Late last month, Ivana Trump, who was married to Donald Trump from 1977
to 1992, told an interviewer, when asked if the President would seek
reëlection, that she thought the President was “missing a little bit of
his old
life
,”
the days when “he would go to Mar-a-Lago, he would go to play golf on
Westchester, and things like that.” He still does all of these things,
of course; Ivana meant that, back then, he wasn’t “working, working,
working,” as she put it. The comment evoked the glitzy eighties period
in which she and her ex-husband were prominent character actors in the
all-night play of New York—conveniently, a period she details in her new
memoir, “Raising Trump,” a soft-focus self-portrait of a woman who did
not become First Lady but has lately made a point a point of calling
herself the “first Trump lady.”

Ivana has always embodied the Trump brand, and still does: she is keen,
in the book, to seem dominant, invulnerable, new-money deluxe. Like her
daughter, Ivanka, she basks in the spotlight; like her ex-husband, and
in contrast to silent
Melania
,
she loves to speak her mind. (“I wouldn’t want to be in Melania’s
Louboutins right now,” Ivana writes, after half-heartedly denying the
report that she trash-talked Melania’s public-speaking abilities at a
luncheon.) Along with “The Art of the
Deal

and Ivanka’s two
listen-up-ladies self-help books, “Raising Trump” joins the canon of ghostwritten
literature that demonstrates the appeal of Trumpishness as well as its
considerable shortcomings as an
ethos
.
Ivana is shameless, superficial, and sometimes surprising—strict in her
adherence to a personal code and private ambition, louche in terms of
most everything else. (In a cameo in “The First Wives Club,” she
memorably said, “Don’t get mad, get everything.”) Because she can
broadcast these lively qualities without also maintaining a controlling
stake in our government, and because she seems to genuinely work hard at
her particular hustle, Ivana is the most appealing of the Trumps.

This is not to say that the new book is candid. Whatever honesty exists
in “Raising Trump” is curtailed by a gag order that Ivana signed during
her divorce: she can’t speak publicly about her marriage to Donald
without his permission. She contested that provision, unsuccessfully, in
a seemingly rare instance of her dealmaking skills proving less adept
than her ex-husband’s. Though this doesn’t make it into the book, she
first negotiated with Donald in March, 1977, when they sat down to
discuss their prenuptial agreement. It was three weeks before their
wedding and six months after they met. At one point, Ivana stormed out,
offended by a stipulation that, in the event of a divorce, she’d have to
return all gifted jewelry—and also by Donald’s refusal to set up a
“rainy day” divorce fund of a hundred and fifty thousand dollars (fair
compensation, Ivana believed, for giving up her modelling career).
Donald eventually agreed to a hundred-thousand-dollar fund. Two years
later, Ivana renegotiated, upping the cash fund to seven hundred and
fifty thousand dollars. In 1984, she got it to $2.5 million. She signed
a fourth contract in 1987, after six months of talks, which awarded her
ten million dollars in the event of a divorce. Shortly afterward,
according to the 1993 book “Lost
Tycoon
,”
by Harry Hurt, which details these negotiations, Donald slept with Marla
Maples for the first time. (He had been romancing her by sending her
positive press clippings, Hurt reports.)

The elisions in “Raising Trump” are large and predictable. Ivana doesn’t
mention, for instance, the time that she accused Donald, during divorce
proceedings, of violently raping her in a fit of anger over a botched
“scalp reduction” procedure. (He was angry because Ivana had recommended
her own plastic surgeon, according to Hurt; Ivana told Hurt that she
didn’t mean “rape” in a “literal or
criminal

sense.) She doesn’t discuss the brazenness of her husband’s affair with
Maples—whom she calls “the showgirl” throughout—choosing instead to take
a shot at Hillary Clinton: “Nowadays, I look at political wives who
stand by their cheating, lying husbands at press conferences with a
glazed look in their eyes, and I can’t believe they put it up with it .
. . I’m thinking of one particular political wife who became a
politician herself.” Ivana paints herself as a campy, bitchy post-Soviet
icon, a woman obsessed with excess and hierarchy and shiny objects, a
woman who could sit ensconced in her gown closet and tell a cocktail
tall tale about how she emerged victorious from a marriage to the
Donald. She is still, like her ex-husband, obsessed with her identity as
a winner.

This quality is less off-putting in Ivana, whose career didn’t start
with a million-dollar
loan
from her father. Ivana was born in 1949 in what was then Czechoslovakia,
to Catholic parents who refused to join the Communist Party. In her
early teens, she started skiing competitively, which allowed her to
travel outside the country; she was astonished, abroad, by the marvels
of consumer freedom. Ivana was an only child, a “real daddy’s girl.”
(“Ivanka and Donald’s relationship growing up reminded me of mine with
my father,” she writes.) Her high-school boyfriend connected her to an
Austrian skier who was willing to marry her so she could travel freely
on an Austrian passport. She had to sit for a police interview after
each international trip; she learned to bring presents for the officers’
girlfriends and to keep a poker face.

Her next boyfriend died in a car crash; Ivana packed up her dog, a black
poodle named Chappy, and flew to Toronto, where she moved in with her
uncle and aunt. There she was scouted by a William Morris agent and
started working as a model. She met Donald on a modelling trip to New
York City, at the restaurant Maxwell’s Plum: he offered to help her and
her friends skip the wait, then insisted on sitting down with them. The
next morning, he sent roses. The gesture didn’t impress her: “I was
twenty-seven and had been hit on by countless men since the age of
fourteen.” Nonetheless, she started talking to him on the phone, and
they were engaged a few months later. Donald’s father, Fred, froze her
out when she refused to participate in the Trump family tradition of
ordering well-done steak at dinner. He didn’t like Ivana’s revealing
clothing, either. At one event, she wore a dress that concealed her
cleavage with a high neckline, and Fred complimented her. “I turned
around so he could see that the dress was backless and dipped all the
way to my G-string,” she writes. Her wedding to Donald, on Easter, was
officiated by Norman Vincent Peale. There were six hundred guests; Ivana
knew six of them.

“Raising Trump” has a novelistic degree of specificity—a credit,
perhaps, to Valerie Frankel, Ivana’s ghostwriter (though Ivana prefers
the term “collaborator,” which she used when she published her romance
novel
“For Love
Alone,” in 1992). The most chilling detail in the memoir, possibly, is that
Ivana got pregnant with all three of her children while she had an
I.U.D. in. (After Eric, she tied her tubes.) She hated pregnancy. “Start
to finish, my entire labor and delivery lasted twenty minutes,” she
writes, of her first time. “It would be the same for each baby: a
horrible, mercifully brief, and beautiful experience.” She suggested the
name Donald, Jr., and her husband hesitated: “What if he’s a loser?” he
asked. Cuddling their brand-new potential loser, they talked about what
a great life he would have, and also about the Trump Organization: Ivana
was in charge of interior design at the Grand Hyatt. She went back to
work two days later.

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