Tony Schwartz was faced with a decision some 30 years ago — remain working at New York Magazine or ghostwrite a book about an up-and-coming real estate developer named Donald Trump.
He, of course, chose to help write what would become “The Art of the Deal,” and it would change the rest of his life.
The 1987 memoir and business advice book required Schwartz to spend 18 months following the future president to everything from business meetings to weekends at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
After that, Schwartz remained quiet about Trump for decades as the mogul became famous in the entertainment industry as well.
Schwartz only broke his silence in 2015 after Trump announced his presidential campaign and implied in a speech that he was the sole author of “Art of the Deal.”
That led to a story in The New Yorker, where Schwartz not only claimed his credit in ghostwriting the book, but also discussing how his experience with Trump makes Schwartz believe he’s unfit to be president.
Now, he’s bringing his Trump knowledge and the lessons he’s learned from running his company, The Energy Project, to Riverdale Senior Services on Dec. 19.
Schwartz’s visit is part of “An Evening with Authors,” a series of dinners Riverdale Senior Services hosts every fall as a fundraiser to help support the organization’s mission to help senior citizens in the Northwest Bronx.
“An Evening with Authors” began 20 years ago, allowing Riverdale residents to open their homes for dinner and discussions. The fundraisers have featured prominent writers from Andy Rooney to sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
Even more, authors are typically chosen because of some connection they have to Riverdale. Schwartz’s connection is quite direct — he’s lived in Riverdale for 30 years.
“All of these dinners are always amazing,” RSS executive director Julia Schwartz-Leeper — who is not related to the author — said. “You get this intimate opportunity of a wonderful dinner with a small group of really interesting people, and have discussions on all kinds of matters.”
Schwartz’s dinner takes place at RSS’s 2600 Netherland Ave., home, and includes both a presentation and Q&A.
Getting Schwartz on board was easy, Schwartz-Leeper said, because he and his wife have donated to RSS for 20 years. And with the current political climate, it was an opportunity for people to get a firsthand account of interacting with a future president.
“I think people want to hear what Tony Schwartz has to say because many people are stressed, horrified, (and) baffled by how we got to this place in this country,” Schwartz-Leeper said. “So I guess we hope for some insights from someone who has had some experience — although many years ago — working for” Trump.
While Schwartz isn’t planning his visit to be exclusively focused on Trump, there’s still a lot to say about the commander-in-chief.
In the past year and a half, Schwartz has shared how Trump still utilizes some elements from “Art of the Deal.” One example is Trump’s method of “fighting back hard” when he feels he’s been treated unfairly, according to a piece Schwartz recently wrote in The Washington Post.
“I believe the role I need to play is to point out as often as possible the reasons that he should not be president,” he said. “I believe that one of Trump’s methods is to do so many awful things that people get numb in response and lose their sense of outrage and their sense that what he’s doing goes beyond the bounds of acceptable.
“And so I feel as if in a sense by continuing to speak out, I’m ringing the bell.”
When he’s not talking about Trump, Schwartz is more focused on being the chief executive of The Energy Project, a consulting firm that helps people manage personal energy to become happier and more motivated in their work.
Because of how “Art of the Deal” dramatically changed his life, Schwartz sought out ways on how he could contribute to the world in a more positive way. He founded The Energy Project in 2003 and has since included companies like Facebook and Coca-Cola as clients.
Schwartz sees this new focus as a sort of penance for making the decision to ghostwrite “Art of the Deal” so long ago.
“I don’t mean penance that I only came to when he decided to run for president two years ago,” Schwartz said. “I mean that I was very aware that writing a book with Trump — even at that time — was a very compromising choice to make.”
Some say Schwartz’s comments about Trump are designed only to bring media attention to himself. But Schwartz said he can’t control what people think. He can say speaking out against Trump could have jeopardized The Energy Project — something many of his 51 employees didn’t want him to do.
“It was a risky move because they could have easily been offended by what I was saying,” Schwartz said. “It’s not as if every person feels about Trump the way that I do.”
And if he had the option to ghostwrite a book for anyone in the future, Schwartz would immediately say no.
“I don’t have any interest in doing that, even for somebody I admire,” Schwartz said. “I feel incredibly both satisfied and privileged to be able to do what I’m doing now, and to have a positive influence on so many people’s lives.”