A young Donald Trump writes to a dying Woody Guthrie

Disrespectfully Yours

by Barry Friedman


In December 1950, Woody Guthrie and his family rented an apartment in the Beach Haven apartment complex in Brooklyn, New York, a property developed and managed by Fred C. Trump, father of Donald J. Trump. They moved out of “Bitch Heaven,” as Guthrie called it, in 1954, due to his illness, around the time he wrote “Old Man Trump.”  What follows is mostly fictional.

Mr. Guthry,

I have to tell you, I don’t send a lot of letters, but they’re great when I do. The best words, punctuation, typed on the most expensive typewriter—it’s an IBM Selectric. You probably can’t afford the one I have. It’s a special model—and you probably still use a manual, like an Underwood—but I can assure you they’re superstar letters. Great thoughts, sentences, they look fantastic. People notice. And I care about people, very much, but I’m taking the gloves off—no more Mr. Nice Guy—though I’m always nice, extremely nice, ask anyone, but you don’t deserve nice because you’re not nice. I know you’re in a mental hospital with crazy and sick people and you have a terminal disease, so even if I cared how you were doing, which I don’t, you’re medicated and walking around like a catatonic person so what the hell’s the point of being nice? You wouldn’t notice. Actually, I feel sorry for you, but not that sorry, to be honest with you.

Look, you’re a crook. And that’s what this great letter is about.

You owe Trump Management $39.08, and have since 1950—or maybe it was later, earlier. I don’t know, but around then—when you rented from us. You also owe $12.15 on your security. The place was a pigsty—in terrible shape—when you left and broke the lease, so that’s $51.23 total. Every lawyer—and I have the best lawyers—tell me that breaking the lease as you did was a criminal act. I am a patient man, but my patience, as great as it is—and it is very great—is not limitless. We want our money… with interest—12 years at 5.5%—$85.04.

Don’t think for a minute we need it, we don’t. Even if it was $100—$200—we wouldn’t care. We have more money, my father and I, than you’ll ever have, than your entire family will ever have, much more, believe me—millions, more even. It’s unbelievable our wealth. I could take a very, very nice long vacation anytime I wanted. We are totally terrific and you’ve been very unpleasant. We were very generous to allow you in Beach Haven, considering your reputation stunk even then. We have great places all over Queens, too—not just Brooklyn. We’re huge in real estate, by the way. Huge. My father is a great businessman, as am I, and we’re winners and champions.  And you’re a loser. Even though we could sue you, and we’d win, because you’re wrong and we’re right, we won’t because this is small potatoes—we don’t need the money—but I really don’t like you. We have a great record in court. We win all the time. I hear from a lot of people—a lot—that I should “lock you up” but I have a great temperament and won’t do that, even though I should and could, but—who knows?—maybe I will. Depends. Anyway, I’m 20, you’re over 40 and I’m so much better than you, temperament-wise, it’s not even funny. I’m young, but a wise young. God only knows what’ll happen to me, how rich I’ll get, even though I’m already quite rich, and the beautiful women I’ll be with, even though I’ve already been with hot ones, really hot, hotter than you’ve ever been with, I’m sure of it—all 10s. I’m very excited about myself. I could be president someday if I wanted—maybe I will. How hard could it be? I’ll see how I feel. In ’68, Wallace guy looks promising, though Nixon could make America great again, who knows?

Here’s the other reason you’re reading this terrific letter. That stupid song, poem you wrote—whatever the hell it was—about my father. When I first read it—I didn’t have time to read it, but I read it anyway—I was so… I mean there was blood coming out of my eyes, my whatever. “Old Man Trump—a disgusting name, really—is the worst thing I’ve ever read, which I didn’t really read. I didn’t even finish it. Really horrible. It barely rhymed, nothing catchy about the melody. A song has to have a great melody like “Nessun Dorma”—there’s a song. I love the “I win, I win, I win” part. And I always do. Anyway, you viciously attacked my father, saying he incited race problems, which is libelous and defamatory and legally not nice. You have no constitutional right to say that. I could sue you for that, too, because everyone likes my father, as they do me. It’s in our genes—we’ve got terrific ones. My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy—and vice versa. It’s only natural for people to be drawn to us—including the coloreds you mentioned in that terrible song. “Ain’t got no home? That’s how you write? Embarrassing. Did you go to college? I go to Wharton, in Pennsylvania, the finest business school in the country—Ivy League, by the way. Do great things there, finish first in all my classes and I bed—I don’t know if I mentioned this—all kinds of women. Have you heard of Wharton? You’d never get in. You were in the coast guard or something, but I was in the New York Military Academy, which was just as tough, believe me, maybe tougher. The kids there were tougher than Germans. Before that, I used to travel with my father collecting rent from deadbeats like you. We carried guns, too, because you never know. I’m a big believer in guns and that amendment, as well as the rest of the constitution. We’re a great organization because

1) We’re really good,

2) We’re always thinking about great things,

3) We have great plans to be greater, and

4) We’re actually EXCELLENT, not just very good

We spent great time together being great—my father taught me to be a killer in business, a king, a king killer—so your song… is a lie, a huge lie, and you should apologize before you die or whither away, which I hear you’re doing rapidly. It’s frankly why nobody will remember you. Your songs are not great, they’re terrible. Now, nobody comes to see you, either, after your third wife left you—this is the Jewish one, I’m told. You know, they’re very good with money—the Jews. I like that about them—but you don’t have any money, so that’s probably why she left. And three wives? Who does that? I mean, your second wife comes around and brings the kids, but that’s pathetic.  And who names a kid “Arlo? But this song, this thing you wrote about my father—very hateful. He’s super successful and does rent to coloreds, just so you know, lots of them, which is huge because most landlords, even colored ones, don’t. He marks their rental applications with a “C” to take extra good care of them, because a lot of them have light pigment in their skins, so you can’t always tell them from real white people, which can be a huge problem. I have lots of friend—LOTS—who are colored. More than you. We rent to Jews, too, before you even ask—they love me. They killed Christ, they didn’t kill Christ, none of my business. I mean they bitch about this, bitch about that, but they’re good payers. Even Abe Levitt and Sam LeFrak, both Jews, who say they’re New York’s greatest landlords—they’re not. They’re liars—don’t treat Jews as well as we treat Jews.

My father, for your information, is not just a builder, but a visionary—I am, too. He’s Gandhi in a suit—I’m very serious here—so that line in your song—“When he drawed that color line / Here at his eighteen hundred family project—is disgusting. First of all, he didn’t build a family “project,” he built a family community. OK? And you want to know why there were no coloreds where you lived? They didn’t want to be. He held a meeting with them and asked—“Who wants to be my colored family in Beach Haven?” Nobody’s hand went up. They didn’t—whatever—maybe they like being with their own people—who knows, I don’t judge—but he asked, so, obviously, you should write a new song and apologize. If you were a man, you would do that.

I don’t understand your music—how you made a living—I really don’t. You have like 400 songs. They’re all about depressed people. I read somewhere you wrote a lot of them in ten minutes. You can tell. They’re awful. Hungry, out of work, on strike. I want to slit my wrists, I’m very serious. What kind of people are these? Who manages your career, anyway? He should be fired. They send you to California to sing for Mexicans and Caesar Chavez, who’s a total communist, while they picked strawberries—they’re rapists most of them, did you know that? By the way, we should build a fence or something to keep those people out, the Mexicans. We can pick our own strawberries.  And who sings about the Dust Bowl? By the way, I hated Grapes of Wrath. Too long. Henry Fonda’s daughter, who’s very hot, by the way, is a commie. Your voice stinks, I have to tell you. You sound like a cat who’s been stepped on. Bob Dylan has a better voice than you and he’s a total loser. The only one not horrible is “This Land Is your Land—it’s not “God Bless America(you know a Jew wrote that and “Easter Parade) but it’s like a weeklong. You can’t play it a ballgame. People can’t stand for 20 minutes, or however long it is. Let me give you some advice. You’d have a lot more success if you cut it down to two verses and gave it an upbeat ending—like “My Country Tis of Thee.”

When you die, nobody is going to remember you. Even your hometown—Okinawa, whatever it’s called, which is a total dump, hates you, thinks you’re a socialist, which you probably are, but maybe they’ll feel sorry for you and your family that you left nothing to because you didn’t plan ahead and because you’re a loser and will someday host a festival and invite other loser musicians and they can all play your songs, even the terrible ones, which most of them are.

Will Rogers was a delightful man who was also from Oklahoma—you didn’t think I’d know that, did you?—which is right near Texas—I love Dallas, by the way. You should have been more like him. He sang, danced, did tricks rope and horses. Very entertaining guy. Your state loved him. You, you ride on boxcars after the state threw you out. His name is on an airport. You’re lucky if they put your name on a mural or water tower. You know what it’s going to say?

Here lived Woody Guthrie, loser 

Send the money you owe us.

Have a nice life (whatever’s left of it)

Donald J. Trump.

P.S. Your autobiography stinks, too.

Originally published in This Land: Fall 2016