Sue Fox recalls a memorable evening in the company of Ivana and Ivanka Trump.
A post-concert dinner in the atrium of the Barbican Centre looked like it was going to be fun. Each table had a flag and name of a famous opera house. I was seated at the Bolshoi. Dearly beloved was far away at the Sydney Opera House. A middle-aged Russian publicist with twinkling eyes and plump hands sat next to me. Opposite was Riccardo Mazucchelli who was married – briefly – to Ivana Trump. There was also a glamorous woman with expensive long glitzy earrings.
The Russian, knowing I wrote for the Sunday Times Magazine was very chatty. He asked if the following week, I would like to go to a small dinner he was hosting for Ivana Trump at San Lorenzo Restaurant in Beauchamp Place. San Lorenzo was where Princess Diana often went for lunch. ‘Yes, but only if my husband can come too.’ We’re not talking Martha Gellhorn here. Two days later, an embossed invitation arrived by courier.
‘This will end in tears,’ I told my husband, as I stirred a chicken carcass and vegetables. There is, of course, no such thing as a free lunch or, in this case, a free dinner. A Russian publicist would not be inviting me to dinner unless he was expecting me to write something in return.
We took the tube to Knightsbridge. Photographers were lined up outside the restaurant. Thinking we were probably the cleaners they didn’t look up when we arrived. Inside, we were led into a dark reception area which was ablaze with light emanating from Ivana Trump, dazzling in diamonds. She glittered and glowed like a power station, spreading radiance on Hooray Henrys and hangers on. Teenaged Ivanka was there too. I gazed, spellbound at Ivanka’s legs which stretched from her chin to her feet. Barely l5 years old, she was stunning. I immediately thought of Relative Values, a Sunday Times Magazine feature with mother and daughter, Ivana and Ivanka was the price to be paid for a free dinner.
At San Lorenzo, we were ushered into a private dining room. The table was festooned with fruit and flowers looking like something out of Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. The display was the dessert. After the main course, tureens of melted chocolate were ceremoniously marched in. Guests were invited to dip everything edible into the chocolate. Bacchanalian Gluttony. Very delicious it was too.
Long before the cheerful Rite of Spring with the strawberries, cherries and tablecloth, I was stuck with some ghastly men. Dearly beloved was way down at the other end deep in conversation with a jolly blonde of the hunting shooting and wholesome Camilla Parker Bowles type.
To my right was the socialite, interior designer, Nicky Haslam. Two seats away was the Greek journalist and writer, Theodoracopulos Panagiotis, the Spectator columnist known as Taki. Haslam, for no apparent reason, asked me if my family had been Russian Aristocracy. ‘No. My forebears came to England on a fishing boat from Plotz.’ Actually, they came from Rostov on Don and Riga, escaping pogroms but I wasn’t keen to get into any of that.
And so, it went on with chat about the Polo at Windsor the following weekend, cruises and a life which had nothing to do with a mother of three who was worrying that she had left her chicken stock on the gas.
Suddenly, there was a clink of silver on china. The illuminated Ivana got up to speak. ‘My dearest friends’ she began. I choked on my Merlot. ‘It’s wonderful to see you all.’ There must be some mistake. She didn’t know me or my husband from a piece of cheese. Ivana had never met us, was never likely to meet us, and we didn’t know anybody in the room. Friends? I doubt it.
Her speech is lost in the mists of time, but it was basically about Chopard jewellery. Ah, that glamourous woman at my Bolshoi table. The one wearing fabulous earrings. She was now sitting next to Ivana – sporting even longer ones. The woman was a Chopard. Possibly even Mrs Chopard. The dinner was in honour of Chopard’s newest black diamonds which could be used to encrust the little black phone case you keep for your evening bag. Of course! Silly me! I should have known. Who goes to San Lorenzo without black diamonds on their phone? (In 1996 I didn’t even have a mobile phone).
Worried about my chicken soup, I waved at dearly beloved pleading to leave. The Russian PR suggested we join everyone for Polo at Windsor the following weekend. We stumbled out of San Lorenzo. The photographers put up their cameras and just as quickly put them down again. Off home to NW11 we were not likely to make the society pages.
As it happens, we could have stayed later. The chicken soup was cold and turning to jelly. As expected, the Russian phoned with the promised invitation to Windsor. ‘I’m terribly sorry, we’re not able to join you,’ I told him. ‘It just so happens we’ve been invited to a Bar mitzvah that day.’
Postscript: I never did write Relative Values with Ivana and Ivanka. My editor was keen, and the Russian publicist was delighted. Alas, after two months of faxing Ivana who was somewhere in the Mediterranean on a yacht, I gave up. There are only so many ‘Ivana and Ivanka are currently on vacation with limited telecom connections,’ a girl can take.