TC I ADMIT THAT when it all began, I was on Ivana Trump's side. It seemed that she was being treated shabbily by The Donald, as she called her husband.
It wasn't merely that he had been unfaithful. Sad to say, such things can happen when a man enters his 40s. This is known as a midlife crisis. And the crisis can be even more acute for a handsome, ruthless billionaire with an ego the size of a sperm whale, and who numbers among his acquaintances many lusty models who have a strange fondness for handsome, ruthless billionaires. Some pretty young things are easily impressed.
But he wasn't a gentleman. Had he been a gentleman, he could still have carried on like a cad, but discreetly. A suave Frenchman, for example, would have stashed his perky tart in a flat on the other side of town and spent afternoons there calming his midlife crisis. But he would return home promptly for dinner and praise his faithful wife for sauteing the snails properly. You have to admire the French; they know how to mess around.
Instead, Trump flaunted his misconduct. He stashed his young sweetie in an apartment in his very own building. And he even had her tag along on a ski trip, which led to harsh words and an angry scene between Ivana and the sweetie in the ski lodge. As Slats Grobnik put it: "It would be like me playing around, then having the wife and bimbo both show up at my bowling league. This guy ain't got no class."
And then the final act of degradation: Trump actually discussed these personal matters with New York gossip columnists, the journalistic transom-peekers who make their livings tattling about who is nibbling whose earlobe in which chic restaurant; who was seen with which trollop on his arm at a charity ball; and which unhappy couple is believed to be going to "Splittsville." (In the world of gossip columning, Splittsville is another way of saying that she told the swine to pack up and move to a hotel and she is going to hire a lawyer and that he was always lousy in bed anyway.)
For any normal person, it would be bad enough just being mentioned in such columns. But it's a measure of Trump's lack of character that he actually volunteered information to people whose idea of a good time is sifting through someone's laundry hamper.
And I finally decided that he was totally loathsome when, in addition to his other flaws, he turned out to be a cheapo. As you may recall, he whipped out an old prenuptial agreement and said that all he had to give Ivana was $25 million and a mansion or two.
That seemed like a fortune to some people. I recall asking my wife if she would accept such a settlement, and she said: "Let me think about it for a minute or less. Yes, I suppose so. But I would also demand custody of the cat."
But at the time, Trump was said to be one of America's richest men, a billionaire. (For math flunkouts, a billion is one thousand million.) And for a billionaire, his marital buyout amounted to little more than a pittance. "Just walking around money," as Slats put it.
So when Ivana demanded half of everything Trump had, I wrote a column expressing my support, which made her day, I'm sure.
Her demand seemed fair to me. She had been a good wife: faithful, supportive, loving, and she never was seen in public in curlers and floppy slippers. And it was rumored that to keep herself youthful and attractive, she had undergone those surgical tucks and nips. That's risky business. If you let the doc stretch your facial skin too often, it can snap and roll up like a window shade, and your nose and lips end up somewhere around the back of your neck.
But now everything has changed and I'm officially withdrawing my sympathy from Ivana. That's because Trump's empire collapsed and he is no longer a billionaire. Or even a millionaire. In fact, he's so deep in hock that under normal circumstances he could be considered a bum. But he owes all those hundreds of millions to banks, and they can't let him become a bum because they have so much invested in him. (That's why I don't understand bankers. They'll repossess your car, but they give a deadbeat like Trump a few million a year in spending money. Chicago's mob loan sharks have the right idea: You sleep with the fishes.)
So now he's up to his sneer in a mountain of debt. He's become such a pathetic wretch that when he calls the gossip columnists, they actually put him on hold.
Yet, he talked the bankers into advancing him $10 million to pay off Ivana. And he arranged for her to get one of the mansions.
Under the circumstances, $10 million and a mansion is not a bad deal. There are many women who would accept that even if their husbands had not played around with anything prettier than a pinball machine.
But Ivana brushed it off. She didn't even show up at the courtroom, where Trump stood helplessly waving the $10 million check like a guy trying to hail a cab.
Is that fair? She once demanded half of everything. Now everything is even less than nothing. Yet, she turns down 10 biggies and a good place to flop.
I hate to say this, but I think she's being vindictive. Women can be like that. Men, too, but they're not as well known for it.
Slats is probably right when he says: "I figure she won't be happy until he has gone all the way down, to the final resting place for low-down unfaithful husbands."
She wants to see him in hell?
"No. Living in a room at the YMCA. Let him try to sneak a bimbo in there."