For the first time in 15 years, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), a nonprofit that makes recommendations and establishes standards around the world, has updated its definition of the word “museum.” Following a years-long debate over how ideological the definition should be, the final text includes new language about museums being ethical, diverse, accessible, inclusive and sustainable.
Approved by 92 percent of participants at ICOM’s general conference in Prague on Wednesday, the new definition describes a museum as “a not-for-profit, permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, interprets and exhibits tangible and intangible heritage.” The noteworthy changes come in the final two sentences, which read: “Open to the public, accessible and inclusive, museums foster diversity and sustainability. They operate and communicate ethically, professionally and with the participation of communities, offering varied experiences for education, enjoyment, reflection and knowledge sharing.”
In a statement, ICOM President Alberto Garlandini acknowledged that the definition was “not perfect,” but still called it “a great step forward.” The previous definition, which had been in place since 2007, was just one sentence long. Before 2007, the previous definition had not changed in 30 years.
The word “museum,” it’s worth noting, comes from the Greek for “seat of the Muses,” and refers to mythological figures associated with creative inspiration.
More aspirational than prescriptive, the updated language comes at a fraught time for museums, which are going through a sweeping cultural reckoning that has touched nearly every level of their operations, including decisions about funding and what is shown in their galleries. The new definition reflects this reckoning, but some critics say it doesn’t go far enough to acknowledge museums’ complicated histories of centering White, male and Western perspectives.
In recent years, the museum world has been plagued by accusations of “toxic philanthropy” for receiving money from such controversial patrons as the Sackler and Koch families. The Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 prompted renewed scrutiny of museums for their lack of diversity, both in museum staffs and in the objects in their collections. More recently, controversies about stolen artifacts have led some museums to return pillaged artifacts — such as the Smithsonian’s decision to return Benin Kingdom Court-style artworks to their homeland in Nigeria. Still, other works with complicated histories remain in some museum collections.
With these debates continuing to play out, the definition raises questions about how institutions will be held accountable. Similar to the United Nations, but for museums,ICOM can make recommendations, yet it lacks the authority to enforce compliance. And in the United States, where many museums are privately owned, its guidelines do not carry much weight.
In countries with mostly state-run museums, however, the definition can potentially have significant sway with governments that decide which museums and projects are worthy of funding. “That was part of the push to make sure that they got it right,” said Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums. “It would have real implications on many museums if it inadvertently said the wrong thing about what museums are or pointed to a past of what museums were.”
Lott, who attended the conference in Prague, praised the ICOM’s wording. “It is a timely reflection of the reality that the roles of museums are varied and many are changing,” she said. “I also find just a lot of hope in the fact that dozens of nations representing thousands of museums came together and found a common definition.”
Lott points to the Oakland Museum of California for its “introspective work on itself and the community,” and the Phillips Collectionin D.C., which hired one of the first diversity officers in the museum industry, as examples of museums that embody the principles outlined in the definition.
Others have noted that the definition — which makes strides in opening up a tradition-bound field to self-appraisal — can shapeculture.
“I appreciate the challenge they had in developing the new statement — a reflection of the breadth of institutions represented by ICOM,” Feldman said in a statement shared with The Washington Post. “It is a complicated time for museums, as audiences and communities expect greater relevance, accessibility and transparency from them. The definition is also aspirational, which gives me great hope for the field.”
The revised wording has been a long time coming. In 2019, ICOM proposed an even lengthier definition that referred to museums as “democratizing, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical dialogue about the pasts and the futures,” tasking museums to “safeguard diverse memories” and “contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary wellbeing.” It was dismissed as a bloated manifesto that used trendy rhetoric and did not do enough to differentiate museums from other cultural institutions.
ICOM, a membership-based organization headquartered in Paris, has about 40,000 members from 141 countries. Formed in the 1940s, ICOM describes itself as the only global organization in the museum field. It publishes research, hosts training sessions, issues codes of ethics and maintains a “Red Lists” database that flags cultural objects at risk of theft and trafficking, so police and customs officials can identify them.
When my wife and I first planned our trip upstate, a conversation between Salman Rushdie and Henry Reese at the Chautauqua Institution stood out to us as a programmatic highlight we did not want to miss. The two men would be discussing how America can support and protect political writers and creative expression. Considering Rushdie’s harrowing experience of being singled out as a target of a fatwa by Iran after the publication of “The Satanic Verses” over 30 years ago, we were eager to hear his thoughts about how best to ensure free speech today.
Our experience tragically morphed into something unexpected and surreal shortly after Rushdie and the moderator took their seats to great applause. A man jumped on the stage and began pummeling Rushdie. From where I sat 75 feet away, I could not see that the assailant was wielding a knife, only his arm going up and down repeatedly, thereby silencing the main speaker and all those in attendance.
“This never happens at the Institution,” people said aloud as much to themselves as those around them, as we collectively tried to make sense of what transpired.
Later that day we walked over to the amphitheater, where a pile of flowers, placards of hope and a candle adorned the entrance that had been closed since the attack. Watching the maintenance team scrub blood off the stage, I gasped at the realization that this violent attack had transformed this platform for inspiration and wisdom into a crime scene.
I attended this event not just for my own edification but also because it connects to my work at Civic Spirit, an organization that promotes and provides training in civic education to faith-based schools — Jewish, Catholic, Christian, and Islamic — with 4.5 million students nationwide. In our three-pronged approach, we cultivate civic belonging, democratic fluency and civic skills at a time when our country needs bridge building, understanding and trust more than ever.
While scrubbing away the blood and forming a prayer circle allowed Chautauqua Institution to reopen its cherished communal space, the most effective way to reclaim civility, community and shared responsibility in America is through education. More than planting seeds that will blossom in the future, civic education prepares young adults to become knowledgeable participants and stakeholders in this great democratic republic.
With rising distrust in government and a growing sense of helplessness in young people, civic education constitutes a constructive path forward. Unlike their public counterparts, day schools are not required to include civic education. At this polarized moment, it is vital that we not only ensure that our day schools focus on civics but also that teachers and administrators are supported in this endeavor at their parent’s kitchen table and spiritual leaders’ pulpits.
On Aug. 12, over 2,000 people at Chautauqua expected to learn how our society can encourage and support open dialogue and foster understanding across divides. Sadly what we witnessed was a brutal violation of the fundamental values of the Institution and America itself.
On a trip to Chautauqua over a hundred years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt asserted that Chautauqua Institution and its educational approach to dialogue and exploration represent “America at its best.” The attack on Salman Rushdie at Chautauqua reminds us of the great and worthy efforts incumbent on each generation to actualize this aspiration again and again.
RETAIL GANGSTER: The Insane, Real-Life Story of Crazy Eddie By Gary Weiss 336 pp. Hachette Books. $29.
The most famous TV ad in the Orwellian year of 1984, carefully themed to the novel named for this year, was for the Apple Macintosh desktop computer. The most infamous were those for Crazy Eddie, a chain of discount electronics stores in the New York metropolitan area.
Gesticulating wildly in a variety of costumes or just a gray turtleneck and a dark blazer, the actor Jerry Carroll, often mistaken for the mysterious Eddie, would rattle off a sales pitch ending with the vibrating, bug-eyed assurance: “His prices are INSANE!”
People hated those commercials, the journalist Gary Weiss reminds us in “Retail Gangster,” a compact and appealing account of Crazy Eddie’s artificially inflated rise and slow-mo collapse. But they worked — the company went public, with the inauspicious stock symbol CRZY — and also worked their way into punch lines of popular culture.
Daryl Hannah’s mermaid character watched a Crazy Eddie ad while learning English in “Splash.” Dan Aykroyd did a Crazy Ernie spoof on “Saturday Night Live.” And the spots themselves spoofed everything from “Saturday Night Fever” to “Casablanca” and Santa Claus, barraging the city that never sleeps in the cheap wee hours of overnight programming, becoming as much a component of its identity then as graffiti and Gray’s Papaya.
Subcutaneously, “Retail Gangster” is a tender requiem for a time, pre-streaming, when people tended to be tuned into the same things: movies in theaters, programs on television, Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40.” Also for a grittier, perhaps more colorful New York, which had hoisted itself out of the financial and existential abyss of the mid-1970s with pinstripes (Yankee, stockbroker), the punchy “I heart” iconography designed by Milton Glaser and — apparently — rock ’n’ roll-mad baby boomers buying stereo equipment.
But the meat of this limber book is its investigation into the deep family drama and funny money behind Crazy Eddie, which aggressively undercut competitors like Circuit City and The Wiz with some astonishingly shady business practices. Taking on this complicated if at first small potatoes-seeming story, Weiss is like that valorous spouse who decides to finally paw through the big box of tangled cords and wires in the basement and painstakingly straighten them out.
The real Eddie, last name Antar, was born in 1947 to Sam M. Antar, a window trimmer whose finances revolved around suitcases of cash known as “nehkdi,” and his second wife, Rosie Tawil, the daughter of a dry-goods salesman. They were part of a Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, nicknamed S-Y, that generally looked down on their Eastern European Jewish peers, whom they referred to as J-Dubs. Eddie was short but muscled and good-looking, nicknamed Kelso, after the racehorse. He dropped out of high school (where he met his first wife, Debbie Rosen, a J-Dub) and apprenticed for a young uncle at clip joints near 42nd Street in Manhattan before joining his father and cousin Ronnie in a TV and appliance enterprise on Kings Highway. And the rest is huckstory.
From the beginning of his career, Weiss shows with elegant incredulity, Antar skimmed, scammed, stole and pulled switcheroos: instructing employees to clean off display models or returned goods, for example, and rebox them as brand-new. Sales tax was routinely left unpaid. Warranty claims were fabricated. Improbable international schemes played out in Panama and St. Lucia. Even the Crazy Eddie logo for then-copious print advertisements, of a spike-haired guy in a bow tie, was lifted from the cartoonist Robert Crumb (though his long nose also suggests Pinocchio). When auditors materialized, female underlings were instructed to cozy up to them. “They did not want to believe we were crooks,” says another Antar cousin, Sammy, who would come to testify extensively against the company and who is Weiss’s No. 1 source.
Through copious interviews and court documents, Antar emerges not just as a crook and office bully but as a serial cheater and wife beater who attempted to give Debbie, mother of his five daughters (one of whom died of cancer at 18) “a big hot slice of bupkis” when they divorced; he remarried a woman also named Debbie, who bore him a son. As the court marshals closed in, his most valuable inventory became not air-conditioners and VCRs but security listening devices and paper shredders. After fleeing to Israel by exploiting that country’s Law of Return and falsifying his family’s passports, he did time there in the same jail where Adolf Eichmann was executed. Once he was extradited, Antar served almost seven years in U.S. federal prison and went on to attempt various comebacks, including — how anticlimactic this sounds!— a website, before dying at 68 in 2016.
An author of previous books on Wall Street, the Mafia and Ayn Rand, Weiss is sure-footed here, stepping around fading file boxes of legal material, with only occasional flights into infelicitous zoological metaphor. On one page we’re reading that “even after a feeding, the fraud rattlesnake did not feel sated. It only grew hungrier”; on another, that certain employees were “as innocent as baby lambs”; and on still another that “Crazy Eddie was like a wounded blue jay, squawking loudly in the grass while the red-tailed hawks circled overhead.” Someone alert the National Park Service!
The big cloud hanging over “Retail Gangster” is, of course, the internet. Apple’s commercial of marching automatons turned out to be the prescient and prevailing one. Carroll, the face and tireless voice of Crazy Eddie’s TV ads, died in 2020, unheralded. The stuff Crazy Eddie was selling had gone obsolete years before that, and so too — with all the bugs — its warm, funny, hustling touch.
Alexandra Jacobs is a book critic and the author of “Still Here: The Madcap, Nervy, Singular Life of Elaine Stritch.” @AlexandraJacobs
I don’t know why most of us often forget just how powerful a massage can be. Instead of grabbing for the bottle when we find ourselves under terrible stress, we should get the appropriate massage that can provide the best type of relaxation for our body and mind. I recently spoke to Marcelo Holzinger, the owner of FitLife Bodywork & Massage in Miami because I wanted to explore this topic more.
Why do people workout all day and then default to drugs and alcohol when they are facing challenging times?
Marcelo said, “It’s a quick fix but most folks don’t realize the harm they are doing to their bodies. Massage therapy is far more rewarding because it’s an important part of overall health and wellness. It can help you feel more in touch with yourself and more connected with the present.”
I was fascinated by his answer. I’m not sure why I don’t have a massage on a regular basis rather than resorting to eating candy and ice cream when I’m frustrated or bored. I’ve had massages before and loved them. They made me feel like I had a new positive outlook on life. I may not have indulged myself in a series of massages because I thought they were too expensive. It suddenly occurred to me, after talking to Marcelo, that if I ever added up all of the money I spent on junk food, and on new clothes every time I gained weight, getting massages would have been much cheaper.
Marcelo has one of the most successful massage practices in Miami because he understands the art of the touch. He has been a well-known and respected contemporary visual artist for years. His art is exhibited and collected around the world.
Marcelo believes there is a definite connection between both his passions. He has a fascination for physiology, anatomy, and how amazing – and almost miraculously perfect – the human body is.
When you hear words like this from an artist, you absolutely want to feel Marcelo’s touch. Marcelo has a degree from Miami-Dade College, Medical Campus and is a Florida State Licensed Massage Therapist.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of massage therapy is the fact that it can be used as an alternative approach to pain relief. It has a beneficial part of integrative treatments for medical conditions. Massage therapy can help patients recover from surgeries and joint replacements. It can help relieve anxiety and depression and boosting overall mental health. The health benefits of massage therapy are heightened even more for athletes of all skill levels – it helps condition the muscles, enhance performance, aid recovery and prevent injury.”
Marcelo approaches Massage Therapy as both a science and an art. Massage therapy involves the manipulation of muscles and there is a creative, intuitive, and artistic component to this process. In this dimension he is creating a healing environment in which he provides the most caring, effective, and therapeutic treatment to each client.
The therapist’s touch causes an immediate reaction in your brain. As soon as your skin’s nerve cells feel pressure, they signal the brain to release feel-good chemicals which boost your mood, give you a natural high and sense of well-being. Massage increases the secretion of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, and reduces the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which can reduce anxiety, fatigue, stress, and physical and mental strain.
25 BENEFITS OF MASSAGE (according to the American Massage Therapy Association).
Relieve stress • Relieve postoperative pain • Reduce anxiety • Manage low-back pain • Help fibromyalgia pain • Reduce muscle tension • Enhance exercise performance • Relieve tension headaches • Sleep better • Ease symptoms of depression • Improve cardiovascular health • Reduce pain of osteoarthritis • Decrease stress in cancer patients • Improve balance in older adults • Decrease rheumatoid arthritis pain • Temper effects of dementia • Promote relaxation • Lower blood pressure • Decrease symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome • Help chronic neck pain • Lower joint replacement pain • Increase range of motion • Decrease migraine frequency • Improve quality of life in hospice care • Reduce chemotherapy-related nausea.
About Marcelo’s Art
In the mid 1990’s Marcelo left his beloved Argentina and moved to New York. He worked as a Graphic Designer and continued to pursue his passion for art and design. After several great years in New York, Marcelo moved to Miami Beach, where he worked as a Designer and Creative consultant. Next, his professional journey led him to Houston, where he launched his career as a professional artist.
Attracted by Miami’s burgeoning art scene, in 2010, Marcelo returned to Miami. Since then, he’s been exhibiting his art in renowned art fairs, shows and events – including exhibits during Art Basel/Miami Art Week – among many other exhibits in prominent galleries and selected venues in Miami, New York, Houston, and Los Angeles.
Marcelo has also exhibited his art around the world: Monaco, China, Belgium, Dubai, London, Venice, and France at the Carrousel du Louvre, Paris (Louvre Museum. Marcelo’s work has been acquired by private and corporate collections, including the Art Collection of the City of Miami.
Marcelo has been honored with a Proclamation from the Mayor of Miami as Distinguished Citizen of the City of Miami “in recognition of his exceptional artistic accomplishments, his valuable contribution to the cultural life of our community and his acts of humanitarianism and philanthropic spirit toward humankind.” Marcelo was also appointed by the Mayor to serve as a Board Member of the City of Miami Arts & Entertainment Council.
With art exhibitions throughout the USA, Europe and Asia, Marcelo has been receiving national and international attention – with articles, interviews and profiles in numerous media, including The Miami Herald, CNN Español, Univision, Upscale Living Magazine, NBC Miami, Fine Art Magazine, and many others.
Eliot and I are staying in Cher’s room at the White Porch Inn, PTown. She was here with Hillary. It’s fabulous with the best views from the balcony. The two gorgeous guys are the owners, Tom Shirk and Felipe Lara. Wow wee they are something.
We went off-roading today on the Ptowns dunes and then spent a few hours on the ocean beach. Thank you everyone who took great care of us today. Gail Williams Lisa VanZant Laurie Ferrari
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, “Artillerymen” (1915) (via Wikimedia Commons)
A New York State law passed last week requires museums to identify art stolen by Nazis in placards “prominently placed” alongside the works. It covers art that changed hands due to “theft, seizure, confiscation, forced sale, or other involuntary means” during the Nazi era in Europe (1933–1945).
“During the Holocaust, some 600,000 paintings were stolen from Jewish people not only for their value, but to wipe our culture and identity off the face of the Earth,” said State Senator Anna M. Kaplan, who introduced the bill, in a press release. “Today, artwork previously stolen by Nazis can be found hanging in museums around New York with no recognition of the dark paths they traveled there.”
New York museums have returned Nazi-looted work sporadically over the last several years. In 2018, the Guggenheim Museum returned a Nazi-looted Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painting to the heirs of a German Jewish art dealer, and in 2019, the upstate Arkell Museum surrendereda Gari Melchers painting that had been stolen from Rudolf Mosse in 1933 Germany. The painting was returned to his descendants.Governor Kathy Hochul signed the new law at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on August 10. Standing beside her is Celia Kener, who was born in Poland in 1935 and survived the Holocaust (courtesy the Museum of Jewish Heritage)
“With the history of the Holocaust being so important to pass on to the next generation, it’s vital that we be transparent and ensure that anyone viewing artwork stolen by the Nazis understand where it came from and its role in history,” Kaplan said.
Governor Kathy Hochul signed the law into effect at Manhattan’s Museum of Jewish Heritage on August 10. It’s part of a trifecta of legislation to educate New Yorks on the Holocaust and support survivors. The other two laws will determine whether schools are meeting the state’s 1994 Holocaust education mandates and require the Department of Financial Services to publish a list of banks that wave wire transfer fees for Holocaust reparation payments.
“We owe it to [Holocaust survivors], their families, and the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust to honor their memories and ensure future generations understand the horrors of this era,” Governor Hochul said.
The legislation comes as antisemitism has been on the rise in recent years. In 2021, the Anti-Defamation League recorded the highest number of antisemitic incidents since it began tracking them in the 1970s
Most people know Dr. Steve Mandy of Miami Beach as one of the most famous cosmetic dermatologists in the United States. He is also known as a photographer, painter, sculptor, and wine connoisseur. What everyone doesn’t know about Dr. Mandy is that he is one of the only folks on earth who has actually danced with an octopus.
I know that sounds too crazy to believe but it is actually true. It happened during a diving trip in the British Virgin Islands. Dr. Mandy wanted to see what happened to the RMS Rhône, a UK Royal Mail Ship owned by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (RMSP). The boat was wrecked in a hurricane off the coast of Salt Island in 1867, killing 123 people. It is now a popular Caribbean wreck dive.
Dr. Mandy was diving down about 30 feet when all of a sudden, he spotted something that he had never seen before. It was about five feet long and had a head the size of a honeydew melon. Dr. Mandy suddenly realized it could possibly be an octopus.
The reason why he wasn’t sure was because most divers don’t usually get to see nocturnal animals. If they do, the animals are very shy and try to hide. This one was just staring back at him. When Dr. Mandy realized it probably was an octopus, he tried to get a closer look.
He slowly cruised up to the octopus as it was carefully examining Dr. Mandy. He said, I could see that it was following me. I got to an arm’s length from it and I just stopped. I was just sitting there, trying to breathe very slowly so that I appeared friendly. I didn’t want to scare it off.
“Much to my surprise, the octopus reached out to me with one of its tentacles. I wasn’t sure if it was being aggressive, or if this was a friendly gesture. I took a chance. I was wearing diving gloves, so I extended my index finger. The octopus then put its tentacles around my finger. We stayed like that for a few minutes. It showed no sign of fear. Then out of the blue it took another tentacle and put it on my face and started exploring.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but octopuses have tentacles that act like little suction cups. The suction cups are tasters, and they actually learn a lot about who you from what they taste. I’m wearing a mask and a mouthpiece but that doesn’t stop the octopus from exploring my beard. I could still feel that this was a friendly encounter. Then while it was still holding my finger, the octopus began gliding backwards in the sand. I didn’t want to disturb this process, so I just followed. It was like we were dancing.
“Then it started to slide under a coral rock. We broke loose. This is where it apparently lived. I wanted to see more so I went down to the bottom level of the rock. I looked in and I saw the octopus looking back at me. I put my finger in front of the opening, wiggled my finger and one of its tentacles suddenly wrapped itself around my finger again. Then the octopus emerged about halfway out from under the rock. There was no sign of it being upset or aggressive. or anything. We stayed like that for quite a while when I realized that I was running out of air. I had to immediately go to the surface. I finally disengaged and off I went.”
Dr. Mandy remembers that when he got back the boat, the boat captain told him that he had seen what was going on when he went for a dive. He too had been diving for a long time and had never seen anything like that from an octopus. He continued, “You almost never see octopuses in the water. The sight of you dancing with one is an image I want to remember forever.”
Six years later Dr. Mandy was teaching a course in surgical anatomy at University of California San Diego. He had just finished his lecture when a gentleman came up to him to say “I know you. You are the one who danced with an octopus.” Dr. Mandy was astonished. “How did he know this guy? How did he know about the octopus?”
It turns out that the guy was the dive captain he met on his octopus dancing trip and he too was a doctor. In fact, he was the head of the ear, nose and throat department at University of California, San Diego.
As I mentioned before, Ivana lived in our condo building in Miami Beach. She hasn’t been there since the series of pandemics started. Eliot and I temporarily took over her parking spot because we needed another space. We still use it. I guess we will until someone buys her unit. Every time we park I think of Ivana being buried in a parking lot of a golf club. My question to you is “why and how does Donald Trump get away with such shenanigans? When will he be stopped? Who is going to stop him? He is pure evil.
There are two stories posted here. Be sure to read both of them.
Why Ivana Trump Was Buried at Bedminster Golf Course: 3 Theories
Donald Trump and Ivana Trump in 2014. Photo: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images
Ivana Trump, former president Donald Trump’s first wife, died on July 14 at the age of 73, owing to injuries she suffered in an accidental fall at her Upper East Side townhouse. Her funeral drew about 400 people and featured a gold-hued coffin, Secret Service agents, and loving remembrances from her three adult children as well as several friends. Then this icon of ’80s glamour and New York tabloid drama was laid to rest … at a New Jersey golf course?
Many found the decision to bury Ivana at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster puzzling. She is the first person to be buried at the former president’s New Jersey property, and the ground had to be consecrated so she could have a traditional Catholic burial. A New York Postphotographer scoped out the site and found that while Ivana’s grave isn’t literally on the golf course, the whole vibe is surprisingly understated:
Photos taken by The Post Thursday show Trump’s grave alone against a bucolic scenery of trees and shrubbery. The grave looks upon a sprawling green space upon the country club’s vast estate.
The plot where Ivana was buried has a bouquet of more than two dozen white flowers and a plaque that reads in all capital letters Ivana Trump with the dates she was born and died.
The grave is in a place where golfers would not see it as they tee off for a round of golf. The small section of the club is below the backside of the first tee.
So what exactly is going on here? I have a few theories.
Theory 1: Trump really loves northern New Jersey.
If Trump National Golf Club Bedminster held a special place in Ivana’s heart, there’s no record of it. Donald bought the property in 2002, a full decade after their divorce was finalized. While Ivana maintained a friendship with her ex-husband through her final days, and her daughter, Ivanka, was married at the club, it does not appear that Ivana ever publicly praised the property.
There is, however, ample evidence that Donald Trump thinks Bedminster is a phenomenal place to be laid to rest. “Wouldn’t you want to be buried here?” he mused to TheWall Street Journal in 2015. The idea has been on his mind for at least 15 years. Back in 2007, Trump filed paperwork to build a windowless wedding chapel at Bedminster that would later be converted into a mausoleum for himself and his family.
Drawings filed with the Somerset County township called for what NJ.com described as a “19-foot-high, classical-style stone structure” with “four imposing obelisks surrounding its exterior and a small altar and six vaults inside. Locals balked at the proposal, which they deemed gaudy, and Trump withdrew the plan. Five years later, he came back with a new idea: Instead of a mausoleum, he would be buried at a large cemetery with more than 1,000 graves. “The idea, apparently, was that Trump’s golf-club members would buy the other plots, seizing the chance at eternal membership,” the Washington Postreported.
Facing continued opposition to his ghoulish ambitions, Trump revised his plans once again. In 2014, the Trump Organization filed paperwork to build two graveyards at Bedminster. One would have 284 lots for sale to the public, while the other would consist of just ten plots for Trump and his family near the first tee. The company’s filing with the state saidTrump “specifically chose this property for his final resting place as it is his favorite property.”
Theory 2: Trump is running an elaborate tax scheme.
Some remain skeptical that Trump actually considers this the most fabulous piece of property he owns:
The Trump National Golf Club Bedminster on July 31. Photo: Jared C. Tilton/LIV via Getty Images
The average person might say Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s seaside Florida resort, is more spectacular, but they’re not looking at Bedminister through the eyes of a person with an alleged passion for tax avoidance. Over the weekend, this tweet from Brooke Harrington, a professor of sociology at Dartmouth, sparked speculation that Bedminster’s real appeal as a graveyard lies in New Jersey tax law.
Indeed, as Insider reported, there are some surprising perks to being the proprietor of a New Jersey graveyard:
Under New Jersey state tax code, any land that is dedicated to cemetery purposes is exempt from all taxes, rates, and assessments. Cemetery companies are also specifically exempt from paying any real estate taxes, rates, and assessments or personal property taxes on their lands, as well as business taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, and inheritance taxes.
And the Trump family has definitely been pursuing the tax advantages of cemetery ownership. A document published by ProPublica shows that the Trump Family Trust sought to designate a property in Hackettstown, New Jersey, about 20 miles from Bedminster, as a nonprofit cemetery company back in 2016.
But there is reason to question this too-Trumpy-to-be-true allegation. First, all this cemetery business is unnecessary because he has already found a way to drastically reduce his Bedminster tax burden. When the Post’s David Farenthold looked into Trump’s cemetery obsession in 2017, he concluded it wouldn’t be very profitable as a business venture or a tax-avoidance scheme:
… the savings would hardly be worth the trouble. That’s because Trump had already found a way to lower his taxes on that wooded, largely unused parcel. He had persuaded the township to declare it a farm, because some trees on the site are turned into mulch. Because of pro-farmer tax policies, Trump’s company pays just $16.31 per year in taxes on the parcel, which he bought for $461,000.
According to a 2019 HuffPost analysis, Trump slashed his Bedminster tax bill by about $88,000 a year by keeping eight goats and farming 113 acres of hay on the property.
Is is possible that the cemetery business is some kind of backup tax- avoidance scheme? I suppose, but it doesn’t make a ton of sense to this humble TurboTax user.
Theory 3: Trump is just keeping it weird.
“It’s always been my suspicion that there’s something we don’t know” about Trump’s cemetery plan, Bedminster land-use board member Nick Strakhov told Farenthold in 2017.
It does seem we’re missing a key piece of the boneyard puzzle. But there is one thing we know about Trump now that wasn’t quite as apparent back then: He is a super-weird guy. He has managed to be weird with various kinds of paper, toilet bowls, aircraft carriers, and “dangerous fruit,” to name just a few of his proclivities. The thought of our inevitable demise brings out strange feelings and behavior in most people. Some of the rich plan to freeze themselves or shoot their remains into space; is it any surprise that Trump has some grandiose idea about how he and his family should be laid to rest?
“It’s never something you like to think about, but it makes sense,” Trump told the New York Post during his first attempt to make Bedminster a cemetery in 2007. “This is such beautiful land, and Bedminster is one of the richest places in the country.”
She moved on to a Miami Beach condo in the Murano at Portofino, where, as recently as five years ago, she was witnessed rolling down her bathing-suit top poolside to apply sunblock while the building staff buzzed around her solicitously
Ivana Trump and Rossano Rubicondi arrive for Sir Elton John’s White Tie and Tiara Ball in 2004. Photo: Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images
Ivana Trump’s house at 10 East 64th Street, which she purchased for $2.5 million in 1992 after her divorce from Donald Trump, is modest compared with the former mansions of Gianni Versaceand David Geffen on the same block.
Twenty feet wide with a 1920s limestone-column-and-pediment façade, it could pass for a small nation’s consulate or a mausoleum. Inside, it was all Ivana: red carpeting, gilded paneling, and animal prints. She was especially proud of the grand curving staircase with a mural, she once told People magazine, “painted on so it looks like it’s a balcony, looking into French-Roman gardens” — the backdrop for countless regal publicity moments with her posing in ball gowns, peddling a relentlessly queenly idea of herself almost to the very end, even as her realm had shrunk.
Her children and remaining friends (not everyone stayed loyal to her after her ex-husband became the kind of president he became) hated those stairs. Old skiing accidents and a more recent hip injury — she fell at one of her go-to restaurants, Avra Madison Estiatorio — had rendered “Glam-ma,” as she liked her grandchildren to call her, increasingly wobbly. She ignored her friends’ and family’s pleas to sell the townhouse and move into a hotel suite. They feared she would slip and fall down those stairs and hurt herself. At some point in the past few years, her kids bought her one of those emergency “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” devices, but she refused to wear it.
“I was more concerned about her falling down those stairs than anything else, and she adamantly refused to move,” said her friend Nikki Haskell. “There are all these pictures of her on that stairway. When you think about how you are going to end your life, did she ever once think that is how it’s gonna happen?”
Which is likely what happened. On July 14, Ivana was found at the bottom of the stairs, dead after suffering, according to the medical examiner’s office, “blunt impact injuries” from the fall.
She had been giving the people who cared about, and for, her some cause to worry for a while. Especially since the induced isolation of the pandemic — she was extremely COVID cautious — she had become noticeably frail.
Friends say she enjoyed a drink, but as she got older, it started to take its toll, and they wished she would cut down or quit completely. She had reportedly done at least one stint in rehab. Tabloids, especially the Daily Mail, which was always up for publishing unflattering candid shots of her, reported on episodes of what appeared to be public inebriation and occasional meltdowns. In 2009, she was kicked off a plane after a “foul-mouthed” tirade aimed at some kids playing loudly in first class.
Most thought she was really undone by the death in 2021 of her last ex-husband: Rossano Rubicondi, the rakish Italian adventurer and former model, 23 years her junior, whom she’d started dating around 2002, married (at Mar-a-Lago, no less) in 2008, divorced a year later, and could never quite rid herself of.
Rossano Rubicondi, Ivana Trump, Donald Trump, and Melania Knauss at a Fashion Week event in 2002. At another Fashion Week event with Rubicondi in 2003.
Rubicondi returned to her for the last time in 2020 while he was suffering from cancer. She brought him from Italy, got him an apartment near her house so he could get treatment, and begged him to quit smoking, which he refused to do — debonair, friends say, almost to the very end.
He was, maybe even more than her second ex-husband — the one who became president — the tragic love affair of her life, a romantic error she couldn’t help but make. It was Rubicondi whom many assumed that Dorothy Curry, the former nanny to Ivanka, Donald Jr., and Eric, spoke of at Ivana’s funeral, referring to the “sinking swamp” of “parasites” who had kept her “afloat” with “illicit dreams and schemes.”
As recently as 2018, when “Page Six” reported the couple was squabbling at La Goulue, Rubicondi was still telling anyone who would listen that he was planning on opening a pizzeria, Rossano to Go, presumably with Ivana’s backing, in the city (an earlier plan to open it in West Palm Beach had gone nowhere).
“I think Rossano’s death sank signora. She was very, very down; we could see it,” remembered Paolo Alavian, the owner of another one of her go-to restaurants, Altesi.
As a doorman on her street told the British tabloid The Sun, “She used to always wear high heels and walk straight up … After he died, she didn’t come out as much. She wore flats and walked hunched over with a cane.” Massimo Gargia, the man who introduced her to Rubicondi, believes the combined effects of the pandemic and his death depleted her. “She was so depressed,” Gargia said.
Most of her friends told me they wished she’d never met Rubicondi in the first place.
On the way to La Goulue with Rubicondi in 2003. Out with Rubicondi and Massimo Gargia, who had introduced them in 2005. Photo: Arnaldo Magnani/Gett… more
Ivana Zelnícková always wanted more. She was born eight weeks premature in a drab shoe-factory town in communist Czechoslovakia on February 20, 1949. Her father, an electrical engineer named Milos Zelnícek, had wanted a boy and raised her sporty. He taught her to ski in the foothills of the Carpathians. On Saturdays, when they got off work at the Bata shoe factory, the parents of Gottwaldov (her hometown, since renamed Zlín) took their children out two hours by bus, hauling wooden skis with homemade bindings up hills with no chairlifts and overnighting in cabins heated with wood they collected.
Competitive skiing eventually got Ivana across the Iron Curtain, a rare privilege in the 1960s. As a teen on her first trips to the West, she fell in thrall to the sorts of luxuries — chocolates, fashions, jeans, Coca-Cola, and sports cars — that didn’t exist back home. In 1971, the same year her boyfriend George Syrovatka defected to Canada, she married her friend Alfred Winklmayr, an Austrian ski instructor, so she could get a passport to leave the country.
She divorced him before long and eventually moved to Montreal to be with Syrovatka and found work as a model.
Then, on a trip to New York in 1976, she met Donald Trump; according to a 1990 New York Magazine profile of Ivana, he “spotted her across Maxwell’s Plum and used his pull to get her a table.” After she signed a prenup, they were married in 1977, the same year Don Jr. was born. (According to the New York article, she “fixed [Syrovatka] up with a girlfriend.”)
She was by Donald’s side for the next dozen or so years, helping him remake the Grand Hyatt, picking the pink marble for Trump Tower’s atrium, helicoptering down to Atlantic City to oversee Trump Castle, then returning to the city to run the Plaza Hotel, which he had purchased and renovated. (She even accompanied him on his first trip to Moscow in 1987, after which he declared his intention to run for president.) She also created Trump’s oligarch brand. She told Time in 1989, “If Donald were married to a lady who didn’t work and make certain contributions, he would be gone.”
They became the epitome of ’80s flamboyance. But as she gained more attention, he would undermine her. Lounging beside Ivana on a couch during one televised interview after he named her president of the Plaza Hotel, he watched her talk about how much she loved her work. When the reporter asked how much Donald paid her, she replied with a little giggle, “One dollar.” Donald chimed in, “And all the dresses she can buy.”
It all ran aground by the end of 1989 after Trump brought his mistress Marla Maples on a family vacation in Aspen. There, Maples confronted Ivana in public at a slope-side eatery, two big-haired women in expensive ski gear, in a scene straight out of Dynasty: “I love your husband. Do you?”
A protracted divorce followed that was extensively litigated in the tabloids. As it happened, just as their marriage imploded, his business crashed, leaving him $3.4 billion in debt. (Among the disasters and fire sales, he sold the Plaza for an $83 million loss.)
Ivana accused him of marital rape, and Donald invoked the Fifth Amendment 97 times in depositions. When it was all over, off she went with a $10 million certified check, $4 million more for housing, a 1987 Mercedes, and their nearly 20,000-square-foot Greenwich, Connecticut, mansion, which she sold for $15 million.
Researching for my book about Trump’s women in the Czech Republic, I met people in Zlín who believed their most famous ex-resident skied under the Iron Curtain like Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity, dodging bullets. They got that idea from a 1996 made-for-TV movie called For Love Alone, based on a roman à clef of the same name that Ivana wrote. According to IMDb, it “follows the triumphs and tragedies of Katrinka Kovár, a young
Czechoslovakian ski prodigy who discovers high-society splendor in the arms of a wealthy American businessman. When lust turns to lies, Katrinka — long haunted by a burning secret from her past — sets out to find the love she left behind.”
With Rubicondi on her yacht, M.Y. Ivana, in 2003. With Rubicondi at a party hosted by P.Diddy in St.-Tropez in 2004. Photo: Michel Dufour/WireImage (2… more
In 2005, with Rubicondi at the New York launch of the “Ivana Las Vegas,” a condo project that was never built. And a nightclub opening in London with… more
Post-Donald, Ivana set about reinventing herself, starting with what became her trademark Brigitte Bardot–inspired hairdo, the one Joanna Lumley’s character, Patsy, loosely based on Ivana, wears on Absolutely Fabulous. She hit the talk shows — delicate, teary, vulnerable. She was branding Ivana with a vengeance, using everything she’d learned from becoming a Trump. YouTube is filled with Vaseline-smeary videos of her, blonde hair piled high, hawking silk blouses from House of Ivana priced to sell at $79.99 — always adding the 99 cents because people might pay anything but not a dollar more.
She trademarked clothes, perfume, bottled water, bath products, china, all under the Ivana brand. Besides matching Donald brand for classy brand, she tried to match his ego, plastering her name on everything, including a yacht she christened the M.Y. Ivana.
The “classy” Trump brand usually turns out to be just painted gold or mass-produced in China. This was also true of Ivana’s. She had money, but her wealth didn’t hide the foundational nouveau brass. Her beloved M.Y. Ivana cost $4 million, was 98 feet long, and had four staterooms and marble baths. It served as a weapon in her media war with her ex. “While Donald doesn’t even have a dinghy,” the New York Post wrote when she bought the yacht, “Ivana is in Monte Carlo kicking the tires of a spanking new vessel.” She proudly told reporters she had paid for it herself. “I make in one year three times what he paid me in a settlement. I don’t need Donald Trump’s money.” Donald responded with a public letter claiming she had paid twice what the boat was worth.
For the rest of her life, at least until the pandemic hit, Ivana was on the move, wintering in Palm Beach at a 12,000-square-foot house that she’d bought, like the 64th Street home, in 1992 after the divorce (and that she would eventually sell for $16.6 million to designer Tomas Maier, who resold it earlier this year for $73 million). She moved on to a Miami Beach condo in the Murano at Portofino, where, as recently as five years ago, she was witnessed rolling down her bathing-suit top poolside to apply sunblock while the building staff buzzed around her solicitously. She spent at least three months every summer at a trio of small former fishing cottages she owned in St.-Tropez.
Ivana adored the yacht-owner lifestyle, but her own boat seemed cursed. Sugar tycoon Alfy Fanjul sued her when the M.Y. Ivana slammed into his yacht during a Florida hurricane. Worse, according to a lawsuit she filed in 1997, it was “falling apart” as soon as she took possession. Two years after she bought it, she sued the Italian maker, Cantieri di Baia, for $35 million, claiming the yacht was “damaging her internationally ‘recognized persona.’ ” She claimed it was seven feet shorter than promised, didn’t travel at top speed unless it was empty, and had a faulty exhaust system that sparked a fire. In 2001, the company settled. Her attorney Gary Lyman isn’t sure who bought the yacht from her, joking, “It’s probably at the bottom of the sea.”
But while the M.Y. Ivana was sea-worthy, she needed a man to put on it. Donald Trump wrote (well, actually Tony Schwartz wrote) in The Art of the Deal that he had built Trump Tower not for “the sort of person who inherited money 175 years ago … I’m talking about the wealthy Italian with the beautiful wife and the red Ferrari.” That’s exactly what Ivana wanted, too. Or to be that guy’s beautiful wife or girlfriend, anyway.
An Italophile since her teen years, she worked her way through three Italian men. Numero uno, businessman Riccardo Mazzucchelli, married her at the Mayfair Regent in New York in 1995. She wore a blue satin dress and a diamond necklace with a “piece of ice as big as the Wollman Rink nestling in her décolletage.” The marriage lasted two years, foundering, friends said, over his jealousy at her Home Shopping Network success. Her prenup (she had been schooled in that unromantic art from enduring years of litigation over the ones Donald made her sign) protected her from his attempts to get a piece of her fortune.
Numero due, Roffredo Gaetani di Laurenzana dell’Aquila d’Aragona Lovatelli, was from, as she liked to put it, “an important family.” Their relationship lasted five years before he died in a car accident on an icy Tuscan mountain road at age 52. She told friends he was the best lover of her life. “I cry whenever I think about him,” she wrote in her 2017 memoir. “I have no idea why I didn’t marry him.”
As Ivana tells the story in her 2017 book, she met Italian numero tre at a party for 200 she hosted on M.Y. Ivana when it was docked at Cannes for the film festival. Her friend Gargia brought Rubicondi — a “young, nice, very good-looking trim stylish man” — along as his guest, and they hit it off. By the end of the summer, she’d invited him to cruise with her from St.-Tropez to Sardina and professed to be shocked when she found out his age when she later took a peek at his passport. But she soon got over it, and he became the love of the last third of her life. As she wrote, “I’d rather be a babysitter than a nursemaid.”
At her engagement party with her children Ivanka and Donald Jr. in 2007. Photo: Duffy-Marie Arnoult/WireImage
Rubicondi was born in Rome in March 1972, 23 years after Ivana. Handsome, with a full head of brown hair and Cupid’s-bow lips, he had occasionally modeled and acted in Italian and American movies (including a small role in the 2000 adaptation of Henry James’s The Golden Bowl with Uma Thurman).
For six years, they dated, threw tempestuous tabloid-ready fights, kissed, made up, and went at it again. Her friends assessed Rubicondi as a classic fortune hunter, “a snake.” At Mar-a-Lago in 2008, she married him anyway.
Donald’s sister Maryanne Trump, then a federal judge, officiated. Haskell, her matron of honor, refused to read lines the judge handed her before the ceremony. “It was something like, ‘Thou loveth and holdeth thy dear to thy heart and will cherish,’ ” she said. “And I read the thing over and I said to her, ‘I don’t think we should really read this because this marriage isn’t going to last that long.’ ”
At his wedding to Ivana, Rubicondi charged down the aisle fist-pumping to the Rocky theme.
At the reception, Don Jr. gave Rubicondi a “welcome to the family” speech straight out of The Godfather: “We are a construction company, and we have job sites, we lose people … You better treat her right because I have a .45 and a shovel.”
The guests, many of whom were European, didn’t know whether to laugh or be horrified. “It was sort of a timid haha, haha, haha. You heard a chittering going through the crowd,” one guest recalled.
“The whole family was against it,” said her friend Gargia, an Italian PR man, sometime actor, and fixture on the French Riviera. “Even Ivanka said, ‘Why did you introduce him to my mother?’ ” In his defense, he said he knew Ivana was grieving over her lost lover and needed some fun. He didn’t expect it to end in a wedding. “I feel guilty that I introduced them,” he said. “It was fine for six years while he was a boyfriend. But the minute they got married, he changed.”
At the ceremony, Rubicondi charged down the aisle fist-pumping to the Rocky theme, then promptly ran off with a younger Cuban girlfriend.
Her wedding to Rubicondi at Mar-a-Lago in 2008. Photo: Michael Caulfield/Getty Images; Michelle McMinn/Getty Images.
He and Ivana divorced a year later, but she never cut the cord. For the next 13 years, until his death, the boy toy swanned in and out of her life, often trailed by paparazzi. There they were, walking her dog Tiger One on a leash on the St.-Tropez promenade, Mediterranean pines in the background; canoodling near the yachts, Rubicondi in sea-breeze-rumpled hair and surfer trunks, Ivana in designer kitten heels and a tropical wrap dress; posing in evening clothes beside a giant birthday cake for her at the Hotel la Mistralée. Back in New York, Rubicondi wore a Donald Trump costume to escort her to a Halloween party in 2004 (you can buy a photo of this at Walmart). The tabloids loved their public fights, too, including the time Ivana threw his clothes off her yacht. He enjoyed his wine, as she did, and, in 2016, even called the police on himself for driving drunk near Mar-a-Lago.
In between their breakups and makeups, Ivana’s ex-husband became president. This was complicated for her. On a cold, slushy day a few weeks before the inauguration, she visited the studio of fashion designer Marc Bouwer to select some dresses. Bouwer was an old friend but hadn’t seen her for a while. She looked, he thought, surprisingly downtrodden. Ivana never let things get to her like this.
Bouwer and his partner, Paul Margolin, helped her inside, where she started sobbing. She was hysterical and they held her. Soon, the two men were also overcome. She said people were shouting hateful things at her and protesting outside her house. “And I’m not even married to him anymore,” she wailed. “It’s not my fault!”
Ivana shared many political views with her ex, starting with a devotion to unfettered capitalism, “doing deals,” and adopting the transactional mode in all of her relationships. An immigrant herself, she told a British TV network during his reelection campaign that U.S. immigrants “steal and rape women” and “don’t get jobs.”
At a crucial juncture in the campaign, while Donald was fighting off sexual-harassment accusations, she even downplayed the rape allegations she had once made against him. Still, “in Washington for the inauguration, she had a very bad seat,” Gargia said. “So she left. She was in shock to see where they put her. It was a little exclusion.”
Furrier Dennis Basso, one of the few people to speak at her funeral, summed up her attitude about her ex’s election: “Divorce is difficult, even if you own a little shop in the smallest town in America and that person gets remarried. I am putting politics aside; politics is not part of the picture. Nobody wants to get divorced and have their husband or wife become the most powerful person in the world.” Her friends said she was convinced she would have been a better First Lady than Melania.
In St.-Tropez with Rubicondi and her dog Tiger One in 2016. Photo: BACKGRID
Ivana had a competitive streak and an instinct for turning relationships into transactions. The boy toy and the yacht were fun, sure, but they were also proof she was making it. Yet it can be hard to maintain dignity and faith in one’s seductive powers, especially for a woman who made her beauty central to her personal brand. Rubicondi apparently kept that faith alive. Ivana glowed, giggled, and got girlie whenever he showed up. Even that was fleeting.
In 2020, Rubicondi was diagnosed with melanoma. He was in Italy, needed treatment, and had no money. That fall, in the middle of the pandemic, Ivana paid for his move to New York and set him up in an apartment around the corner from her on Madison Avenue, arranged with the help of another Czech émigré girlfriend, a Sotheby’s Realtor. She had wanted to be a babysitter but ended up a nurse.
The “snake,” as her girlfriends still called him, was now her charge. “I can’t say his name,” said her friend Vivian Serota, a Manhattan mondaine and widow of the Long Island commercial-real-estate magnate Nathan Serota. “Nobody could stand him except Ivana. There was no sex, either. Nothing was happening except that she paid for him and he brought her breakfasts in the morning.”
Not only could Ivana stand him, she still liked him a lot. “There are always the two girlfriends who don’t like the boyfriend,” Basso said. “Look, he was young and good-looking. Ivana and I used to say to each other all the time, ‘Every day is not Christmas.’ I spent many summers on her boat in the Mediterranean with Ivana and Rossano, and we had fabulous times. Was he the greatest catch in the world? No. Was he dashing, and did they have some fun? Yes.”
A New York Democrat who worked with Ivana agreed. “Rossano gave her what nobody else did. He was this younger man she could be girlie and flirty and sexy with. Why is it any different from an older man who puts up a younger woman as his partner?”
In his last year, between visits to Sloan Kettering for chemo on her tab, he would often accompany Ivana to her table at Altesi. “Signora paid for everything,” its owner, Alavian, remembered.
Rubicondi was dreaming up wacky money-making schemes to the end. He talked about building a pizza oven in a fire truck and running a restaurant out of it, but he needed $200,000. Ivana told him she would pay for it but only if he stopped smoking. A Marlboro Red pack-a-day man, he did not give it up. Puffing away on the terrace at Altesi, he didn’t even look sick.
“Look, I can’t judge love,” Ivana’s attorney Lyman said.
“They had a continuing relationship. As to the quality of that relationship, I don’t know any of us can judge. She was pretty distraught after he died.”
Rubicondi died in October. Ivana grieved all winter and was still grieving when she died. She put on a brave face with friends, but some days she would turn up at Altesi and sit alone nursing Pinot Grigio.
On these days, the staff would take turns talking with her, trying to cheer her up. Once during this period, “she looked terrible,” remembered Alavian, and another customer snapped a picture of her. “I was extremely upset when she was disrespected. But she always said, ‘Don’t react, forget about it.’ ”
Finances were not an issue for her, according to her lawyer. She had assets and significant real-estate holdings and had received a “multi-seven-figure” advance for her 2017 memoir, negotiated by her literary agent, Dan Strone, the CEO of Trident Media Group.
That book, Raising Trump, was published in fall 2017. Sales were disappointing. MAGA didn’t buy. Not much love for those kids in other markets.
Her will is being probated privately in Florida, and no further information was available at press time. Despite her assets and properties, some friends noticed signs that she was perhaps not as wealthy as she had been. She told one friend she wanted to sell her Miami condo; perhaps she had simply taken to economizing as older people sometimes do. Bouwer noticed that the last time he saw her preparing to leave her house for St.–Tropez in 2017, her Louis Vuitton luggage was repaired with duct tape.
The pandemic hit Ivana hard. No more red-carpet posing at premieres, one Blahniked foot forward and turned out, catalogue-model style; no more holding court at “her table” at Upper East Side eateries. She was terrified of the coronavirus. She took seriously all the recommended precautions and isolated herself inside her Manhattan townhouse. She had always declined personal security, even after her ex was elected president. She ordered a lot of delivery from restaurants on her block between Fifth and Madison, takeout cacio e pepe or pappardelle pesto.
When restrictions eased, she stepped out a little. The months of isolation and the new hip injury showed. Alisa Roever, a younger Russian woman Ivana came to pal around with in recent years, saw a distinct change. “She was very active before COVID, very organized and extremely disciplined, up at six o’clock, on the treadmill reading all the newspapers before breakfast,” Roever said. “The COVID slowdown made her age. She was still put together, still had the hair and nails, but the energy wasn’t the same.”
She didn’t quite lose all her zest, though. She could flirt outrageously with younger men and tell dirty jokes. “She would unbutton my shirt and say, ‘Darling, please, open it up, the women will go crazy for you, you’re so hot,’ ” recalled Hamptons restaurateur Zach Erdem of his occasional customer. “I knew that she liked young guys — who doesn’t like hot guys? We joked a lot.”
One night, dining with Serota and the actress Brenda Vaccaro at Fiorella, where Ivana had a regular booth, the topic turned to sex and young men. “Do you want one rare or rarer? What am I talking about?” Ivana said. “A piece of steak? Nope. Rare or rarer?” She gestured with her hands: short or long. Oh, they got it. She meant a penis.
At her Ivana Wine launch party on the steps where she would later die in 2011. Photo: Tim Boxer/Getty Images
As soon as Broadway reopened, Ivana masked up and, armed with sanitizer to swab on the seats, hit the Saturday matinees. She favored shows with hot young actors. With Serota, she saw Jersey Boys three times, and at Moulin Rouge, she swooned over the actor Derek Klena.
The last paparazzi photo of Ivana was snapped two weeks before her death. She is walking up Madison, looking chic in big sunglasses, black flats, and a black sweater and slacks, nails manicured red, blonde hair tucked into the signature French twist, her back just slightly showing the beginning of the dowager hump, and leaning heavily on the arm of her housekeeper.
“She could not walk. There was something wrong with her feet,” said New York Social Diary publisher David Patrick Columbia, whose company took the picture. “She looked very, very uncertain. She was holding tightly on to a woman who was clearly an assistant.”
Her friends thought Ivana needed a hip replacement since injuring herself falling at Avra. “She tripped over someone’s purse straps and really injured her hip,” said Haskell. “Ivana was not one to ever complain. She was afraid of doctors; she was an anti-doctor person. Ivana never had a Band-Aid in her house.” The hip hurt enough that she went for a cortisone shot, but the long needle terrified her, and even though the drug lessened the pain, she didn’t go back.
Gargia, who was supposed to dine with her in St.-Tropez the day after she was scheduled to arrive, couldn’t bring himself to travel to the funeral. “Perhaps if she had survived, she could be in much better health in St.-Tropez, living a different life and so on.”
Ivana’s funeral was attended by the former president and their children. Photo: Gotham/GC Images
The day before she died, Ivana was the happiest she’d been since before Rubicondi’s death. She was primping for her first trip to Europe in three years. There was a lot of maintenance to catch up on: a dental appointment and then to Frédéric Fekkai on Madison Avenue to get her hair done. She was scheduled to fly on Friday night from JFK to Nice, where a helicopter would be waiting to take her to St.-Tropez. She was giddy.
That afternoon, she called Serota to see if she wanted to meet for an early supper at Altesi. Serota was also preparing to travel to Europe the next day and declined. They agreed to meet in St.-Tropez.
The last people to see her alive were her housekeeper, Fabiana Carbo Chavez, and Curry, the former nanny who now worked as Ivana’s assistant. Around 6 p.m., Ivana asked Carbo Chavez to walk a hundred yards to buy some takeout soup. Back home, the staff watched her climb that winding staircase and said good-bye for the night.
Serota was in the habit of calling Ivana every day at 8:30 a.m. The next morning, Ivana didn’t answer. Serota chalked it up to pre-trip preparations. At around nine, Carbo Chavez arrived as usual. She found the door locked from the inside. That was odd. An early riser, Ivana normally undid the inner lock before the housekeeper arrived. The key didn’t work. She rang the bell, and when no one answered, she called Curry. Eventually, they rousted the house handyman, who came over with tools to open the door.
Ivana was on the floor in her pajamas at the bottom of the stairs. Hysterical, the two women called Eric Trump — Ivana’s only child who still lived in the city — who rushed over from his nearby apartment and held his mother’s body until police arrived. The NYPD clocked the emergency call at 12:40 p.m. and pronounced her dead on the scene.
Her Yorkie, Tiger Two — Tiger One had died in 2017 — was the only witness to what had happened
New York Times Says Jared Kushner’s book is not worth the paper it was written on. My comment, “What a surprise! I still look at folks who voted for Trump and think to myself, “I wouldn’t trust you to water my plants.”—LWH
Jared Kushner’s ‘Breaking History’ Is a Soulless and Very Selective Memoir
In this lengthy book, Kushner recounts the time he spent in the White House during his father-in-law’s term.
BREAKING HISTORY A White House Memoir By Jared Kushner 492 pages. Broadside Books. $35.
The United States Secret Service isn’t known for its sense of humor, but when it gave Jared Kushner the code name “mechanic,” was someone betting that he’d call his memoir “Breaking History”?
It’s a title that, in its thoroughgoing lack of self-awareness, matches this book’s contents. Kushner writes as if he believes foreign dignitaries (and less-than dignitaries) prized him in the White House because he was the fresh ideas guy, the starting point guard, the dimpled go-getter.
He betrays little cognizance that he was in demand because, as a landslide of other reporting has demonstrated, he was in over his head, unable to curb his avarice, a cocky young real estate heir who happened to unwrap a lot of Big Macs beside his father-in-law, the erratic and misinformed and similarly mercenary leader of the free world. Jared was a soft touch.
“Breaking History” is an earnest and soulless — Kushner looks like a mannequin, and he writes like one — and peculiarly selective appraisal of Donald J. Trump’s term in office. Kushner almost entirely ignores the chaos, the alienation of allies, the breaking of laws and norms, the flirtations with dictators, the comprehensive loss of America’s moral leadership, and so on, ad infinitum, to speak about his boyish tinkering (the “mechanic”) with issues he was interested in.
This book is like a tour of a once majestic 18th-century wooden house, now burned to its foundations, that focuses solely on, and rejoices in, what’s left amid the ashes: the two singed bathtubs, the gravel driveway and the mailbox. Kushner’s fealty to Trump remains absolute. Reading this book reminded me of watching a cat lick a dog’s eye goo.
• A Secret Diagnosis: Mr. Kushner revealed in his memoir that he was quietly treated for thyroid cancer as he served as a senior adviser in the West Wing — one of the few pieces of information to not leak out of one of the leakiest White Houses in modern memory.
The tone is college admissions essay. Typical sentence: “In an environment of maximum pressure, I learned to ignore the noise and distractions and instead to push for results that would improve lives.”
Every political cliché gets a fresh shampooing. “Even in a starkly divided country, there are always opportunities to build bridges,” Kushner writes. And, quoting the former White House deputy chief of staff Chris Liddell: “Every day here is sand through an hourglass, and we have to make it count.” So true, for these are the days of our lives.
Kushner, poignantly, repeatedly beats his own drum. He recalls every drop of praise he’s ever received; he brings these home and he leaves them on the doorstep. You turn the pages and find, almost at random, colleagues, some of them famous, trying to be kind, uttering things like:
It’s really not fair how the press is beating you up. You made a very positive contribution.
I don’t know how you do this every day on so many topics. That was really hard! You deserve an award for all you’ve done.
I’ve said before, and I’ll say again. This agreement would not have happened if it wasn’t for Jared.
Jared did an amazing job working with Bob Lighthizer on the incredible USMCA trade deal we signed yesterday.
Jared’s a genius. People complain about nepotism — I’m the one who got the steal here.
I’ve been in Washington a long time, and I must say, Jared is one of the best lobbyists I’ve ever seen.
A therapist might call these cries for help.
“Breaking History” opens with the story of Kushner’s father, the real estate tycoon Charles Kushner, who was imprisoned after hiring a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, having the encounter filmed and sending the tape to his sister. He was a good man who did a bad thing, Jared says, and Chris Christie, while serving as the United States attorney for New Jersey, was cruel to prosecute him so mercilessly.
There is a flashback to Kushner’s grandparents, Holocaust survivors who settled in New Jersey and did well. There’s a page or two about Kushner’s time at Harvard. He omits the fact that he was admitted after his father pledged $2.5 million to the college.
If Kushner can recall a professor or a book that influenced him while in Cambridge, he doesn’t say. Instead, he recalls doing his first real estate deals while there. He moved to New York, and bought and ruined a great newspaper (The New York Observer) by dumbing it down and feting his friends in its pages.
His wooing of Ivanka Trump included a good deal of jet-setting. Kushner briefly broke up with her, he writes, because she wasn’t Jewish. (She would later convert.) Wendi Murdoch, Rupert’s wife, reunited them on Rupert’s yacht. Kushner describes the power scene:
On that Sunday, we were having lunch at Bono’s house in the town of Eze on the French Riviera, when Rupert stepped out to take a call. He came back and whispered in my ear, “They blinked, they agreed to our terms, we have The Wall Street Journal.” After lunch, Billy Joel, who had also been with us on the boat, played the piano while Bono sang with the Irish singer-songwriter Bob Geldof.
With or without you, Bono.
Once in the White House, Kushner became Little Jack Horner, placing a thumb in everyone else’s pie, and he wonders why he was disliked. He read Sun Tzu and imagined he was becoming a warrior. It was because he had Trump’s ear, however, that he won nearly every time he locked antlers with a rival. Corey Lewandowski — out. Steve Bannon — out.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who begged Kushner to stop meddling internationally — out. (Kushner cites Tillerson’s “reclusive approach” to foreign policy.) By the end, Tillerson was like a dead animal someone needed to pull a tarpaulin over.
Kushner was pleased that the other adults in the room, including the White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the White House counsel Don McGahn and the later chief of staff John Kelly, left or were ejected because they tried, patriotically, to exclude him from meetings he shouldn’t have been in. The fact that he was initially denied security clearance, he writes, was much ado about nothing.
The bulk of “Breaking History” — at nearly 500 pages, it’s a slog — goes deeply into the weeds (Kushner, in his acknowledgments, credits a ghostwriter, the speechwriter Brittany Baldwin) on the issues he cared most about, including prison reform, the Covid response and the Middle East, where he had a win with the Abraham Accords.
This book ends with Kushner suggesting he was unaware of the events of Jan. 6 until late in the day. He mostly sidesteps talking about spurious claims of election fraud. He seems to have no beliefs beyond carefully managed appearances and the art of the deal. He wants to stay on top of things, this manager, but doesn’t want to get to the bottom of anything.
You finish “Breaking History” wondering: Who is this book for? There’s not enough red meat for the MAGA crowd, and Kushner has never appealed to them anyway. Political wonks will be interested — maybe, to a limited degree — but this material is more thoroughly and reliably covered elsewhere. He’s a pair of dimples without a demographic.
What a queasy-making book to have in your hands. Once someone has happily worked alongside one of the most flagrant and systematic and powerful liars in this country’s history, how can anyone be expected to believe a word they say?
It makes a kind of sense that Kushner is likely to remain exiled in Florida. “The whole peninsula of Florida was weighted down with regret,” as Cynthia Ozick put it in “The Shawl.” “Everyone had left behind a real life.”
Dwight Garner has been a book critic for The Times since 2008. His most recent book is “Garner’s Quotations: A Modern Miscellany.”
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In 1882, a Jewish baby was born in Germany named Max Born. He grew up to be a physicist at Gottingen University. In 1935, Adolph Hitler personally terminated him from his position because he was born Jewish.
Max immigrated to England. He became a professor at Cambridge University. Later, he began working at the University of Edinburgh. There, an amazing nine of his students went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. He himself won the Nobel Prize in 1954. Max is known as one of the parents of Quantum Mechanics.
His daughter, Irene, gave birth to his granddaughter, Olivia, in 1948.
Olivia later went on to win five Grammy awards, be named a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Environment Programme, and be named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
She played Sandy Olsson in the movie adaptation of the Broadway Play Grease.
Today, our hearts are sadder because his granddaughter, Olivia Newton John, has died.
May we all be inspired by her forging her own path to find enormous success and along the way becoming an advocate for animal rights, the environment, and people with cancer.