When Donald Trump visited the Coast in 1993, the gambling industry was in its infancy and it seemed he would do anything to get in on the action.
The admitted germaphobe even kissed Seymour, a sea lion at Marine Life Oceanarium, where Trump was trying to put together a deal to lease land to build a 35,000-square-foot casino near the aquarium. Marine Life planned to use the money from the lease to transform the 37-year-old aquarium, which was showing its age, into an attraction to rival New Orleans' Aquarium of the Americas.
Trump was being Trump, telling Gulfport how much he loved it while flirting with suitors from Alabama and Louisiana.
"It's almost become a personal thing with me here," he said. "I've gotten to be friends with the people involved. I'll be here a lot during this project. It's a very, very important project, if not my most important."
He cajoled Gulfport into leasing 4½ acres of public land, despite considerable public opposition, and worked on the Gaming Commission, which for a while refused to grant him site approval for a location it said might endanger business at the nearby state Port of Gulfport.
The commission relented, granting Trump site approval in February 1994, then granted him a gaming license a month later.
"We're going to do a really spectacular job. I believe that in two years or less you'll all be looking at this site and you'll all be very happy you gave approval," he told the Commission.
Less than a year later, he'd lost interest and not a single spade of dirt was turned at the site. Ten years later, Katrina finished off the Oceanarium.
But The Donald wasn't finished with the Coast.
In 2005, a South Florida family that had a deal with Trump to use his name on its projects bid unsuccessfully on property once occupied by The President Casino in Biloxi. W.C. "Cotton" Fore and Roy Anderson III bid $82 million and won a piece of waterfront property scrubbed clean by Katrina. There hasn't been another casino there to this day.
A year later, Trump turned up in Diamondhead, where he signed a letter of agreement with Diamondhead Casino Corp. to build a casino on 40 acres on the Bay of St. Louis near Interstate 10 in Hancock County.
He was uncharacteristically quiet this time, letting the local company do the talking.
"The outside world does not view Mississippi as a land-based casino market," said Deborah A. Vitale, the chief executive officer of Diamondhead Casino Corp. "It just thinks of boats and barges.
"This changes everything. It's a dramatic change in the way your state will be viewed. You have fantastic golf. You have golf courses all over the place. You have the weather, the water and golf. You have it all."
A year after that, Trump pulled out again.