank account.

Remember: If your schadenfreude boner lasts more than four hours…

then good, because dangit, you deserve something nice
after getting through the past four years of Grifter’s Carnival.

the perfect and canonical illustration
And obligatory.

NEXT UP: One of the most telling signs of a broken system involves its leaders protecting predators at the expense of the group’s members. We’ll check out the latest instance of exactly that happening — and how this priority reveals the real goals of the group. See you tomorrow!


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About Lord Snow Presides (LSP)

Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. Lord Snow was my very sweet white cat. He actually knew quite a bit. Though he’s passed on, he now presides over a suggested topic for the day. Of course, please feel free to chime in with anything on your mind. We especially welcome pet pictures!

About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. She lives with an adored and adoring husband named Mr. Captain and a sweet, squawky orange tabby cat named Princess Bother Pretty Toes. At any given time, she's running out of bookcase space. You can read more about the author here.

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