One evening in the 1960s, Donald J. Trump, still in college but eager to make it big, met his older brother, Freddy, for dinner in a Queens apartment complex built by their father.
Things went bad fast.
As Freddy, a fun-loving airline pilot with a gift for imitating W. C. Fields, joked with his best friend at the table, his younger brother grew impatient. Grow up, get serious and make something of yourself in the family business, Donald scolded.
“Donald put Freddy down quite a bit,” said Annamaria Schifano, then the girlfriend of Freddy’s best friend, who was at the dinner and recalled Donald’s tendency to pick fights and storm out. “There was a lot of combustion.”
For Mr. Trump, a presidential candidate whose appeal is predicated on an aura of toughness, personal achievement and perpetual success, the story of Freddy, a handsome, gregarious and self-destructive figure who died as an alcoholic in 1981 at the age of 43, is bleak and seldom told.
In a telephone interview last week, Mr. Trump said he had learned by watching his brother how bad choices could drag down even those who seemed destined to rise. Seeing his brother suffering led him to avoid ever trying alcohol or cigarettes, he said.
But the painful case of Freddy Trump, eight years his brother’s senior and once the heir apparent to their father’s real estate empire, also serves as an example of the dangers of failing to conform in a family dominated by a driven, perfectionist patriarch and an aggressive younger brother.
In the upwardly mobile Trump family, Donald was the second and favorite son, the one who got into the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, relished the combat of New York real estate and ultimately made the Trump name an international brand. Freddy was the disappointment, who lacked the killer instinct and drifted so far from his father’s ambitions that his children were largely cut out of the patriarch’s will.
Freddy, as he was known, “was caught sort of in the middle as somebody who didn’t really love it, and only because he didn’t really love it, he wasn’t particularly good at it,” Mr. Trump said. “My father had great confidence in me, which maybe even put pressure on Fred.”
Asked whether Freddy’s experience in the family business, which friends described as miserable, contributed to the drinking that ultimately killed him, Mr. Trump said: “I hope not. I hope not.”
From the beginning, Freddy stood out as different from his authoritarian, workaholic father. As Fred Sr. became one of the master builders of the New York boroughs, his mischievous son drank Cokes, and eventually beers, with friends in the family recreation room.
Less quick-witted than his older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, now a federal judge, he was also more welcoming of outsiders than his father.
When Ms. Schifano moved to Jamaica Estates, Queens, the wealthy enclave where the Trumps lived, Freddy confided to her that his parents had panicked because, as Italians, the Schifanos were “the first ethnic family to move into the neighborhood.” But Freddy was less concerned with ethnic distinctions. When he enrolled at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, the boy with blond hair who had attended an Episcopalian boys’ preparatory school on Long Island joined a Jewish fraternity.
“It may have been Freddy’s first attempt to make his own statement to his father,” said his best friend at Lehigh, Bruce Turry, who, like several other former fraternity brothers, remembered Freddy claiming that his father, the son of German immigrants, was Jewish. (He was not.) “Freddy was a classic illustration of someone who had a father complex.”
The Jewish fraternity brothers kidded Freddy about his middle name, Christ. He found the ribbing, like much else in life, hysterical.
In his junior year, he and Mr. Turry called themselves the “mysterious two” and went through the fraternity house short-sheeting beds. But Freddy was also generous to his fraternity brothers.
He gave Mr. Turry, who was saving to buy his girlfriend an engagement ring, a stock tip and left notes for him about his improving investment. “Your eighth of a carat is up to a quarter-carat,” he wrote.
It eventually became apparent to his fraternity brothers that Freddy, who wore Brooks Brothers clothes that draped his thin frame, was wealthy. He drove a Corvette and owned a Century speedboat. Sometimes he would take his little brother Donald, then a student at an upstate military academy, onboard for summer fishing expeditions off Long Island.
“I hope you don’t mind, I have to take my pain-in-the-ass brother Donald along,” another fraternity brother, Stuart Oltchick, recalled him saying.