In 1990, Donald Trump’s marriage to a beautiful blonde model was nearing its end, and his marriage to a different beautiful blonde model was just about to bloom. The two ladies (Ivana Trump and Marla Maples, respectively) allegedly became aware of this on the scenic slopes of Aspen, where they got into a verbal—or, depending on who you ask, physical—confrontation over the rotting jack-o-lantern real estate tycoon himself.
The basic details of the Trump love triangle are as follows: Donald and Ivana, his then-wife of 13 years, were in Aspen for the winter holidays. Marla Maples, the woman who was purportedly and unenviably having sex with Donald Trump on the side, was also in town. This was not a coincidence.
Ivana told the story, in her words, in a 1991 20/20 interview with Barbara Walters:
WALTERS: Donald repeatedly said that your marriage broke up because you just “grew apart,” and he, in a sense, outgrew you.
Mrs. TRUMP: I really wasn’t aware of growing apart. I wasn’t aware of problems. Every marriage takes a give and take.
WALTERS: And then came Christmas, Aspen, December 30th- can you tell us what happened, what you felt, what you learned? It’s still hard, isn’t it?
Mrs. TRUMP: It’s tough.
WALTERS: [voice-over] At first, Ivana could not discuss what happened at Aspen Mountain that day, but later, she was able to talk about it. [interviewing] We know what Marla said about that day in Aspen - we have read about it in all of the papers - that she came up to you and said or you met her and she said, “I love Donald. Do you?” Is that pretty much the way it happened?
Mrs. TRUMP: It was pretty much the way it happened. Actually, I did find out first time on the telephone, when I did pick the phone in the living room and Donald did take the phone in bedroom-
WALTERS: In Aspen?
Mrs. TRUMP: -in Aspen and he spoke to the mutual friend of ours and he was talking about Marla. And I really didn’t understand. I never heard a name like that in my life. And I came to Donald. I said, “Who is Moola?” And he said, “Well, that’s a girl which is going after me for last two years.” And I said, “Is that serious?” And he said, “Oh, she’s just going after me.”
WALTERS: [voice-over] The next day, Ivana said, she was skiing on the slopes when she passed Donald with dark-haired girl. She was told that girl was a friend of “Moola” or Marla, whom Donald said had been chasing him. Later, she saw that girl again.
Mrs. TRUMP: And I saw her in the line, in the food line and-
WALTERS: You were at a restaurant-
Mrs. TRUMP: In the restaurant. And I said, “I understand from my husband that you have a friend which is after my husband for last two years.” I says, “Will you give her the message that I love my husband very much.” And that was it and I walk outside. And I didn’t know this Marla was standing behind this girl in line but because I never met her, I had no idea. And Marla just charged right behind me and she said- well, you said and in front of my children - they were about five feet away - and all were just looking up like nothing would happen, so-
WALTERS: She said, “I’m Marla and I love your husband. Do you?”
Mrs. TRUMP: Yes.
WALTERS: What did you say?
Mrs. TRUMP: I said- I really said- I said, “Get lost. I love my husband very much.” It was very unladylike, but it was as much as I really could- that was as much as I- as harsh as maybe I could be.
WALTERS: And what did Donald say?
Mrs. TRUMP: Not anything, nothing.
WALTERS: And that’s how you found out?
Mrs. TRUMP: Yes.
(Donald reportedly tried to cut off her alimony payments after the interview aired, claiming she had violated the terms of their divorce settlement. A judge ultimately struck a provision of their agreement barring Ivana from speaking about him publicly.)
“[Ivana] came up to [my friend] and said, ‘Are you Moola? Are you?’ And she said no,” Marla said, according to “Trump Nation” author Timothy O’Brien. “Then she came up to me and asked if I was Moola. I said no, because well, that’s not my name. I felt awful, just terrible.”
Other witnesses also gave contemporaneous accounts of the public spat.
“I saw him walking with his arm around a blond and I just assumed it was Ivana,” a Chicago decorator “who spent the holidays in Colorado” told the Chicago Tribune in 1990. “Same size, same hair. I walked around to look, but it wasn’t her.” Via the Tribune:
The two women had words at Bonnie’s, a restaurant where everyone goes for lunch, the most public spot in Aspen, the equivalent of, oh, say, the lobby of Trump Tower. Then, Donald and Ivana put on a show for the holiday skiers.
“They walked out of the restuarant together,” says the decorator. “She was talking and he was trying to shush her. Then they both stopped to put on their skis. She was a little behind him and she was being kind of playful, bumping into him. But then they stopped about 50 feet away from the sundeck. She was facing us and he had his back to us and it`s now clear that they’re fighting. She’s waving her hands and yelling at him. And now everybody decides, ‘This is interesting’ and we all go over to the railing. It goes on for 25 minutes. It went on forever! Every now and then she tried to make up and put her arms around him, but he pulled back, he wouldn’t respond. He finally skied off, and everyone started clapping and cheering. She smiled and waved to the crowd and skied away in his direction. But I saw them near the next lift, and they were still going at it.”
“They were like two bag people fighting on the subway,” says E. Graydon Carter, co-editor of Spy magazine, which engages in frequent Trump-bashing.
The Aspen Soujourner has a slightly juicier version of the encounter:
When Ivana Trump and Marla Maples encountered each other on Aspen Mountain during the Christmas holidays of 1990, the story went around the world in at least three or four different versions, one of which made the front page of the next day’s New York Post. What is known for sure is that both women were in Aspen, with The Donald, at the same time. And only one of them, Ivana, was married to him. The rest of the details varied considerably.
Some claim Ivana approached Marla in Bonnie’s restaurant and demanded, “You bitch, leave my husband alone!” Others say the confrontation occurred on the ski slope at the bottom of Little Nell, where they threw snowballs and hissed at each other. Ivana has said, “She came to me on the mountain and told me she was in love with my husband and they were having an affair. It was extremely painful.” Still others insist that the real source of the contretemps was that both were wearing identical expensive ski suits, possibly purchased by Trump for each of them. Whatever really happened, the result was divorce court.
And People provided a similar account in a February, 1990 article.
By most accounts, the ailing marriage took its fatal downhill plunge during the couple’s stormy Christmas holiday in Aspen, where they were seen arguing on the slopes and outside Bonnie’s, a popular restaurant on the mountain. Another vacationing skier reports that on Dec. 29 Ivana became enraged when she learned that actress-model Maria Maples was also at the resort.
Two days later, according to one witness, when Maples, 26, walked out of Bonnie’s, Ivana confronted her, demanding, “You bitch, leave my husband alone.” Trump, who was sitting within earshot putting on his skis, took off down the mountain. Wrong move: Ivana is an excellent skier; Donald is not. When the formidable Czech pushed off in hot pursuit, fascinated observers swear they saw her whip in front of Donald and then ski backwards down the slopes, wagging her finger in his face.
But there are, of course, two sides to every story—whatever Donald says happened and the truth.
“We were actually standing near the restaurant, getting ready to put skis on. And I was standing there like an idiot and Marla and Ivana were there,” Trump would later tell a reporter, according to Timothy O’Brien’s “Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald.” “And there wasn’t shouting, but you could obviously see there was some friction. And a man who was standing right next to me, who weighed about 350 pounds and wasn’t a very attractive guy, said to me ‘It could be worse, Donald. I’ve been in Aspen for twenty years and I’ve never had a date.’ And I’ll never forget the statement and it sort of lightened it up a little bit for me.”