Friday, November 11, 2016

Ivana Trump: The Donald Legend

Ivana Trump

President Donald J. Trump is one of the world's biggest celebrities. Even before defeating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential contest, his opinions echoed around the world. They say, though, that behind every great man is an even greater woman. While Donald Trump no longer is married to Ivana Trump, many credit his success to her. She also remains a constant in Donald Trump's life, as the mother of some of his children and a big supporter of his political success.

Let's learn a little bit about the glamorous Ivana Trump.

Ivana Trump

Ivana Trump was born Ivana Marie Zelníčková on 20 February 1949, daughter of Miloš Zelníček and Marie Francová. She is from the Moravian town of Zlin, which at that time was in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic). Zlin is famous as the home of the Bata Shoes company. The founder of that company, Tomáš Baťa, believed in a very egalitarian social structure which granted prosperity to the entire town. Today, the company remains strong. The town, incidentally, was briefly renamed Gottwaldov in the late 1940s right before Ivana was born, but already had reverted to Zlin right before her birth. That is all a bit confusing if you start looking this stuff up, but I know, it's petty detail otherwise. However, the main point is that the country was in flux at the time, with the Communists making all sorts of changes.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump
The 1970s were a lot of fun.

One thing that was not in flux was the local sport. Ivana loved to ski from an early age. While attending Charles University in Prague, she specialized in the downhill and the slalom. There is some confusion about whether Ivana was chosen as an alternate on the official Czechoslovakian ski team for the 1972 Winter Olympics. This is widely reported, but the Czechoslovakian Olympic Committee later denied it.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump
At the bar of Studio 54 during Lorna Luft's 25th birthday celebration.

Besides skiing, Ivana also developed a taste for real estate men. She married real estate agent Alfred Winklmayr in 1971, and divorced him in 1973. Afterward, she moved to Montreal, Canada to live with an old friend, George Syrovatka. There, she modeled and studied English.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump Barbra Walters
With Barbra Walters.

Ivana's modelling work took her to New York City in the mid-70s. There, she met Donald J. Trump, the son of Fred Trump, a top real estate developer in Queens. They were married on 7 April 1977.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump Ivanka Trump
Family photo.

Ivana and Donald had three children:

  • Donald John Jr. (born December 31, 1977)
  • Ivanka Marie (born October 30, 1981)
  • Eric Fredrick (born January 6, 1984)

Donald Jr. speaks fluent Czech, and Ivanka (notice that her middle name also is similar to her mother's) knows a little bit. Eric does not know Czech because Ivana had become more fluent in English by the time he was little. Ivana now has eight grandchildren.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump

Ivana took an interest in Donald Trump's real estate ventures. She had a talent for interior design, so she became the Vice President of Interior Design for the Trump Organization.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump
1980s, with clowns.

Ivana became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1988, sponsored by Donald.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump
September 1984.

Ivana was instrumental in the development of The Trump Organization's Atlantic City properties, which blossomed after the state legalized gambling. Ivana became a well-known celebrity in that town, which retained a small-town vibe even after the casinos came.

Ivana Trump Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Ivana Trump.

Donald asked Ivana to oversee the restoration of the famous Plaza Hotel on Central Park South. She became the Plaza's president and was named Hotelier of the Year in 1990. Ivana was profiled in Spy Magazine in May 1989. Spy was no friend of Donald's (going off on another tangent, it also was no friend of Hillary Clinton, but we digress). Writer Jonathan Van Meter absolutely devastated Ivana in the article. While long forgotten by most, the article had one nugget that remains to this day: Van Meter revealed that Ivana referred to her husband as "The Donald" (actually, the article says she called him "The Don," but then, Captain Kirk never said "Beam me up, Scotty" and Marie Antoinette never said "Let them eat cake," either). Not quite comfortable with English, Ivana at that time called everyone "The ____," but that didn't matter. Ivana Trump came up with "The Donald," and it has become his catchphrase ever since because for some reason it fits.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump
At a ceremony in honor of Norman Vincent Peale, who married them at the Waldorf Astoria. 1977. Yes, she's the one who came up with "The Donald."

The years 1989-1990 were a watershed for the Trump family. Donald liked to call Ivana "my twin as a woman," but there had been rumors that he was interesting in acquiring another twin. These rumors had been floating around at least since July 1988 (and probably much earlier), when the New York Post ran a blind item obviously (in hindsight) referring to Marla. Ivana apparently was unaware of the whole thing, or at least played it cool until the right moment.

Ivana Trump Ivanka Trump
Ivana Trump with Ivanka, Atlantic City, early 1980s.

During the Christmas holidays in 1989, Donald and Ivana vacationed in Aspen. The first room they were offered had separate beds - she immediately demanded a change so that there was only one king-sized bed. There also was plenty of room for her 16 pieces of luggage.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump
Forbes 70th anniversary party in 1987.

Everything seemed quite comfortable. Donald and Ivana hit all the fashionable parties. However, also present at the parties was a young actress named Marla Maples.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump
 Greenwich, Connecticut in 1987. They only lived there for a few years.

It turned out that Marla was a friend of Donald's and was there on his dime. Marla was a small-town beauty queen from Dalton, Georgia - not the one in the Soviet Union, as some of his political enemies seem to think - and bore a striking resemblance to Ivana. She was, however, a bit younger. She was a Ford model, and apparently was being linked (unnamed) in the tabloids with Donald around the same time that she inked that Ford contract. Lots of coincidences in the Trump universe.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump
1988. Donald owned the yacht for a while, but it was hideously expensive.

Donald Trump has a lot of energy. He demonstrated that during his successful 2016 Presidential campaign, when he held five rallies a day in widely separated portions of the country and turned out just enough vote in select locations to win. That week in Aspen, he also showed off his energy by squiring around both Ivana and Marla to separate parties. While Marla probably knew the drill, Ivana did not.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump
Future President Trump and Ivana Trump, 1988 (AP Photo).

Now, Donald was a famous figure in 1989. Maybe not as famous as in 2016, but he was a regular in the tabloids and the New York party scene. Everybody knew Donald Trump. He was friends of a sort with Ronald Reagan, for goodness sakes (there are disputes about that, too). That he would openly attend parties with the "mystery blonde" in Aspen, which basically was New York City and Hollywood transplanted to Colorado for the week, surprised fellow partygoers. As Donald might say, Ivana probably needed her sleep, but not Donald.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump

Rumor has it that not only did Donald attend Aspen parties with both Ivana and Marla, but both were also at the same parties. At the same time. Other partygoers asked the lovely Marla for her phone number, but she demurred, saying that she already was taken. By Donald Trump. While The Donald was with his wife on the other side of the room. The wife who had no idea that he was taken. By someone else. Who Was In The Same Room. And telling people.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump
With Donald's parents in 1989.

Ivana might have come to Aspen not knowing anything was amiss, but she sure didn't leave the state of Colorado in the same happy state. What actually happened is subject to contrary accounts and has become the stuff of Trump legend, but what is certain is that there was a public confrontation. Apparently, according to witnesses, Ivana spotted Marla at a restaurant in town during brunch - it's not a huge town - and walked near her. They "had words." Ivana says that Marla came up to her, food tray in hand, and said, "I'm Marla, and I love your husband. Do you?" Now, if that isn't the opening salvo. One patron heard Ivana shout, “You bitch, leave my husband alone!” Ivana, however, claims that she merely said politely, "Get lost." What is not disputed is that The Donald, putting on his skis, was witness to the whole thing and ready to hit the slopes again in a hurry.

Ivana Trump
Cover girl, 1990.

After this, Donald and Ivana left the restaurant - Bonnie's - and Ivana started a conversation with Donald. One can imagine the subject, but nobody else overheard. The restaurant is right on the slopes, and the two lovebirds skied away from the sundeck to stand somewhere a bit more private, but still in full view of everyone. Once again, Ivana "had words" with Donald.

Ivana Trump
Ivana in Trump Tower. From Christopher Makos, "Everything: The Black and White Monograph."

Donald finally had enough. He decided to end the conversation and skied off down the mountain, leaving Ivana behind. However, Ivana is a really good skier, and The Donald is only so-so. I mean, he's probably quite good for someone who skis once or twice a year. Ivana may or may not have been on the Olympic ski team - and the Czechs know how to ski about as well as anyone, so being on that team would be something - but she's pretty good nonetheless. Witnesses say that as Donald awkwardly grunted his way down the mountain, Ivana got in front of him, skied backwards down the hill, and continued the conversation whilst wagging a finger in his face.

Ivana Trump Raquel Welch
With Raquel Welch.

Donald later mentioned that "a fat guy" who had witnessed the incident later came up to him and said that Donald was a lucky man, to have two beautiful women fighting over him like that. Donald said he got a kick out of that, because the fat guy was right.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump

After that, things began to change. By February 1990, the couple was in all the papers as heading for divorce. When Donald returned from Tokyo that month, he headed back to New York as usual, but this time not to Trump Tower. Instead, he took up residence at the nearby Grand Hyatt, the hotel near Grand Central Terminal which he owned then and now.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump
A Hungarian magazine, 1990.

The couple had a prenuptial agreement that had been updated in December 1987 - probably around the time that The Donald met Marla, though nobody knows exactly when that happened. The prenup provided Ivana with custody of the three children, the couple's 45-room, $3.7 million mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut (where they had not lived for some time), and $25 million. There have been many rumors of Donald's wealth over the years, and he perhaps was not a billionaire at that point - though some say he was - but $25 million was a small, small price for him to pay even after the full effects of the housing bust that was then in progress hit his assets. In fact, when the divorce was finalized, Donald Trump almost certainly was not a billionaire, and by some accounts he may even have had a negative net worth - though that seems a bit far-fetched.

Ivana Trump

The divorce was not particularly amicable. All sorts of mud was flung. Suddenly, Donald was linked to a veritable army of women, including model Carol Alt, Mike Tyson's ex Robin Givens (Mike endorsed Donald in the 2016 Presidential race), Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg (another blonde beauty), and even 1960s ice-skating legend Peggy Fleming of all people. Everyone denied the allegations... including Marla Maples. And her mother. Veterans of the 2016 Presidential campaign will recognize the pattern - allegations of something to do with females suddenly pop up when it is to someone else's advantage to make them. His experience with the tactic during this go-round probably helped Donald to weather a similar trumped-up storm on the eve of the election in 2016.

Ivana Trump
Ivana at the Mugler Spring 1992 Ready-to-Wear Fashion Show.

One can't say that Ivana gave up easily. Some claim that during 1989, in fact, she had plastic surgery to make her resemble Oxenberg. Now, if a woman wants to look good, copying Catherine Oxenberg is a good place to start.

Ivana Trump
Another outfit at the Mugler Spring 1992 Ready-to-Wear Fashion Show.

Some speculate that the real issue for Donald was not Ivana's looks - she always looked terrific, then and now - but her ambition. She was a smart woman, a savvy businesswoman, an increasingly successful businesswoman. Perhaps clashing egos got in the way of things more than a pretty new face.

Ivana Trump
Ivana Trump in Bob Mackie, 1992 Vanity Fair. And look who else is mentioned on the cover.

The bottom came in 1990, when Donald actually compared Ivana to Leona Helmsley, another titan of New York City real estate. Since the Donald had previously said the following about Leona, there is little doubt about what that meant:
She is a vicious, horrible woman who systematically destroyed the Helmsley name. If Harry had one fault, it was giving her too much leeway.
That quote was in Playboy, incidentally, and he was on the cover. That cover features prominently on his wall to this day when he makes promotional shots.

Ivana Trump Ivanka Trump
Ivana Trump with Ivanka at the Ralph Lauren show in April 1995.

So, things got nasty during the divorce. Ivana was trying to break the pre-nup, and Donald was trying to clear the decks in a hurry for Marla. Ivana gave a deposition in which she said that The Donald had "raped" her. Now, rape is rape, and Ivana did say rape. However, once the divorce was finalized, Ivana has been walking that claim back like Michael Jackson moonwalking across the stage. Donald's lawyers did not help matters by making a variety of stupid public statements about the use of that word and what is permissible within marriages. While the controversy remains, Ivana appears to be clear now that she mean rape in the "figurative" sense, not the "literal" sense. As in, "The IRS raped me," that sort of thing. However, Donald Trump's political enemies don't like that particular interpretation and, ahem, don't accept it.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump

Long story short, the couple reached a divorce settlement in 1992 (terms are sealed). Both Ivana and Donald married again soon after, Ivana to Riccardo Mazzucchelli and Donald to Marla. Then, both Ivana and Donald divorced and married again, Donald to Melania, and Ivana to Rossano Rubicondi. The status of Ivana's latest marriage at times has been a bit unclear, but apparently they are still together as of late 2016. Incidentally... Ivana has been married more times than The Donald. That's one of those stubborn-facts things that people looking to assign absolute blame to one party or the other tend to overlook.

Ivana Trump Donald Trump Ivanka Trump
Ivana, Ivanka, Donald Trump and Betsey Johnson in 1997. Ivanka is looking a bit solemn amidst the merriment.

Ivana Trump remains a fixture in Donald Trump's life. She is the mother of his three oldest children, and Donald still talks to her. In fact, she claims to have advised him during his Presidential campaign. Ivana has become a reality television star in her own right - like The Donald, or shall we say in the same fashion as The Donald, because nobody is "like" Donald Trump - and an author (both fiction and self-help). She appeared in the film "The First Wives Club" and dispensed the following shrewd piece of advice:
Ladies you've have to be strong and independent. And remember: don't get mad, get everything.
There is no question whatsoever that Ivana Trump - she still uses the last name two marriages later - is a character and always will be. Incidentally... I know, lots of incidentallys in this one, but Donald Trump lives an incidentally kind of life - Ivana Trump admitted after the 2016 election that she had voted for Donald Trump for President. She's a keeper.

Ivana Trump
Ivana has grown older gracefully. Source:Supplied.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Andy Griffith, Homespun Legend

Sheriff Andy Taylor At Your Service!

Andy Griffith
Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor.
Andy Griffith is one of those guys that you just can't quite figure out. He wasn't the funniest guy on earth, though he was quite funny; he wasn't the most handsome man on earth, though he was quite handsome; he wasn't the best singer, though he sang quite well. However, with his blend of talents, Andy Griffith created a bond with his fans that was tighter than just about any other star in Hollywood. How did he do this? He just did... and that is the magic of Andy Griffith.

Let's take a look at the Sheriff, Andy Griffith, and see what we can learn.

Andy Griffith
Andy Griffith in high school, around 1940.
Andy Samuel Griffith was born on 1 June 1926 in Mount Airy, North Carolina. His father was a carpenter, and they lived in the working-class section of town.

Andy Griffith

Andy loved music, and he also was a religious Baptist. His parish minister, Ed Mickey, nurtured both interests. Upon graduation from high school, Griffith attended UNC-Chapel Hill, majoring in music. He taught drama and music at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, North Carolina for a few years. He began giving comic monologues, such as one about a football game that he gave "at an insurance convention" in 1953. It was a surprise hit, reaching #9 on the charts in 1954.

Andy Griffith
Andy Griffith in "No Time for Sergeants."
The hit recording got Andy noticed, and he was cast in Ira Levin's "No Time for Sergeants" on television's "The United States Steel Hour." The public liked the show, and, reversing the normal pattern, it was adapted to become a Broadway Play in 1955. Then, the play was turned into a 1958 film. Also starring in the film version was an actor playing a "nervous guy" role, Don Knotts.

Andy Griffith No Time for Sergeants Don Knotts
Andy Griffith and Don Knotts early in their careers on Broadway.
Andy followed his Broadway role with another, "Destry Rides Again." It was another hit. Griffith was nominated for two Tony Awards for his Broadway work but won neither.

Andy Griffith Fritz Hollings Destry Rides Again
With Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, then Governor of South Carolina, following a performance of "Destry Rides Again" at the Imperial Theater on Broadway, 1959 (AP Photo).
In between his other projects, Andy starred in Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd" (1957). A meditation on the corrupting power of stardom, it opens with Andy's character, Lonesome Rhodes, in prison, charming a lady reporter with his singing and guitar strumming. Playing against type as a raging egomaniac, Griffith turns in what many consider to be his best performance. Any Andy Griffith fan who hasn't seen it should find a copy.

Andy Griffith Lonesome Rhodes
Andy Griffith as Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes.
Wishing to move beyond Broadway, Andy took a guest appearance on "Make Room For Daddy." He played a caricature of a small-town hick who actually runs just about everything of importance. The episode was well-received, and producer Sheldon Leonard offered Griffith the chance to star in a spin-off. Andy had dreams of a film career but agreed to do it if the show featured his name and he owned 50% of it. Probably to his shock, everyone agreed and the show got on the schedule.

Andy Griffith
1958, at the Azalea Festival in Wilmington, NC (Photo by Bones Strickland).
The premise for the new series was pretty simple. Andy would play a small-town sheriff named Andy Taylor. As in the "Make Room For Daddy" episode, he would be a widower with a young boy, played again by Ron Howard.

Andy Griffith Ron Howard

The original idea for the show was for Andy to be the "wise guy" character while everyone else played it straight. Others would do small-town things, and he would make wry asides and pull faces. As part of the ensemble cast, the show had Don Knotts, Andy's old Broadway colleague, as his nervous deputy.

Andy Griffith The Andy Griffith Show

Knotts appeared without a contract - it was a one-shot deal. If he caught on, he might stick around, but otherwise, there were no guarantees. Griffith realized instantly that Knotts was better in the comic role than he could be, so he signed Knotts to a one-year contract (later extended to five years).

Andy Griffith Don Knotts

"The Andy Griffith Show" was a huge hit from the very first episode. It was one of only three shows to end while still No. 1 in the ratings (the others were "Seinfeld" and "I Love Lucy"). Don Knotts created an iconic character which ultimately won him five Emmy Awards. Griffith never even got nominated for an Emmy.

Andy Griffith Elinor Donahue

One of the show's themes was whether Andy's character would find another wife. Elinor Donahue, who had starred throughout the '50s on "Father Knows Best," was the first candidate. While a stunning beauty, Elinor did not get along with Andy and left after only one season.

Andy Griffith Aneta Corsaut

The next candidate was Aneta Corsaut, who played Helen Crump. The Crump character wasn't expected to last, hence they gave her a decidedly uncool name. However, the audience liked her character, and she became a semi-regular for the remainder of the show.

Andy Griffith Aneta Corsaut
In the show's final episode (the first of the spin-off), Helen marries Andy.
The show created a number of other iconic characters. Howard McNear played Floyd the Barber, the grounded center of the town's male social circle. Griffith helped write virtually all the episodes, but he never took credit for that.

Andy Griffith Howard McNear

Frances Bavier played Aunt Bee Taylor, Andy Taylor's mother. She played the role for ten years, but never really liked the role. Bavier was a top television actress during the 1950s who also had a reputation not going that extra mile to get along with her fellow cast-mates. Bavier played the Aunt Bee role perfectly, however.

Andy Griffith Ron Howard Frances Bavier Don Knotts

Griffith often grumbled that he would only continue the show for five years. Don Knotts scored a major film success in 1964 with "The Incredible Mr. Limpet" and decided to parlay that into a film career now that the five years were up. When Griffith decided to continue the show for a few more years, Knotts left anyway. He did, however, come back a bunch of times to reprise his role, though now as a state trooper.

Andy Griffith Don Knotts Ron Howard

Andy finally decided to end the series in 1968. The last episode also was the first episode of the spinoff, "Mayberry R.F.D." which essentially replaced him with Ken Berry. That show lasted a few seasons, and finally got axed when the network decided to do shows set in more sophisticated settings.

Andy Griffith

Griffith was not done with the role of Andy Taylor, however. In fact, he appeared as that character in six different series (seven if you count a ghostly appearance on "Saturday Night Live."

Andy Griffith Don Knotts Jim Nabors

The '70s saw Griffith try a couple of series that did not succeed. He also turned in some memorable performances in "Movies of the Week" that drew great ratings, such as "Savages" and "Pray for the Wildcats." It was a fairly lean period for him.

Andy Griffith

Among the series that he tried were "Salvage 1," "The Yeagers," "The New Andy Griffith Show," "Headmaster," and "Adams of Eagle Lake." Nothing really caught on.

Andy Griffith

Reunion movies became popular in the '80s. Andy got much of the old cast back together for "Return to Mayberry" in 1986. Don Knotts looked exactly like his original character - it was uncanny. The one-shot deal was a success (and led to other reunion shows in 1993 and 2003).

Andy Griffith Ron Howard

The reunion film may have contributed to Griffith getting one last shot at a new series of his own. And it was an opportunity that Andy Griffith took full advantage of in a typical Andy Griffith way.

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Andy with Howard McNear as Floyd the Barber.
The new series was called "Matlock" and began in 1986. It was the first series in which Griffith appeared as a regular since the '70s. "Matlock" was a monster hit. Who knew? Television is a funny business.

Andy Griffith Don Knotts

Andy played a sharp country lawyer. Wise elders were "in" as leads at the time in series like "Murder, She Wrote."

Andy Griffith Ken Berry
Andy Griffith with Ken Berry, who was the lead in the sequel to "The Andy Griffith Show."
Once again, Griffith's "Matlock" series reunited him with Don Knotts, who played his nosy neighbor in a recurring role.

Andy Griffith Don Knotts
Andy and friend on the set of their 1986 reunion movie (AP Photo).
Griffith's series also had a relationship with another successful series, "Diagnosis Murder." That series began during "Matlock's" lengthy run, being a spin-off from "Matlock's" first episode. "Diagnosis Murder" actually ran almost as long as "Matlock" did, eight seasons versus nine. The star of "Diagnosis Murder" and Andy Griffith were life-long friends, and aside from this, they also had another happy coincidence: both had reached their peak stardom in Danny Thomas-produced series that began within a year of each other in the early 1960s. The association between the two series continued, and Andy Griffith's last role was as Ben Matlock in a two-part episode of "Diagnosis: Murder."

Andy Griffith Don Knotts

After "Matlock," Griffith did occasional guest-starring roles and small film roles, but he was set for life due to owning such a big chunk of his first series. At this point, he could pretty much do whatever he wanted.

Andy Griffith

As he put it in 1996, after "Matlock" had ended:
I'll be 70 on June 1. I don't want to make a living - I mean, I do. I really don't have to. But I want to work for my mind and my spirit. I know how to do a couple of things, and I can sing a little, and I can act, and I can write a little, so I wanna try that.
That's a great attitude!

Andy Griffith

One of Griffith's final appearances was in the Brad Paisley song "Waitin' on a Woman." He gives some homespun advice about women and appeared in the accompanying video.

Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, November 2005.

Andy Griffith Hollywood Walk of Fame

I was baptized alongside my mother when I was 8 years old. Since then I have tried to walk a Christian life. And now that I'm getting older I realize that I'm walking even closer with my God.
Andy Griffith Mayberry Statue
This Mayberry Statue is in Mount Airy, North Carolina. There also is an identical statue in Raleigh because, hey, he's Andy Griffith and one just isn't enough.
You know when you're young you think you will always be. As you become more fragile, you reflect and you realize how much comfort can come from the past. Hymns can carry you into the future.

Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith was married three times and had a son, Sam Griffith, and daughter, Dixie Nann. He passed away on 3 July 2012 at his long-time coastal home in Manteo, Roanoke Island, Dare County, North Carolina, where he is buried.