Ivana's New Trump Card : The Donald's History, but His Ex Is Conquering Other Worlds, Including Price Club

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It is, at long last, apres le deluge for Ivana Trump, and the new, improved Ivana is coming up for air. Take a tour of her latest habitat.

To her right trail boxes and boxes of TVs, hydraulic garage jacks, Lemon Pledge and plastic forks. Amid the plenty, hundreds of middle-aged women and a smattering of their swains wait patiently in a line that snakes all the way to meats. They are there for their very own swish of Ivana's hand--a priceless autograph--and some will wait more than an hour and a half for the pleasure.

"I don't care how long it's going to take," says Judy Corbin, 42, an unemployed operations manager. "She's like us. She just wanted to be married and to be happy and a success."

The setting is the Fountain Valley Price Club, the sort of cavernous shopping hangar favored by Ivana's burgeoning constituency. In little more than two hours, more than 1,000 copies of "For Love Alone"--Ivana's much-ballyhooed if ghosted roman a clef-- will mince out the store. Most will be purchased by prosaically born women who, against all odds, identify with this prime symbol of '80s excess.

"She's a fantastic, brilliant, lovely lady," coos Judi Clark, 47, who works in advertising, as she slowly wheels four Ivana books toward the head of the line. "She's got a lot of things that most women want. Not the divorce, but as far as the wealthy part. . . ."

They are rooting for her. They are reading about her. More to the point, they are putting down bucks for the dream of being like her.

"She appeals to the sort of people who believe in rags to riches," New York Daily News gossip columnist Richard Johnson says later in an interview. "She strikes a chord with some who think if they work hard enough and get some lucky breaks and behave with moral rectitude--this is the idea I get from her book--by being innocent and naive, in the end, you'll get all the toys and all the glitz and glamour and jewels."

As The Donald's bumptious public image sinks slowly into the sunset, the 43-year-old Ivana is rising relatively discreetly from the ashes of her messy marriage. Despite the fact that she took the traditional route to fame and fortune--men make it, women marry it--Ivana-watchers say she has done more than survive her massively publicized divorce: She has transcended it. To some, Ivana has become a heroine, not just in her glossy fiction, but in real life.

And now she's selling the fine art of survival, which goes for $20 a pop for lectures and $22 for books. She's gone on the lecture circuit, instructing women on self-reliance in a speech she calls "Women Who Dare." She's helped birth a fictitious heroine, Katrinka Kovac, who overcomes her own marital woes to go on to Have It All--and Then Some.

Call Ivana a feminist--a "Dynasty" feminist.

"Ivana sort of represents in an absurdly glamorized way a woman who got a dirty deal from a man who has been beating her up pretty good ever since," says columnist Liz Smith. "But this isn't a woman who laid down with the $10 million and quit. She's got a lot of guts. She's a feminist heroine without having meant to be one."

"She was the underdog," says New York Observer Editor Graydon Carter, "and that brings out the underdog rooting section of America pretty fast."

Of course, Ivana being Ivana, she's also merchandising her plight with new lines of Ivana clothes, Ivana perfume, Ivana jewelry and Ivana body lotions, in addition to the Ivana romance novels that reportedly netted her $1 million for a two-book deal. Negotiations are under way to turn "For Love Alone" into a TV miniseries, and she's mulling the possibility of her own talk show--"Ivana!" And that doesn't count the offers she's rebuffed--Ivana pantyhose, even Ivana cars.

Companies licensing her name are betting that Ivana the commodity has more than a few takers, people like Sue Harkey, a 45-year-old salesperson, who has waited for an hour and 40 minutes without complaint for La Trumpova's autograph. Actually, Harkey is angling for six of them: She's snapping up that many copies of "For Love Alone."

"I think she came out more popular than The Donald with the public," Harkey muses. "She sells this many books, he'll be coming to her for a loan."

Liz Smith remembers interviewing Ivana several years ago in Atlantic City for a piece she called "The Women Beside the Men." Ivana wanted the title to be "The Women Behind the Men."

"She said, 'Oh no, it would be bad for me if Donald thought I was comparing myself to him,' " Smith recalls. "She had no feminist sensibility then. She got it the hard way. He persecuted her so much she became a feminist."

Perhaps so, but Ivana's enduring virtuoso attention to appearance probably would have made the founding feminists cringe. Today, the legendary hair is perfect. It's as pouffy and sleekly vertical as it was on the cover of Vogue almost two years ago. The nails are the color of burnt cinnamon, and her left hand bears a 10-carat diamond chunk from her boyfriend of the past year, Italian businessman Riccardo Mazzucchelli (she says she's not ready for marriage). The black-and-white check dress is a Valentino. She is posing in a suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel, pondering her own transformation into fabulous role model, although she stops short of calling herself a feminist.

"I don't know what I am," she says in a husky accent. "What I know is that my upbringing was always the man was the head of the family. It's a European tradition. We always look up to the man. But this is old times. Now what I believe is that I'm definitely equal. I'm not going to let mandomineer me, and if any man is around like that, I don't stay around. Who needs it?"

Like Ivana, the heroine of "For Love Alone" is a Czechoslovakian skier, an up-from-the-bootstraps kind of gal. Katrinka marries her American tycoon, Adam Graham, manages the Praha Hotel (much like Ivana managed the Plaza) and triumphs over marital betrayal to find a better man and other goodies.

Despite the clear parallels, Ivana, who is facing possible legal action from her ex, insists that the book is not about her marriage. "There is no way he can prove that he's Adam because he's not Adam and I make sure that he's not Adam," she says. "And even I think I have constitutional rights of speech in America. I did not abuse them."

Nonetheless, Donald won a legal round 10 days ago when a New York appeals court restored a gag order that a judge had deleted from their 1990 divorce decree. The ruling bars Ivana from discussing their 13-year marriage, and the court noted that a 1987 post-nuptial agreement prohibited her from publishing anything "whether fictionalized or not, concerning her marriage . . . " without Donald's written permission.

His lawyer, Jay Goldberg, has said Trump may sue to retrieve the $10-million settlement Trump paid Ivana in part for her silence. (Ivana also won custody of the Trumps' three children--Donald Jr., 13, Ivanka, 10, and Eric, 8, and she'll net $4 million more when she moves out of their 50-room triplex in New York's Trump Tower.)

Lisa Calandra, Ivana's spokeswoman, says the ruling won't affect the book tour.

Ivana insists that the book is fiction, and she says she crafted it during long hours with Camille Marchetta, a Los Angeles-based writer whose credits include "Dynasty" and "Dallas." Marchetta's name appears nowhere on the cover, although Ivana thanks her, after the dedication, "for helping me to tell Katrinka's story."

Ivana's refusal to call Marchetta her ghostwriter has touched off another brush fire in the press. Although Marchetta was the one who actually put words to paper, Ivana insists that Marchetta is more accurately termed a "collaborator." She says they spent long hours in New York and Europe discussing character development, Czechoslovakia and the high life before Marchetta would write. For months, she says, the drafts went back and forth between the two.

"It's a big difference between ghostwriter and collaborator," Ivana says. "Ghostwriter is a person which you meet for 20 minutes and then the book is done and they put a name on it and that's the end of it."

Marchetta declined to discuss the book.

For all the hoopla, the latest turn in l'affaire du Trump is, in a sense, business as usual. What's usual is all the hoopla.

"The worst thing I could say about Ivana is she was infected by Donald with this craving-for-publicity virus," says Smith. "I think both of them suffer when they don't see themselves in print."

And while Ivana says publicity is valuable for promoting Ivana Inc., the seller had better beware.

Says Graydon Carter: "It's very sad. I assume that there was that kind of hubbub around Zsa Zsa Gabor when she was younger. And Ivana Trump may wind up being on Merv Griffin's arm at the end of all of this."

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