Traditionally, presidents have at least made a show of having healthy, happy marriages. Even the Clintons, despite marital troubles, appeared to have moments of genuine affection, humor, and bonding. But from almost the first moments of Inauguration Day, during the ceremonial arrival at the White House, it seemed something was amiss with the Trumps. Perhaps you’ve seen the clip: Donald and Melania’s black S.U.V. arrives at the White House, where Barack and Michelle Obama are waiting to greet them. Donald bolts from the car and marches up the stairs, leaving behind Melania, in her powder-blue, Jackie-esque suit, carrying a large Tiffany box. (Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton all escorted their wives at this moment.) This snapshot of the Trump marriage was soon followed by other odd moments. During Franklin Graham’s blessing, Donald turned around to look at Melania. She smiled momentarily. But once his back was turned, her face fell into a miserable frown. Later that night, as the president and First Lady had their “first dance,” twice over, to “My Way,” she was often stiff and pulling away from his face.
#SaveMelania and #SadMelania were soon trending on Twitter. The next day, protesters at the Women’s March carried signs that said, FREE MELANIA. A fashion fixture who’s known the Trump clan for decades shared with me his fantasy: “My dream is that Michelle Obama will convince her to leave him, and she’ll become this great feminist icon. She will walk into the middle of everything and say, ‘He’s crazy. This is nuts. I don’t know what I was doing!’ ”
Alas, a Hollywood ending this exciting is unlikely. After two high-maintenance wives, Donald Trumpseems deliberately to have chosen as his third a woman who would be both bombshell and cipher, a physical testament to his manhood and amazingness. She would be decorative and polite, not needy and annoying. “I’m not a nagging wife,” Melania has declared a couple of times—her manifesto. According to some of Trump’s friends and associates, she has stuck to it.
For a quick primer on some of Donald Trump’s failed relationships—professional and personal—take a look at the video below.
“She enjoys her role of stepping back and letting him take center stage,” says decorator friend William Eubanks, who spent Thanksgiving with the Trumps at Mar-a-Lago, along with romance-novel-cover model Fabio and boxing promoter Don King. According to Lisa Bytner, who did P.R. for Trump Model Management when it was launched in 1999, and became a friend of the couple’s, Trump found in Melania the perfect mate. “She doesn’t make waves,” says Bytner. “She speaks only when spoken to. She’s just very sweet.” Except, in public, when called upon to defend her husband’s demeaning attitudes toward women, or to be a mouthpiece for some of his offensive claims, such as birtherism.
And yet, woefully pliant as Melania may be, even she may have a breaking point. Over the course of reporting this story, for which her close friends declined to talk, an uneasy picture has emerged of their marital union. Melania’s unhappiness and the couple’s apparent lack of closeness are becoming more noticeable. Despite assurances from her spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, that Melania is embracing the role of First Lady, most signs point to a distinct lack of interest. And while Grisham says Mrs. Trump plans to move to the White House once their son, Barron, “finishes out the school year,” there have been indications that she is in no particular rush.
Once upon a time, it was a story that made perfect sense: a Slavic How to Marry a Billionaire. Melanija Knavs, the determined daughter of a former Communist Party member, grew up in Slovenia, where she and her older sister, Ines, learned from their parents’ ambition for upward mobility. Having creative aspirations, she studied design at the University of Ljubljana. But after she won runner-up in a beauty contest, she dropped out, hoping to put Slovenia behind her and become a model.
Her quest took her to Paris and Milan, where, in 1995, she had the good luck of meeting Paolo Zampolli—a co-owner of Metropolitan Models, a pal of Donald’s, and a gregarious playboy—who was on a scouting trip in Europe. “I told Melania, ‘If you would like to come to try the United States, we’d like to represent you,’ ” recalls the fast-talking Zampolli in his Gramercy Park town house. “I say very simple, ‘Please come.’ ” Melania was in.
Zampolli says he secured Melania’s visa. In 1996 she moved to New York City, settling into Zeckendorf Towers, on Union Square, where Zampolli set her up with a roommate, a photographer named Matthew Atanian. Unlike many twentysomethings, who come to New York City with an unquenchable lust for experience, Melania, according to Atanian, had little interest in nightlife or making friends. When she went out, it seemed to be with older men, only for dinner, and she always came home before her roommate had gone out, he says. (Grisham says that Melania did not do much dating, due to her “extensive travel schedule” as a model.) Demonstrating admirable Slavic discipline, “she wore ankle weights around the apartment and the common areas,” recalls Atanian. “She would strictly eat five to seven vegetables and fruits every day. She drank a lot of water . . . . She was looking to make money [as a model].”
But, according to Atanian, Melania was getting only second- and third-tier modeling work, and, at age 26, time was running out. Atanian, then shooting for Marie Claire, recalls her asking him to help her get in the magazine. He sensed it was hopeless. “She was always kind of a stiff person. That’s why she wasn’t a successful model, because she couldn’t move.”
Fortunately, Melania captured the attention of Donald Trump at a party, thrown by Zampolli, at the Times Square nightclub the Kit Kat Club, during Fashion Week in September 1998. Trump had come with a date, Norwegian cosmetics heiress Celina Midelfart, but when she went off to use the bathroom, Trump approached Melania and asked for her number. She took his number instead—a story she tells proudly. Soon they were at the 1990s Greenwich Village hot spot Moomba, starting a romance. Atanian and one of their model friends ribbed Melania, he says, coming out “with remarks such as ‘Oh, it’s the small hands you like, not the money, right? The comb-over, the dashing good looks.’ Melania would say, ‘Stop it, stop it.’ Her rap was ‘He’s a real man.’ ”
“All these European models, they’re tough as hell. They know what they’re doing. They’ve been watching the Americans forever,” says photographer Harry Benson, who has shot numerous First Couples, and Melania at least twice.
The union made perfect sense for Donald too. After demanding Ivana and needy Marla, Melania would be the perfect mate, one who would be an advertisement for his virility while giving him his “space.” Federico Pignatelli, a longtime Trump friend and business associate, who founded the fashion studio Pier 59, says, “Ivana was an intelligent, entrepreneurial woman. Also a very strong-minded person and very feisty. While instead, Melania . . . really no fights.” For her part, Melania would get a luxurious home where she could indulge her hobbies—Pilates and reading fashion magazines, according to People—in peace, and a promise that she would never have to return to drab Eastern-European prospects. Donald accompanied Melania to her homeland once. “I was there for about 13 minutes,” he later said to Larry King with Melania by his side. “We landed. I said, Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad. Bye.” Eventually Trump brought her family over to New York (where her parents now live for most of the year), allowing her to cut ties with the Old Country.
For a few years, the relationship worked perfectly. Propping up Donald’s sexual prowess called for some public self-degradation, but Melania, as his girlfriend, was willing to do it. In 1999, shortly after they began dating, she participated in an on-air phone call with Trump and Howard Stern, as they discussed her chest, and whether she stole money from Donald’s wallet. When Stern asked to talk to “that broad in your bed,” Trump put her on the line, and she spoke about how they had sex more than daily, and revealed that she was nearly nude. Stern replied, “I have my pants off already.” Thanks to her relationship with Trump, she finally got her glossy-magazine spread—nearly naked in British GQ, handcuffed to a briefcase on a private jet, which Trump supplied. Managing the career moves of his companions was part of a pattern. While he was still married to Ivana, Trump pushed his girlfriend Marla Maples to pose nude in Playboy and reportedly negotiated the fee himself. (The deal fell through.)
A MODEL MARRIAGE
After almost seven years of dating Melania, Donald finally married her, in 2005, with a lavish reception at Mar-a-Lago, studded with A-list folk from the entertainment and news businesses—many of whom Donald now despises. As a wife, Melania became a dutiful spokeswoman for his self-proclaimed success. Michael D’Antonio, author of The Truth About Trump, recalls the exchanges he witnessed between her and Donald at Trump Tower. “He begged her to praise him [to me] as a husband . . . . Literally, he said, ‘Tell him I’m a really good husband.’ She looked at him, and he repeated himself. And she said, ‘Yeah, he’s a really good husband.’ It was being dragged out of her,” says D’Antonio. Then she repeated a story D’Antonio had already heard from Trump: Tom Cruise once called Donald to see if he could use the Wollman skating rink in Central Park (which Trump had renovated with much fanfare in 1986) during off-hours. Donald was very flattered that the actor had called him personally—but Melania pointed out, “Oh, but, Donald, you’re more famous than he is.” Trump seemed to feel that this story was “an example of their affection,” recalls D’Antonio. “Praising his fame, hyping his fame, was a wifely duty. The people in Trump’s orbit have all memorized the same stories. And they repeat them word for word.”
About six months after they married, she became pregnant with Barron—and things changed, according to one source. She was 35—“checkout time” for women, as Trump once told Howard Stern-and no longer the dewy fox he’d met seven years earlier. A visitor to one of Trump’s homes, late into Melania’s pregnancy, recalls him remarking that he agreed to the baby on the condition that Melania would get her body back. “She promised him that everything would go back to the way it was,” says this guest; it struck this person as a “contract.” And he was simply rude to her. “There was no ‘How do you feel?’ No opening of doors, making sure she didn’t fall. Just ‘You wanted to have a baby.’ ” (Grisham counters that Mr. Trump was “very warm and supportive throughout her pregnancy.”)
As Donald’s celebrity ballooned with The Apprentice, Melania was asked to tolerate even more. His public interchanges with Howard Stern, which provided a kind of Greek chorus to their relationship, went from lewdly objectifying to grotesque. He agreed with Stern that his daughter Ivanka was “a piece of ass.” He joked that if Melania were in a horrible, mangling car crash he’d still love her as long as the breasts remained intact. When asked by Stern whether he’d be up for “banging 24-year-olds,” Trump eagerly assented. Subsequent accusations suggest similar improprieties.
As People-magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff wrote during the campaign, while she was on assignment in 2005 to interview the couple at Mar-a-Lago, Trump pushed her against a wall and jammed his tongue down her throat after Melania had left the room. Other women, including contestants in the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants and Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos, claim to have had similar experiences after Trump had married Melania. Trump has dismissed them as liars, and Melania has repeated the assertion. But a source in Trump’s orbit says she was well aware of the man she married. According to her old friend Lisa Bytner, Melania’s attitude has always been “Live and let live.”
As the gorgeous wife of a Manhattan billionaire, Melania has had every opportunity to become a fixture on the gala-going benefit circuit. But that would presume an interest in social status or a cause. As Bytner recalls, “She was passionate about . . . Well, I can’t think what she was passionate about.” Her official White House biography has scant evidence of philanthropy, referring to single events she participated in as “Honorary Chairwoman” some 10 years ago, and the time in 2008 she rang the closing bell at NASDAQ for National Love Our Children Day. “The Trumps don’t comport themselves by the rules that are important to people, especially people on the Upper East Side,” says Wednesday Martin, author of a memoir called Primates of Park Avenue, which chronicles the ways of Manhattan’s rich and privileged. “They’ve rejected out of hand the established rites and rituals of philanthropy—which are to have a cause, have an event, buy a table and get your friends to, and then do the same for them.” New York society ladies paint a picture of a woman with an extraordinary interest in maintaining her beauty and in this she has succeeded wildly. Even among the devoted SoulCycle set, Melania makes everyone feel dowdy by comparison, says a woman in that circle.
Being a Trump, she experimented with creating a brand, with a Melania jewelry line on QVC. But the arrangement was short-lived. When asked about the partnership, QVC released a statement: “QVC has offered items from Melania Trump’s brand. At this time, QVC does not have an active relationship with the brand.” She moved on to a line of Melania skin care—creams and exfoliants laced with caviar. That business ended in a welter of lawsuits, with Melania suing her business partner for $50 million when the venture collapsed. (The suit was settled out of court.)
One person who would fill the vacuum and give Melania’s life meaning is Barron, 11, who is by most accounts sweet and well behaved, a testament to Melania’s devotion as a mother. The two sometimes speak to each other in Slovenian, and until recently she consistently did drop-off and pick-up from Columbia Grammar and Preparatory. Once considered a laid-back option for mellow upper-middle-class families, Columbia Prep now nearly ranks among the top-tier schools in terms of competitive admission.
“Donations are assumed,” says a parent at the school, referring to sums in the five and six figures, in addition to the $47,000 annual tuition. “You want your kid here, that’s $100,000,” says an uptown parent. Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, joined the school’s board around eight years ago, and Trump has donated at least $150,000 to the school. (The school declined to comment, and Cohen, who resigned from the board last year, responds, “To imply that a student was ever offered a seat based upon a donation is wholly inaccurate.”)
Columbia Prep has become a nexus for other key figures in the Trumps’ world, too. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, the stepgranddaughter of jeweler Harry Winston and a close friend of Melania’s, has a daughter at the school. For more than 10 years, Wolkoff was a chief organizer of the Metropolitan Museum’s annual Met Gala, an event about which she has said, “No money, no come-y.” Cohen’s term on the board overlapped that of Caryn Zucker, the wife of Jeff Zucker, head of CNN, who helped catapult Trump to celebrity stardom with The Apprentice when Zucker was the president of NBC. The Zuckers have three kids at the school, and Caryn is said to be one of Melania’s friends. This trio—Cohen, Wolkoff, and Jeff Zucker—would all go on to play roles in the Trumps’ next chapter: presidential politics. Zucker led the way in giving Trump hours of unfiltered airtime during the campaign (but has since steered CNN to solid opposition ground). Wolkoff would be the First Lady’s first hire, as a senior adviser. Cohen became a rabid Trump surrogate. Threatening a reporter who asked him about Ivana Trump’s claim, later recanted, that Donald had raped her, Cohen said, “I will take you for every penny you still don’t have . . . . What I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting.” (Cohen later apologized for his “inarticulate comment.”) He is now reportedly under scrutiny in the Trump-Russia investigations but has denied any wrongdoing.
TO THE WHITE HOUSE
With Donald entering national politics, he would be asking even more of Melania. In the spring of 2011, he began to shore up his support from the far right for a potential presidential run, by casting doubt on President Obama’s citizenship. Melania agreed to be interviewed by talk-show host Joy Behar, to whom she repeated his birther claims almost verbatim: “Do you want to see President Obama’s birth certificate or not?,” Melania asked Behar. “In one way, it would be very easy if President Obama just show it. It’s not only Donald who wants to see it. It’s American people who voted for him and who didn’t voted for him—they want to see that!” (No matter that Obama had released his birth certificate in 2008, showing he was born in Hawaii.)
Trump decided not to run in 2012, saying he wasn’t ready to leave the private sector. Four years later, the time had come. Trump’s official story is that he consulted with his family about his decision to run, and they all agreed. A former campaign aide recalls a conversation in which Melania told this aide that she didn’t want Donald to run, because she was terrified he might win. According to another Trump insider, “She never wanted this, and never had any interest.” (Grisham maintains that “Mrs. Trump has always been supportive of all her husband’s endeavors.”) Tolerating his boorishness—that she could do. Repeating a couple of lame sound bites to Joy Behar—fine. But serious campaigning for one’s spouse required far more actual effort.
Melania seemed to do her best to ignore the new reality, on the grounds that she wanted to be home for Barron. Over the course of Trump’s 17-month campaign, she rarely joined her husband at rallies, and the speeches she gave could be counted on one hand. Compare that with Michelle Obama, who spoke all over the country on Barack’s behalf, though she too had young children. During the primaries, Donald made do by re-tweeting a picture of Melania next to an unflattering shot of Heidi Cruz, Ted’s wife, with the caption “The images are worth a thousand words.”
But then he clinched the nomination, and more Melania participation was required—which, alas, did not do her any favors. In February 2016, in an interview with MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, Melania expounded on illegal immigration, using her personal story as an example of model behavior. “I followed the law . . . . And you should do that. You should not just say, O.K., let me stay here. And whatever happens happens.”
To some, this statement pointed up a lack of compassion toward a group she herself is part of. Her immigration attorney Michael Wildes, who worked for Trump Models and the Miss Universe pageant, denies that Melania’s stance toward fellow immigrants is unsympathetic, likening her to “the biblical Queen Esther” on this issue. When I pressed him to explain how, specifically, Melania has demonstrated concern for immigrants, he put me on hold for some time, and returned with what sounded like a carefully crafted non sequitur: “She’s extremely thoughtful and sincere about asking about family members who are not in her circle. She’s fully aware of your family.”
Then there was that speech she had to give at the Republican convention. According to a source with knowledge of events, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, took control and hired two George W. Bush speechwriters, Matthew Scully and John McConnell, to write it. It was Kushner, not Melania, who provided them with the outlines of her story, and the touching personal anecdotes. The speechwriters assumed that eventually they’d get some input from Melania, but the call never came. After the speech sat around for a few weeks, Donald’s frequent ghostwriter, Meredith McIver, got her hands on it. The final draft of the speech was nothing like the one the speechwriters had turned in. The radical rewrite may not have been ordered by anyone in particular, says this source, but was perhaps the product of a campaign in disarray. Hours before her convention speech, Melania told the Today show’s Matt Lauer, “I wrote it, with as little help as possible.”
Later that night, after she delivered the speech, it was revealed that passages had been lifted from the convention speech Michelle Obama had given eight years earlier. All of a sudden, campaign spokesmen were blaming “Melania’s team of writers,” and insisting Melania had nothing to do with the “unfortunate oversight.” In the end, McIver took the fall, writing a public letter, apologizing to the Trumps and saying how honored she was to work for such great people. “It wasn’t Melania’s fault,” insists Zampolli. According to a campaign aide, “she was distraught” at the turn of events. She disappeared from view and holed up in Trump Tower.
It got worse. In October, the “grab them by the pussy” tape was leaked—Trump’s bragging to Billy Bush of Access Hollywood about touching women’s private parts, recorded during the first year of his marriage to Melania. Donald dismissed his words as “locker-room talk,” but then one woman after another came out of the woodwork to claim that these weren’t just words. But Donald boasted that he had never apologized to Melania, because there was nothing to apologize for. At campaign rallies, he made his case by saying that some of the accusers weren’t hot enough for him to hit on.
This was a five-alarm fire, and it seemed as though Melania, in spite of her previous missteps, was the only person who could put it out. On October 17, she went on CNN to defend her husband, dismissing his words as “boy talk” and blaming everyone else—Billy Bush, who had “egged him on,” NBC for releasing the tape, the “left-wing media” for reporting on it, and the accusers, whose accounts were “lies.” Trump’s defenders dug in. Zampolli, while acknowledging that the tape wasn’t pleasant to hear, waves it away. “Sometimes, [during] Girls Night Out, you guys make some comments about bodies like this.” Pignatelli agrees. “He adores women. And he respects women. When you adore your daughter, you respect women. And he adores Ivanka. Literally adores her. So when a man adores his daughter, he respects women.”
Women throughout the world continue to protest Donald Trump’s administration. In the video below, see some of the policies they’re taking issue with.
NOT OVER UNTIL THE FIRST LADY SINGS
There were signs that the pressure was taking its toll on Melania. At Columbia Prep Parents Night, shortly after the recording was released, “she looked really thin, tired, and sad,” recalls a parent. “Nobody was talking to her. Nobody knew what to say.” But Election Day was right around the corner, and duty called. As a potential First Lady, Melania needed to come up with a “platform.” On November 3, she gave her first solo speech since the debacle at the Republican convention, and announced that she intended to fight . . . cyberbullying, a claim she made seemingly with no awareness that she was married to the worst cyberbully on the planet. Was she really that clueless?
Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus—whom Trump attacked on Twitter as “a real dummy” and a “major loser” after she criticized him on CNN—believes “it was the height of spoiled self-centeredness. Of a very privileged, wealthy woman looking only at herself, who clearly has no thoughts or care for the people her husband has damaged, ruined, and traumatized by his cyberbullying.” Again, Melania was pilloried by the media. On the plus side, the election was in five days, and the prospect of Trump winning was then estimated to be as little as 10 percent.
Tens of millions of Americans watched the election returns with disbelief. It’s likely that Melania, who watched with the family and allies at Trump Tower, was among them. Stylist Phillip Bloch, an acquaintance of Melania’s, who worked with Donald on his pageants, says, “I’ll tell you, that pantsuit didn’t look like she was going to a victory rally. That outfit was like, ‘I’m getting on the plane going to Palm Beach. This is over now. Thank God.’ ”
And yet, here was a chance—a golden opportunity for Melania to do something transformative for the world, or at least to serve as the compassionate partner, a kinder counterweight to a man whose lifeblood was to insult.
The tradition of First Lady is no lightweight anachronism. According to A. Scott Berg, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Wilson, the best-selling 2013 biography of Woodrow Wilson, “President William Howard Taft called the White House ‘the loneliest place in the world.’ It has fallen upon 40 First Ladies of the United States before Melania to assuage that loneliness by offering a sympathetic ear and often the only advice their husbands could trust implicitly.” From Eleanor Roosevelt, who served as “her husband’s legs” as she toured coal mines and front lines, to Betty Ford, who bravely presented herself as a survivor of breast cancer, to Hillary Clinton, who led the charge on health-care reform, to Michelle Obama, who encouraged fitness through a national program of diet and exercise, the majority of modern First Ladies have played robust roles. “Even those First Ladies who evaded the spotlight—such as Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, and Pat Nixon—graciously and publicly stood by their men,” Berg says.
But Melania has approached the job of First Lady hesitantly. According to a source close to the transition, the East Wing, where First Ladies have their offices, was practically a ghost town. “A First Lady comes in with seasoned partnerships,” said this source. “You come in with a staff, your people. They have no people. Look who was at Thanksgiving: Don King and Fabio.”
True, Melania’s first hire was her old friend Stephanie Wolkoff. Her next hires included people who weren’t obvious White House material: decorator Tham Kannalikham, who once worked for Ralph Lauren’s home-furnishings business, and, as social secretary, Anna Cristina Niceta Lloyd, whose previous job had been as an account executive at a catering company.
In April, Melania became somewhat more visible, standing by Trump’s side at Mar-a-Lago during the visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping and his wife, and visiting an all-girls charter school in Washington, D.C., with Queen Rania of Jordan.
But as this article was going to press, she hadn’t yet done anything about cyberbullying. Offers have been made to gather experts in the field to educate her. When asked what Melania intends to do with the issue, a source in frequent contact with the Trumps shrugs and says noncommittally, “I suspect she’ll do something.” (Grisham says the First Lady “continues to work on building her agenda in a thoughtful way . . . . She likes things to be done right, and doing things right takes time.”)
“The only action Melania Trump has taken in regard to cyberbullying is in regard to herself,” Cheri Jacobus told me. She may have a point. In February, Melania successfully settled with a blogger, for a “substantial sum,” according to her lawyer, for making the unsubstantiated claim that she’d been an escort. She filed a $150 million suit against the Web site of the Daily Mail for reporting the claim. The suit alleged that the defamatory statement destroyed her “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to make millions during this “multiyear term” in which she is “one of the most photographed women in the world.” Only after the media pointed out that the wording implied a blatant intention to profit from the presidency was that part taken out. (The tabloid and its Web site retracted the article, but the suit went ahead, ending in mid-April when the Daily Mail and MailOnline issued an official apology and paid damages reported to be around $3 million.)
With Melania often absent, Ivanka has gone a long way toward filling the role of First Lady, and has even moved into her own office in the West Wing of the White House. In the first months of the Trump presidency she, instead of Melania, met and socialized with a number of world leaders and C.E.O.’s. To be sure, Ivanka seems to have an intense personal will to power, but there is no doubt that stepping in for Melania has also been an obligation. Two sources in fashion and media have observed a frostiness between the two. (A source close to Ivanka said that their relationship is “fine.” Grisham says, “Ivanka and Mrs. Trump have always shared a close relationship, and that continues today.”)
New York’s chattering class has recently been abuzz with gossip that Melania was considering a divorce after the Access Hollywood tape came out. But Melania’s camp denies those rumors, and Zampolli says that during New Year’s Eve at Mar-a-Lago “it looked like they were on a first date. I don’t have that kind of romance with my wife.” Us Weekly has reported that the Trumps sleep in separate quarters, both in New York and at Mar-a-Lago. Grisham dismisses this as “fictional.” In any case, Zampolli explains that, for people like him and Donald, that’s no big deal. “I built a very big house,” he says, gesturing at his massive town house, “that goes to six floors . . . . [My wife] wants to live in her own spot, trust me. The house is 20,000 square feet, as you can see.”
Despite official statements that Melania will move to Washington at the end of the school year, at press time the Trumps had still not announced a D.C.-area school for Barron. According to a well-placed member of the Washington education community, they had not yet applied to some of the schools one might have imagined. A St. Albans parent notes, “There’s been no ‘Barron will be going to my school’ ” sort of dish one might expect. (Grisham says, “They are still looking at a few schools.”)
New Yorkers are paying dearly for Melania’s gilded boundaries. It’s costing the city about $1 million per week to protect her and Barron. The Columbia Prep community is struggling to deal with a situation it never bargained for. Pick-up has become a complicated ordeal, according to a parent. Choppers have hovered overhead. Recently, a suspicious truck was parked outside, causing the school to go on lockdown. The children were told to move away from the windows. “The parents are very unhappy,” says one, who believes no president should have a child at a New York City school. “We’re not geared for it. The kids feel the anxiety, too.” In addition, the public expression of political fervor has been discouraged, as the members of the community were asked to refrain from discussing the election on school grounds.
What will become of Melania and Donald? Perhaps some kind of feminist fantasy (involving Michelle Obama or not) will come to pass. To be sure, it would provide a gripping melodrama and an “I told you so” victory for those who were appalled by Donald’s misogynist outbursts revealed during the campaign. But shouldn’t we be entitled to more? As Berg says, “A nation now wonders what role, if any, the new First Lady might play in its life. So too, perhaps, does her husband.”
Correction: Primates of Park Avenue is a memoir, not a novel, as originally stated.