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Did Their Father Really Know Best?


When the gates—and they really are gates—to Ivana Trump’s limestone mansion on East 64th Street swing open, I’m greeted by Dorothy, the onetime nanny who is now Ivana’s personal assistant. She deposits me on a red velvet settee and goes upstairs to announce my arrival. The house, with its red carpeting and gold fixtures and chandeliers and Impressionist-style paintings, is so very much, and yet it is still, somehow, traditional, barely hewing to a tricked-out Louis the Someteenth sensibility.

Seeing her on television or in magazines cannot prepare you for the jolt of intensity and costume drama that is Ivana. Her hair is up, in that modernized beehive we are accustomed to, and she is, for daytime, a touch over-bejeweled. Her pin-striped mini coat-dress is as short as it can get without being wildly inappropriate. On her feet are a pair of red patent-leather stilettos, the heels of which are shiny metal spikes.

Even at 55, she is still somehow girlish and sexy. She has, for example, a most unusual giggle, which punctuates many of her utterances. She also still speaks in that slightly broken, heavily accented English, which often leads her to unintentionally hilarious syntax (“The Donald” being the most famous). She tells me that she lives half of the year in New York and Florida, and the other half in Europe. She owns this house, one in Palm Beach, a condo in Miami, a house in London, three in the Czech Republic, another in Saint-Tropez, and “then I have my yacht, which is floating somewhere in between.” Giggle, giggle.

Ivana seems to have prepared for this interview about her children. Before I can get off a single question, she launches into a parenting lecture: “To raise the kid in today’s society, with all the temptations they have around, it really wasn’t for me that hard. Because I was born in Czechoslovakia and everything was quite spartan. From the age of 6, when I won my first race in skiing, I was on the national ski teams, really until Olympics in ’72, so I always had a lot of discipline and commitment to achieve as much as I could in good way. Competitiveness doesn’t stop when you stop skiing. There were great values instilled in me and is exactly what I did with the kids.”

This reminds me of something Liz Smith had said when I called her for some insight into what I began thinking of as the Trump parenting miracle. “Even I’m sort of amazed that it seems to have come together for these children,” she said. “All I can figure is, Ivana is really a nice middle-class woman at heart, despite her foolish personal style, her off-the-wall behavior, and her picking up these Italian lovers just to prove that she’s not rejected. And the thing that always guided Donald was the influence of his father and mother, Fred and Mary, who were two really solid people. Here’s the thing: Neither Trump drank or took drugs, and they didn’t really play around a lot. Of course, Donald did a little bit. He broke up his marriages, always over some irresistible woman. But he wasn’t just running around and hitting on girls. In spite of making their children live in this artificial palace on the top of Trump Tower with all this gilded rococo crap and jets and private boats, the children, I think, were just pretty normal. And I think they had real love and guidance from Ivana. And even from Donald. I don’t want you to laugh, but they had a lot of family values.”

Chief among them was the value of hard work. “That was really important,” says Ivana of the decision to make the children work when they were teenagers, “because I see so many kids which are my friends’ children—really good friends—and they’re so messed up. They drink, they’re on the drugs, they don’t want to work, they have no ambition. They get all the money in the world. Why they should get up before eleven o’clock? They’re real losers.”

Ivana takes a lot of pride in how well things turned out. “I say, ‘Look at my kids! How fabulous are they?’ I did everything I was supposed to do: got them off to university, set them for life. And now it is Donald’s turn.” Donald didn’t know what to do with the kids when they were little, she says. “He’s not the kind of father who would ‘Choo-choo, goo-goo, noo-noo.’ He would love them, he would kiss them and hold them, but then he would give it to me because he had no idea what to do.” But now that they’re grown, she says, “he’s starting to learn them, teach them, and now it’s going to be his thing.”

Ivana eventually winds her way around to The Divorce. “When we did the separation, one thing I made sure of, I never, ever show any panic. I never cry in front of them, I never scream in front of them. Because if they would see that I’m in a panic, they panic, too. Sometimes I just wanted to”—she twists her jeweled hands into tiny, angry fists—“kill or scream. But I did not do it. That was No. 1. No. 2: I never, ever spoke one bad word against Donald. It’s the only father they have and they will have. So they were my two rules.”

It is obvious that there is some part of Ivana that has never quite gotten over Donald. “When you are married to somebody,” she says, “there is always chemistry.” When I tell her that all three of her children joked about their father’s inability to comprehend, for example, wanting to do something so crazy as go to Hawaii, she, too, rolls her eyes. “I can hear him! ‘Why don’t you play golf? Come on! Fishing? What do you do with the damn fish?’ ” She seems to drift off into a tiny moment of nostalgia for the old routine. Oh, that Donald!

Was Donald a good husband? I ask.

“The record speaks for itself,” she says. “He eventually got what he wanted: a new wife. And that didn’t work out, so . . . ”

Have you ever talked to Marla Maples?

“Never.” Pause. “Never. I’ve got nothing to talk about with her. She actually apologized to me in the Daily Telegraph in London . . . What’s done is done. I have no animosity against her because look what happened.”

For the past two and a half years, Ivana has been dating a man 22 years younger than she is, an Italian gentleman from Rome named Rossano Rubicondi. Just before our talk comes to an end, he appears, and I think for a second that he is one of the men there to fix a leak. He is tan, with dark curly hair, and he’s wearing Diesel jeans, a faded T-shirt, and leather boots. “I feel great,” she says, when I ask about their relationship. “I go to the new places with Rossano. He’s a young man. He’s 33. And he’s fantastic.”

In a recent interview in which she talked about dating younger men, Ivana said, “I’d rather be a babysitter than a nurse.” From that quote came the idea for her reality show. She pauses for effect. “It is called Ivana Young Man.” Peals of giggles. The premise of the show, which will air as a two-hour special on Fox early next year, is simple: Twentysomething guys compete for the hand of a 40-year-old woman who has everything but a man. Ivana will host. “If she makes a wrong decision eliminating a guy,” says Ivana, “I can overrule her.”

Ivana bristles at the suggestion that she is in competition with Donald. She wrote books before he did, she argues, and she was offered reality shows before The Apprentice was even an idea. But then she mentions that she is also building a “$150 million condominium project,” the Ivana Great Barrier Reef, in Australia, and that she is the spokesperson for another condominium complex, Bentley Bay, in Miami. “So I’m still in construction. And I have a huge project that I really can’t speak about yet, but it’s going to be a huge billion-dollar tower which I’m working on.”

Can you say where?

“Cannot say. Cannot say. Because . . . The Donald is going to freak out!” Gleeful, maniacal giggles.

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