Ivana. Larger than life. Blonde hair. With extra pieces stuffed in. Long eyelashes. With extra fakes glued in. An East 64th Street townhouse. French furniture. Sometimes fresh gold paint touched up the legs.
I was at the Donald/Ivana wedding. I was with Donald when he was courting her. What was not to fall for her? What was not for him to like?
She was a skier. Gorgeous. Blonde. International. Stood out brighter than a LED bulb. Larger than life. She talked, she joked, she dressed. Go out she’d have an orange handbag with matching shoes.
She opened a new continent for Donald. It wasn’t manufacturers on Seventh Avenue. Not the overalls schlepping cement for Donald’s buildings. It was Europe. Paris. Sardinia. St. Tropez. A new world — new properties, new real estate opportunities, new royal titles for friends opened for Trump.
If you get past that thing where she told me she wanted Paris Hilton to play her, she was smart. Very smart. She knew it, he knew it, we all knew it.
That might’ve triggered the less thrilling years. When Donald bought the Plaza Hotel, Ivana did the doing. Decorating, dictating, directing. Very smart. But maybe not always when it came to her husband. He was like many a big-time rich-time guy. It’s been known that their eyes and other parts are known to play Pin the Tail on someone new.
We know, everyone knows, the news, TV, radio, even huts in African villages now know he then began an affair with Marla Maples.
I had the story. On my wall is glued a half dozen New York Post headlines like “How Suite It is” — that was a Marla Maples story. Another was, “Donald Breaks A Date.”
It all began with whispers. Rumors. Then hardened into a yeah/so what/what’s new about that type situation. Not knowing all the details right then at the time — or what it was turning into — a few of us kept quiet.
We knew they were hiding, skulking around together, keeping in the shadows — maybe doing what the birds and bees and even a real estate guy might do. But he was married. And he was Donald.
Way back, before he married Ivana, when I was assistant to the president of the Miss Universe Pageant, he was single. He managed to corral some of the candidates up to his room. That was a no-no. It was strictly against the rules. Absolutely not allowed. But? So? He did it.
That was the Donald I knew. Marla was maybe just another pillow. So I’d heard whatever gossip dribbled out but I did nothing.
My colleague Liz Smith broke the story. She broke it when Marla was by then fused onto Donald.
Ivana, then fully aware of what was happening and what looked like could maybe be happening — phoned Liz to tell her. To get her side of the story out. I then called Donald and it became a volleyball. Ivana to Liz, Donald to me. Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1990, when I spoke with Donald he told me “We’re just friends.” I mentioned that I thought that was an understatement.
Then I asked him about his secret visits to the hideaway he had quietly booked at the St. Moritz Hotel where he and “The Georgia Peach” — as he called her — would do whatever seemed to come naturally.
Our phone calls were daily. He began to unspool. He told me: “She is so much better than a 10 you can’t believe it.”
He also told me: “I will treat Ivana fairly.”
He didn’t then know that my next headline was to be Ivana putting forth her demand, which was “Gimme the Plaza.” What he didn’t tell me at that moment was that right after we spoke he met with Ivana’s lawyer Michael Kennedy.
Donald was then saying, “I will not hold Ivana to the terms of our pre-nuptial agreement. I will sweeten the pot.”
I asked how good he planned to be to this then newly separated wife. His answer: “You knew us both when we were dating. You know I’ve always been good to Ivana. I will always be good to her.”
I asked, “So how good’s good?” He said: “I have great affection for Ivana. I always will have warm feelings for her.”
I listened to him but I can never say he sounded teary.
He also said that Marla, who by then had moved out of her Upper West Side apartment and was dug in at the St. Moritz, was “Right now is just a friend.”
Meanwhile, a quiet divorce was already in the works. The lawyer spoke out and blindsided Donald who said: “He double-crossed me. Knifed me in the back.”
As we were speaking an upgraded divorce settlement was already in the works.
We spoke daily. He said: “Look, let’s say that as you grow older thing happen and sometimes a couple grows apart. It’s just a fact of life. This is often what happens. This isn’t some thing that just happened to me and to nobody else in the whole world. “But another thing I’ll say is that even though we’ve grown apart, it does not diminish my love for Ivana.”
Ivana. Gorgeous. Talented. Smart. Sense of humor. There was lots of love for and around Ivana. Afterwards, she lived well. She shopped well. She dated well. She married again. Italian. Tall, handsome. But this didn’t go well.
Ivana wrote books. She put out a fragrance. She appeared on “The First Wives Club” show. She’d get up 5:30 in the morning to walk her Yorkie dog.
She did a March of Dimes cookout. She did a commercial in London, She had dolls. She’d arrive late, after curtain was up at some Broadway shows. She also sued Donald.
And years and headlines later she was seated far away from Melania at a Chanel fashion show.
She was courted around by some Austrian prince. She got invited to British prince things. One of her gowns was shown for the Prince Charles’ Prince Trust auction. She posed for Vogue. She was a guest on “E.” And it was odd that Donald’s three wives all had names that ended in the letter A” — Ivana, Marla, Melania . . .