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Remembering Ivana Trump, Donald Trump's first wife

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Ivana Trump has died. The first wife of Donald Trump was 73. People who were around at the time of that marriage from the 1970s to the 1990s could hardly avoid her name or her tabloid newspaper fame. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: An accomplished skier as a child in Czechoslovakia, Ivana Trump was working as a model in 1976 when she met the budding real estate mogul. She and Donald Trump had three children Don Jr., Eric and Ivanka. As Trump built his real estate business, Ivana took on executive roles, doing interior design for the gaudy hotels and casinos. When the marriage crumbled, he had an affair with actress Marla Maples. The Trumps' troubles were a fixture of tabloid front pages.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: This was the biggest of the big. It was crazy. It was out of control. And I guess it had all the elements of a soap opera.

KEITH: Ivana reportedly accused Trump of ripping her hair out and sexually assaulting her. Though, she later walked back the allegation. The messy divorce finalized in 1992. Three years later, the pair appeared in a Pizza Hut commercial winking at their split.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

IVANA TRUMP: May I have the last slice?

TRUMP: Actually, you're only entitled to half.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Large, just 9.99.

KEITH: Ivana Trump was so famous for her divorce, she made a cameo appearance in the 1996 film "The First Wives Club."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FIRST WIVES CLUB")

TRUMP: (As Ivana) Ladies, we have to be strong and independent. And remember...

GOLDIE HAWN: (As Elise) What?

TRUMP: (As Ivana) Don't get mad, get everything.

KEITH: And more than two decades later, she stirred up controversy while promoting her book, "Raising Trump," by referring to herself in an ABC interview as first lady.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: I have the direct number to the White House. But I no really want to call him there because Melania is there. And I don't want to cause any kind of jealousy or something like that because I'm basically first Trump wife, OK? (Laughter) I'm first lady, OK?

KEITH: She was a motivational speaker and prototype for the celebrities of today, marketing jewelry under the Ivana Haute Couture brand, including on the Canadian Shopping Channel.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: And it's all in the silver tone. Beautiful. Really a statement.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yeah.

TRUMP: I mean, you have to be dead drunk to miss these earrings.

(LAUGHTER)

KEITH: In a statement from her family confirming her death, they wrote that Ivana Trump taught her children about grit and toughness, compassion and determination. She is survived by her mother, three children and 10 grandchildren. In his own statement, the former president said she was a beautiful and amazing woman who led a great and inspirational life.

Tamara Keith, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.