Ruffin, Trump pals in business, leisure

Billionaire Phil Ruffin said his partnership with real estate tycoon Donald Trump has remained solid during the economic storm that shook Las Vegas.

“The Trump Tower is doing well,” said Ruffin, the owner of Treasure Island since 2009. “We sold 10 units in December. Donald is very happy with what’s happening there. He’s been a very good partner.”

The 64-story Trump International Hotel opened in March 2008, six months before the financial crash that started a devastating chain reaction in Las Vegas.

Five years later, Ruffin and Trump have weathered tough times that took a toll on other companies and partnerships along Las Vegas Boulevard as well as off the Strip.

Ruffin, 78, and Trump, 66, have been friends for 15 years. Trump served as best man at Ruffin’s 2008 wedding after introducing Ruffin to his future wife, Oleksandra Nikolayenko, Miss Ukraine 2004, at a Miss Universe pageant.

Trump’s wife, Melania, is a former Slovenian model. The wives “are like peas in a pod, they are very close,” said Ruffin, who provided a rare peek at his private life.

The Ruffins love movies and rarely take security when they go out. Over New Year’s at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., the Ruffins and Trumps went to “Lincoln.”

“Donald rated it a ‘6,’ and the girls wanted to leave at halftime,” Ruffin said.

“I thought it was just OK,” he said. “The two girls are from Europe, and they didn’t know what the hell was going on.”

Ruffin sees “Lincoln” star Daniel Day-Lewis winning the best actor Oscar tonight, but Ruffin’s choice for best picture is “Argo.”

Near the end of our interview, Ruffin talked about his new family — son Richard, who turns 3 in March, and daughter Malena, who is a year old.

Ruffin hinted that “Richie” will be following in his father’s footsteps: “He is going to be in Vegas a long time after everyone is gone, and let’s hope he’s still here at the Treasure Island.”


Robin Leach’s lust for scandal backfired last week.

The Las Vegas Sun’s celebrity blogger/tweeter jumped all over a racy Miss America story on Twitter.

“Huge scandal breaking re newly crowned Miss America Mallory Hagan @phvegas Jan. 12,” Leach tweeted. “Title & tiara to be removed? Will Miss South Carolina...Ali Rogers take over as the drug pinup videos story busts wide open?”

Leach quickly deleted his tweets after someone apparently informed him the story by The Onion, a notorious satirical publication, might not be real news. Leach asked his followers, “Is The Onion legit or a lie and a spoof with miss America rumors?” Instead of checking with his followers after he ran it, it might have been a better idea to check Google before posting it.

Leach, a former tabloid reporter in London, initially retweeted, but apparently didn’t read, The Onion’s headline “New Miss America In Danger of Losing Crown After Officials Uncover Details From Her Sordid Future.”

In The Onion’s video, a fake news anchor says, “According to sources the former Miss New York will eventually become a bitter middle-aged woman pathetically clinging to her past glory. In addition officials have obtained racy nude photos that will be taken by a future boyfriend along with recordings of her inevitable and embarrassing attempts at a musical career.”


In town for the unveiling of the “Michael Jackson One” show title, Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil, said “Zarkana” has been “an amazing success.” Weekend occupancy at the Aria show is more than 90 percent, he said, and 80 percent during the week. “Viva Elvis” was closer to 60 percent, he said. By the way, Friday’s mention here of a Las Vegas “police dancer” who is featured in “One” was a typo, the result of the dreaded autocorrect. The performer is a pole dancer who works on a twisted pole “like no one’s ever seen. It’s like those straws that are twisted,” said Welby Altidor, director of creation and longtime Cirque talent scout. ... The nightclub SHe by Morton’s, at Crystals at CityCenter, has closed after six weeks. According to the website, the nightclub, located one floor above the restaurant, offered “the next thing in nightlife entertainment.”


Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman, filming outside the Clark County Detention Center on Saturday. ... Running back Ray Rice of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, at Lavo (Palazzo) on Friday.


“Researchers have discovered that a chemical in the brain causes women to talk more than men. It’s called ‘chardonnay.’” — Jimmy Fallon

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at Find more online at Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas,” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.