Ivana Trump


You do not understand the fascination.
You are trying to understand Ivana.
You are asking her Number One Fan – the queen of camp – in America to explain Ivana’s popularity.
You are guessing.
“It’s the hair.”
It’s not the hair, he smiles.
“It’s the lips.”
It’s not the lips either.
You’ve got it.
“It’s the dresses.”
No, no, no, no.
“What is it then ?”
The Number One Fan smirks knowingly, revealing with a justified flourish, the answer. “It’s the fantasy.”
Of course. It’s the fantasy.

You are waiting for Ivana. You are waiting for The Call. You have flown over from London and have been waiting for what seems like several days to have brunch with Ivana Trump, Ivana the Great, the erstwhile queen of American Glamour. The phone rings. Ivana can’t make it: you have been stood up. Long Distance.

Two days later, you are sitting out on the “patio” of Mar-A-Lago, a 1927 Hispano-Moresque work of art overlooking Lake Worth on 20 acres of citrus groves and landscaped lawns.

The site is – apparently – “the most valuable parcel of land anywhere in Florida.”

You have been screened by security, shown in by one of Ivana’s servants and asked to sign the lavish visitors’ book (joining the esteemed company of Christina of Sweden, the Mayor of Prague and Oprah Winfrey’s film crew) that lives in the entrance hall under ten Coats of Arms, two sixteenth century Roman marble busts and a fabulous (enormous) castle door of 34 recessed panels with mounted, carved and gilded cherubs.

The good news is you have seen Ivana.

She looks fabulous. Her white-blonde hair is down and almost sweet in a 70s Angie Dickinson kind of way. Her sad little mouth is pouting softly like Britt Ekland’s used to.

With her denim shirt casually unbuttoned, white plimsolls and short sawn-off denim shorts with pearls sewn round the border, setting off her new eight-carat yellow diamond “friendship” ring, she looks like a movie star who used to be a Country & Western singer.

You are shocked to hear she speaks with a strong Eastern European accent (Ivana is from Czechoslovakia), which fondly reminds you of ze Great Zsa Zsa Gabor.

You wonder if you could pay her to say “Dahh-link.”
After a curt introduction, Ivana takes a deep breath, as if she is about to explain the delay and break some devastating news, such as informing me a terrible road accident has wiped out half of her relatives. Here is the news: the make-up artist couldn’t make it.

You turn toward the door, automatically assuming brunch is cancelled, given the gravity of the situation. But wait. She calls you back, and, like a passenger preparing to take over the controls of a plummeting plane, announces she herself will make the ultimate sacrifice and step into the breach: Ivana will do her own make-up.

This, of course, takes longer. After some time, you finally hear the servants scurrying down the corridors and their expectant, excited whispers of: “She’s coming, she’s coming.”

A servant primly announces: “Ms Trump will be with you shortly.”

Finally, the enormous doors swing open and she walks in, the exact image of Ivana Trump.

Thin as a bird, the hair, now, is up – in the famous (mad) Barbie doll bouffant no ordinary mortal would even attempt. The full face on and the (scary) cleavage bursting out of a violent crimson cocktail dress, all teetering on sharp red stilettos.

For a second you are blinded by sparks ricocheting off her smile from the chandeliers that litter the gold-leaf ceiling. She offers you an extended hand and you don’t know whether to kiss her hand or curtsy. It’s a great entrance: the American dream on legs. They are great legs.

We adjourn to Ivana’s living room. It is, in fact, the size of ten living rooms. It is a fantasy living room, a mad fantasy stately home, Show Room of the Centuries.

Ivana offers you a fancy ten-page brochure detailing the features of the house. The living room is described as: “Without doubt the most unusual and fascinating room to be found in a private home anywhere… with too much charm to use the word ‘palace’ and too splendid to be called a ‘house’.”

The place is like a cross between the Pitti Palace in Florence and Blake Carrington’s country home, like a Byzantine version of Vegas. You are trying not to spill your coffee over Ivana’s ancient oriental rug or the Venetian chair you are sitting in. You wonder aloud if Ivana can feel at home here.

“It IS home !” she shrieks in laughter, only just managing to omit the word “stupid” from the end of her sentence, pointing out how “cosy” it is (there are, she thinks, about 118 rooms at Mar-A-Lago).

Catching your reflection in the seventeenth century hand-carved Turkish mirror, you notice that your nose is bright red with sunburn and there is a hole in your shoe, which Ivana, following your gaze, notices but ignores.

You could not invent Ivana Trump. If you could, you would be making millions writing Dynasty – The Reunion.

Ivana is a remarkable woman. As she puts it herself: “I’m fortunate. Yes. I can go into any of those worlds – the sports, the business, the fashion, the jet set.”
Just hearing her say the words “jet set” in that fabulous accent makes you admire her. This is style and she knows it. Why deny it ? A lower-middle-class girl from a Czechoslovakian rural village, Ivana learnt “at an early age” that Communism was not only wrong, but didn’t suit her.

Her book, For Love Alone, will be embraced by America not only because of its romance but because of its message – her mission.
“I am telling people around the world how hard it was to get out. I know people who came through the swamps to make the better life for themselves.”

Then there was Donald or “The Donald” as Americans call him (or: “The Bastard” as they also call him), the only trace of whom seems to be a bizarre painting in the study.

Set against a hallucinogenic acrylic Athena sunset, in heroic pose, Donald is shown in cricket whites. This is either how Ivana remembers him or is there to cheer her up.

Sitting on the Mar-A-Lago sofa with Ivana, you realize three things:
1) Donald made his millions while he was with Ivana and lost them without her.
2) Like Jackie O, Ivana has already appropriated her husband’s name as her own. One day, he may be remembered only as her husband.
3) Donald’s public affair with Marla Maples (breaking up the family, traumatizing the kids and making Trump yet more loathed than before) was the best thing that ever happened to Ivana. Before Marla, Ivana was just another New Rich Bitch Celebrity.

The break-up confirmed the fantasy, conferred Tragic status upon her, made her a Victim, allowed her to start her own company (Ivana Inc) and enabled her to begin the thing that has endeared her to all America, the thing every American heroine needs: the Comeback.

You put your hand on Ivana’s knee and ask if she’s forgiven him yet.
“I wish Donald every happiness,” Ivana responds graciously. “I never said one bad word against him… Some people would have been destroyed. Commit suicide… But not me. I said, ‘I am young, healthy, educated, I’ll make it.’”

With something like mad humility, she explains the bond she has with her public.

Her life, she says, is no fantasy. But she is an icon, a symbol. You suggest her riches and her beauty must intimidate men and make women envious – jealous even.
“It’s amazing,” she shrieks. “Because they should do. There should be jealousy. I’ve seen ze jealousy between other women. But with me, I never had it.”

She reveals the explanation, as if it is one of the Great Truths.
“I had the incredible support of ze women. Women relate to me. I had millions of letters, you know, after Donald, my separation. There is not a woman in America who did not support me. They said: ‘if you’ve gone through it, I can too. You’ve given me the strength to go on.’”

You resist the urge to stand up and salute, hail her as the Statue of Liberty incarnate.

When it’s over and someone asks: “What exactly does Ivana do ?” you say: “She does her hair, she does her nails…” But that’s not fair. What she does is be Ivana Trump. To be Ivana, to carry it off, requires a certain style.

“It’s a burden. It’s good for the business. I try to stick with ze image. You feel bad if you don’t fulfill what people expect of you. Men like to see ze glamour, dressed up… Or undressed, ha-ha. You, for example, you want ze glamour (you admit this is true) so… ze perfect hair, ze perfect make-up.”

It’s a public duty.

You realize you admire her because what Ivana has has made her happy but then maybe that’s because she has everything. She has Ivana Inc. She has a new love. She has her public, her health, her kids.

“You can have ze great career,” she confides. “You can make a lot of money. But it’s family that counts, the children.”

Of course, she has her looks.

So, Ivana, you say with the delicacy that has made your name, what about plastic surgery ?

You are looking for scars. She sees you. The wind off the ocean sets the chandeliers tingling, like the music of a very elegant distraction, and for a moment there is a trace of a break in Ivana’s utter composure and assurance. There are servants circling – ready to escort you off the premises.

“I did not have my nose done, I did not change my body. I had the dark circles under my eyes done – a very simple operation.”

Are you happy with your looks now ?
“You tell me,” she laughs, tossing her head back. “I keep in great shape.”

But what is the secret to her sexiness ?
“Nothing. I’m just me. You either have it or you don’t. Ha-ha. A lot of women have the beautiful dress and underneath, the worst bra you have ever seen.”

You appreciate her concern.

Almost automatically, you realize she is leading you to the door.
The audience is at an end. Tomorrow, she will take the children to Sea World. You are thinking how fabulous it would be to go to Sea World with Ivana.

After that, Ivana’s month at Mar-A-Lago for the school break, which Ivana finds so stressful to co-ordinate, even though her children attend private schools, will be nearly over.

“God knows how normal people manage,” she sighs with concern.

But of course, this is something Ivana will never know.