New York, Adrian & The Donald
It was 1990. I was living in Manhattan and had only been married to my second husband for a year. A veterinarian by trade, Adrian Alexandru became successful in New York City within five years of his 1967 arrival to the U.S. He had just escaped his native communist Romania for a freer life and dreams of big business opportunities.
This in and of itself is a fascinating story. But I will save it for another day. Suffice it to say, Adrian was used to getting what he wanted when he wanted it. After we met on one of his business trips to California I was on that list.
A little background:
My future ex-husband arrived in Los Angeles in the summer of 1988. We were introduced by mutual friends, and dined at a very posh restaurant (who's name escapes me at the moment) in the Century Plaza Hotel. Adrian handed out gifts at the table to everyone. Mine was a gorgeous Ostrich leather designer bag that must have cost over $300 back then. He took charge of the evening with great flare - ordering his favorite Champagne, caviar, pheasant and chocolate fondue for everyone. I was impressed. That three-hour dinner must have cost him a small fortune.
From that evening on, he wined, dined, gifted and shmoozed his way into many a person's life that he met in Los Angeles, including my mom, step-father and me.
Fast forward, six months: Adrian imported me to the Big Apple. We lived in a fabulous corner apartment on the 15th floor of a building on the corner of 42nd and 2nd avenue. I was excited with New York City.
Adrian worked long days: Up at 8am and he was off to his veterinary clinic by 8:30 after a quick breakfast. He rarely got home before 8pm, leaving me with a very long day to amuse myself. But as exciting as it was, NYC took some getting used to. I was an LA girl. The attitude, the culture, the city...this was definitely not LA. I had to learn how to be a New Yorker. How to walk, how to socialize, how to shop-- hell, how to survive. In fact, as much as I liked the newness of it all, I cried a little every day during my first year there. For starters, I didn't know anyone. I missed the Pacific Coast, my Hollywood, and most of all, my family and friends. In time I adjusted. I made frequent trips back home to ease the transition.
Life was good.
Adrian and I married in May 1989 with all the pomp and circumstance you would expect from a hugely successful entrepreneur--Black tie wedding, 250 guests from Europe, Canada and the U.S, reception at the Bally's Grand Hotel in Atlantic City (formerly Steve Wynn's Golden Nugget) We stayed in one of the penthouse suites complete with chocolate dipped strawberries, chilled champagne and a butler. We jetted off to Italy two days later for our honeymoon.
But back to New York City and my encounters with the Donald.
Life settled in. Adrian sold the apartment in Manhattan and bought a home in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. Yes. I said Brooklyn. Not all of Brooklyn is tacky. Some of it is actually quite nice and historic. We lived just off of Shore Road, in an unpretentious 3-bedroom 2-bath home. We could've lived in a mansion, but that wasn't Adrian's way. And that was just fine with me.
Adrian's hands were always in "many pots" . He held interests in laboratories such as Merck and Pfizer. He owned 17 animal clinics, numerous income properties, and more. Adrian was one of the first developers of South Beach, the now "Art Deco Riviera" of Miami Beach.
He closely followed the many deals of real estate moguls such as John Tishman, Fred Trump and son Donald Trump.
One afternoon, he announced that he'd arranged a meeting with Donald Trump at one of his offices on 5th Avenue. We usually went into The City on Friday or Saturday evenings for dinner and occasionally a Broadway show. The meeting was scheduled for 5 pm Friday. Adrian suggested I join him so that we could go dine afterwards. We made reservations at The Palm for dinner at 7 pm that evening.
We arrived on time at Trump's office on the 20th floor of the high-rise office building. Fancy. Too fancy for my taste. Lavish curtains, gold framed paintings, uncomfortably expensive furniture. It was cold and overdone. Frankly, it "stank" of too much money.
A young curvaceous secretary came out and said, "Mr. Trump will be with you shortly."
A few minutes later, we stood up to greet the Donald as he entered the room. He went over to Adrian and shook hands. I extended mine. Nothing. Ok. "How rude", I thought. Donald gave me "the once over" which made me feel uncomfortable--kind of like a big cat eyeing his next conquest. Yuck. He gave me a slight smile then walked off to his office with Adrian. They were about five feet away from me when I heard Donald say to my husband, "Nice trophy wife." I was DISGUSTED...and thoroughly annoyed.
Later that evening, I shared my disgust with Adrian to which he replied, "Don't take things so personally." An argument ensued. I finally dropped it. It wasn't worth the aggravation.
A month later we received an invitation to the Donald's birthday party at his newest casino, the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.
I hesitated telling Adrian about the invitation. But I knew he would find out anyway and decided to tell him. Naturally, he insisted we attend. Not that Adrian ever needed a reason to go to Atlantic City. We'd drive down every two to three weeks, where Adrian was considered a "high-roller", playing $300 to $500 a hand at the roulette table. Our hotel stays were always comped, with limousines sent to pick us up and drive us back at our leisure.
I was not looking forward to Trump's birthday party. "Another encounter with the asshole," I thought. At Adrian's bequest, I went out and bought a fancy cocktail dress for the occasion. We climbed into the limo, sipping champagne during our two hour ride to Atlantic City. Arriving at Bally's, we checked in and went up to our room to get ready for the party. How I dreaded it.
We arrived at the Taj Mahal at 7pm. My God, what a place! Gaudy wouldn't even begin to describe it with its crystal chandeliers, velvety wallpaper (reminiscent of the tacky rooms in Elvis's Graceland), loud, busy casino carpeting and "tchotchkes " everywhere. You certainly wouldn't want to be drunk and wander through there. I was stone cold sober and I still wanted to vomit.
We went to the ballroom for the party. The food was excellent and well served. There were three enormous ice sculptures surrounded by a massive Raw Bar of mouthwatering seafood. White-gloved butlers served hot hors d'oeuvres throughout the evening. In the corner, a Champagne fountain and just across a dark-chocolate fountain surrounded by fresh fruit and desserts. This was the only saving grace to the evening. Adrian and I mingled, socializing with real estate tycoons, and celebrities such as LaToya Jackson, Jon Voight, Mike Tyson, New Jersey Governor, Jim Florio and others.
It took well over two hours for the Donald to show up. By 9:30 pm I had eaten and drank more than my share and was ready to leave. The crowd had started to thin out when finally the "man of the hour" appeared complete with four bodyguards. Four body guards. Really? In his own casino? I didn't get it.
In any event, he was welcomed and as the crowd applauded his entrance, he raised a glass of champagne and toasted, "Thank you all for being here. This is just GREAT!" He then put down his glass and left the ballroom with his satellite of goons. That was it. No conversations. Nothing. A band continued to play soft jazz in the background as guests slowly left.
I would never have to engage with him again. Twice was enough for a lifetime. Little did I know that it would only be a matter of time before the Donald would be a daily fixture in all our lives as he transitioned from hosting "The Apprentice", to another 'reality' show, this time in the Oval Office where as president he would constantly bombard millions with his endless tweets, rants and frequent rallies before his adoring thousands around the nation.
Today, I marvel at how little he's changed in the nearly 30 years since I first met him. I also wonder what the future will bring him and if he will continue to hold the attention of millions of people. Napoleon once said: "Fame is fleeting but obscurity is eternal."
Will the same hold true for the Donald?