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Donald Trump party invitations made of glass in Atascadero

Robert Hooper gazes into one of the thousand crystal balls he made up for the Taj Mahal opening in 1990.
Robert Hooper gazes into one of the thousand crystal balls he made up for the Taj Mahal opening in 1990. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

For the gala opening of Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal Casino Resort in 1990 in Atlantic City, N.J., invitations in the form of crystal balls were sent, fashioned by Atascadero glass artist Robert Hooper.

Will Trump be the Republican nominee for president? Perhaps the crystal ball has the answer.

Before he got politicky, real-estate developer Trump knew how to make a splash. Kathryn B. Campbell told the story in the April 3, 1990, edition of The Telegram-Tribune:

Trump has a ball

Local crystals herald a big bash

Got your invitation yet?

A thousand of Donald Trump’s closest friends and associates have. They’ve been invited to a “gala opening” May 18 at the Taj Mahal, Trump’s $1 billion casino resort in Atlantic City, N.J.

Here’s how to tell if you got an invite to the big bash, which includes a concert by Elton John.

First you would have received a pair of elephants — three pounds each of molded and carved chocolate.

Next, a gorgeous designer scarf would have arrived, something silkily evocative of long-ago Indian empires when shahs built marble mausoleums for their favorite wives.

And finally, delivered to your door, a crystal ball etched with the minarets of the Taj Mahal and inscribed, “Your future is filled with magic.” Gazing into your crystal ball, you’d also also see your friend Donald’s signature and April 1990 carved into the glass.

That crystal ball would have made a coast-to-coast round trip to get to you — it took shape in the Atascadero studio of Robert Hooper.

Although the Taj Mahal Resort Casino opened its 1,250 guest rooms this week, the gala opening won’t be until next month, spokeswoman Karen Tuso said Monday.

Elephants, exotic scarves and crystal balls are all part of the magic of the Taj Mahal, she chirped.

Why the inscription on the crystal ball?

“This is an absolutely beautiful, magical place,” she gushed — and without skipping a beat shouted out to someone close at hand, “Get that trash out of here! I don’t want that stuff piling up.

“So how’d ya hear about the crystal balls?”

Opening day at the Taj Mahal was apparently somewhat hectic; Tuso was in top East Coast form, handling at least three conversations at once, shouting directions, jamming single sentences in between pleas of “can you hold?”

The unique, three-phase invitations were a hit, she said, and Robert Hooper’s crystal balls are sure to be treasured by guests.

“What a wonderful souvenir to have of the gala opening,” Tuso raved. “Can you hold?”

The crystal balls, each about 3 1/4 inches in diameter and weighing about 2 pounds, were formed and etched and packed and shipped out about three weeks after Hooper got the go-ahead from Trump’s representative.

Unimpressed by Trump’s reputed fortune, Hooper required half the bill paid in advance, the other half before shipping the finished product. He charged the party giver $32 for each crystal ball.

It took four people working 20-hour days for three weeks to get the crystal balls shipped by the March 12 deadline, Hooper said Thursday.

“Physically, this was the most difficult job we’ve ever done,” he recalled.

Long hours of holding heavy glass rods at shoulder height, shaping the spheres just inches from the 1,500-degree heat needed to mold them, left the studio crew with aching shoulders and muscles cramped with fatigue.

But the studio met its deadline and, “as far as I know, the invitations went out on time,” Hooper said.

The crystal’s everyday name is borosilicate, Hooper said, better known as Pyrex.

But with each of the thousand glass spheres sandblasted with Donald Trump’s autograph, the crystal balls that started in Atascadero are likely to have a rich future of their own.

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