Only two months into my career as a sex columnist for the New York Post, I was informed by my editor that I was falling down on the job: It seems I wasn’t on my back enough. My sex life was an unaugmented bust. My weekly first-person account,”Love & Hayt,” dwelled mostly on past triumphs and current failures–especially the failures, since, to me, they were funnier, not to mention truthful.
He didn’t care about funny or truthful. I’d been hired because of my newly published memoir, I’m No Saint–an exhibitionistic, no-holds-barred account of my dashed expectations of marriage, motherhood, and divorce. More to the point, it’s heavy on X-rated scenes of my promiscuous path through life. Where, my editor demanded, was the writer with the revolving bedroom door?
“Scoring isn’t easy once it becomes work,” I replied.
I was a woman. How hard could it be?
Pathetic, actually. I discovered that being a sex scribe meant I actually had to have (not merely to want or fall into) erotic encounters–lots of them–in order to churn out anecdotes and insights with enough variation to entice readers to come back for more. It was a hell of a way to earn a dime.
What made my employment all the more unholy was that it represented a 180-degree turn from loftier aspirations. A year earlier, in the spring of 2005, I had been hoping to attend the Harvard Divinity School, at which older students from diverse backgrounds were especially welcome. Although I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d juggle that with my life in New York and a son, I figured I’d cross that bridge when I came to it.
My family thought I was nuts. “Next you’ll be speaking in tongues,” my mother said.
The idea had come about not via a frontal-lobe disturbance but rather from a slow-burning interest in good and evil, the meaning of life–and, more specifically, the lapses in my own.
At the time, spiritual enlightenment seemed to be the missing link. I had been raided in a secular home in Great Neck, a Long Island Jewish suburb were my Hebraic roots were mainly honored by our adherence to the local tradition of eating bagels and nova on Sunday mornings. As an adult, my sense of faith remained circumstantial: I went to my brother’s home for High Holiday meals, threw my son a splashy bar mitzvah, and boycotted The Passion of the Christ.
It was a visit to the 2003 El Greco exhibition at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art that really piqued my religious curiosity. Beholding painting after painting depicting the suffering of Christ and his penitent disciples, I was struck by how clueless I was about the scriptural narratives in the art of the Old Masters. This seemed pretty shameful, since I’d been a graduate student of art history. But because my chosen field, modern art, is dominated by themes of bourgeois life and art for art’s sake, I had no idea why St. Francis was so often rendered speaking to a tree full of birds. Perhaps if I knew, the Bible would speak to me.
A second nudge came in December 2004, when I submitted my book to my publisher. Completing it was torturous, since know I was coming, she claims peremptorily, even though there was a flurry of confirmation e-mails, and has only 15 minutes to talk–the “Chicago people” are here, apparently, to go over the plans for the lobby of the Trump International Hotel & Tower (which season one Apprentice winner Bill Rancic oversaw). We march to her surprisingly modest office–a bigger, better spread is under construction one floor below. There are photos of buildings in progress everywhere. “That was Vegas a week ago,” she says, pointing to her right without taking her eyes off her computer screen. “We’re higher than that now.” Her desk is piled with papers and samples of granite. A copy of her dad’s new best-seller, Why We Want You to Be Rich, peeks out from under a stack.
She is clearly distracted, but even when she’s on autopilot she sounds like her father’s daughter. “We made Columbus Circle,” she declares, referring to the first hotel/condo Trump built there in 1995. In Panama City, “other developers raised their prices 40 percent when they heard Trump was coming to market,” she says excitedly. “It’s a testament to how strong the name is.” Like her father, she is aggressively enterprising. While she works 15-hour days, she’s also launching her own jewelry company with a diamond wholesaler. “It will be on the same echelon as Graff and Harry Winston, except the designs and store atmosphere are going to be more young and fresh and, quite frankly, a lot more hip,” she says. She regularly crisscrosses the country on speaking engagements and attends events in New York.
Even if Ivanka and her father are kindred spirits, or perhaps because they are, working for him can’t be an easy proposition. One of the first things he told her, she says, was that if she couldn’t pull her weight, “he’d ‘fire me like a dog.’ I’m like, Was that necessary? Did you need to add the ‘like a dog’? He definitely would. It wouldn’t be dramatic. There wouldn’t be fireworks. Well, there might be,” she says. “But I think it’s very important that he hold me accountable. I hate the idea of being tapped through. If my father calls me in and asks about the status of our Deutsche Bank loan for Chicago, I better be up to date on it. He might ask me what floor we’re pouring concrete on in Vegas or about the sales and marketing of SoHo. He can ask me anything.”
In his kids, Donald says, for the first time he has deputies he feels comfortable delegating to. “It’s amazing,” he says. “I will hand over a deal when it comes in. In the past, I would always do it myself But I rely on them, and that’s the ultimate compliment.” At age 60, Donald Trump doesn’t seem close to retiring. But clearly the issue of succession is on his mind. “There are two ways to do it-either split up the jobs or let them work as a group. Right now they work as a group,” Donald says. Don Jr. is said to be serious, on the quiet side-and since marrying Vanessa Haydon in 2005, he keeps a low profile socially. “Ivanka has a velvet touch,” her father says. When asked if their father has a favorite, Don and Eric have been quick to answer, “Daddy’s little girl!”
“Well,” Donald says, she does have that one advantage.”
Ivanka is well aware that she doesn’t fit seamlessly into the corporate world. She shuffles papers around her desk and unearths a copy of Stuff, the lad magazine known for its nearly nude pictorials, and one of Forbes. She was on the cover of both publications last September, which she finds extremely amusing. “I almost canceled the Stuff shoot 18 times,” she says. “Finally I said, ‘Okay. But no bathing suits, no lingerie, no swimwear, no midriff.’ I was not going to expose myself in any way. It was a constant battle. They were trying to pull stuff off me and I was trying to pull stuff on.” So why bother doing it? “When I got into this business I was thinking I’d sort of assimilate,” she says. “But, quite frankly, that just didn’t happen. More recently I just sort of let that go and decided I might as well exploit it.”
Walking that line has clearly become Ivanka’s business philosophy. And it’s working. When Sean Yazbeck, the winner of The Apprentice season five, came to work for Trump, the biggest surprise, he says, was Ivanka herself, who invited him into a meeting his first week on the job. “It was a bunch of bankers from Germany, all in their fifties. We’re talking five or six guys, they had interpreters, we’re going over charts and spreadsheets and Ivanka just went straight into it: what she thought would be the best deal, profit margins, who would be in control of the hotel operations. I think sometimes the businessmen on the other end are taken aback. They think, ‘Oh, Mr. Trump’s not going to be in the meeting. This is going to be a bit of a walkover.’ And it’s not. Don Jr. is straight to the point,” he notes, “but Ivanka can charm. If she’s on your side of the boardroom, it’s fun to watch.”
Ivanka says, with obvious relish, “There’s nothing better than for someone to think you’re a dumb blond.”
Back at the photo shoot, it’s decided that the Gucci dress is too dark against the background. Ivanka changes into a gauzy, lavender J. Mendel paired with a loose Brigitte Bardot ponytail. And then after a few rolls, a corseted Vera Wang.
A wind machine blows her hair off her face as she moves from pose to pose. She shifts and pretends to peek into the building’s windows.
Finally, one of the codevelopers watching from the sidelines can’t help himself. “I want to take a picture with you,” he says, jumping into the frame and smiling like a kid posing with Mickey Mouse.
The photographer has another idea. “Hug the building!” he says to Ivanka.
“Are you out of your mind?” she asks.
“Just try it,” he shouts, clicking his lens at the same time. “See if you like him!”
“Hug it like it’s your daddy!” someone yells.
She stops in mock anger, then gamely attempts to place her heel on the building’s patio as far as the hem of her dress will allow. She drapes her arms around the tower and seductively stares, slightly lowering her chin. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” shouts the photographer excitedly. “I am telling you, it looks good.”
“I trust you,” she says. “Well,” she adds, with a pause, “I trust you because I’m the one who gets to pick the film.”