Anatomy of a Gossip Item
57th Street and 6th Avenue. 8:30 PM. Photo: JH.
I got a call late Monday afternoon from a man identifying himself as Hud Morgan, assistant to Lloyd Grove who has a column in the Daily News. He wanted to ask me some questions about Melania Trump, Donald Trump’s new bride.

Okay; it’s not unusual for someone in the media to call me about a social personality in New York, and I am always accommodating, if possible.

So Mr. Morgan says to me: “she’s the chairwoman of a benefit for the Martha Graham Dance Company and she’s calling herself ‘Melania Trump.’”

Okay, so?

Mr. Morgan asks something like ‘don’t you think it’s a bit early for her to be calling herself Melania Trump?’

I started to laugh at the absurdity of the question. “Well she did marry the guy,” I reminded him (since the whole world knows), “and often women take the husband’s name when they say ‘I do.’ So no, I don’t think it’s ‘too early.’”

Oh, okay.

So, he continues: what can I tell him about the new Mrs. Trump.

Well, I don’t know the new Mrs. Trump except to say hello to. So I tell Mr. Morgan what I do know: she’s always been very courteous and cordial, and she’s very beautiful, actually more beautiful than her pictures. She always struck me as a bit shy, but maybe, I figured, that was because her husband has such a big presence.

Not much of an answer to a reporter looking for something gossipy, but hey, you can’t always bat a thousand. Again, I laugh and tell Mr. Morgan that I’m sorry I can’t be “more helpful.” He thanks me and that’s that.

A few minutes later Mr. Morgan calls back. He tells me they’ve changed the direction of the item. He wants to know why I think Melania Trump is chairing this benefit gala for the Martha Graham Dance Company.

I explain to him that charities need “names,” women or men who can draw others to buy tickets. Any chair or co-chair of any charity event can sell tickets. Donald Trump, with his multi-faceted business and social connections, knows a lot of people, and in fact, attends a lot of charity events himself that are chaired by friends of his. Many of these people can be expected to return the favor and buy a ticket to his or his wife’s charity gala. It’s good for business, good for the charities and good for everyone. And in this case, it’s good for Melania Trump, making her “debut” as a “chair” on New York’s high profile, prestigious charity gala circuit.

Then Mr. Morgan wants to know “why the Martha Graham Dance Company?”

Do I know? I’ve already told him I don’t know Mrs. Trump and I don’t know what her interests are. It’s quite obvious that maybe “dance” is one of her personal interests. Furthermore, the Martha Graham Dance Company is a long existing New York cultural institution that spans back almost a century. It is refined and prestigious.

Then he asks me about Blaine Trump, Melania’s new sister-in-law.

What about her?

What is she up to, he wants to know. I don’t have an answer for him there. I haven’t seen Blaine Trump very much lately, which means absolutely nothing other than we haven’t passed through the same hallways at the same time.

What are her charities? Mr. Morgan wants to know.

The only two I can think of are the American Ballet Theatre and Gods Love We Deliver.

And how do they compare with Martha Graham, is Mr. Morgan’s question.

Well, they’re more high profile than Martha Graham. One is a dance company that is part of the Lincoln Center companies and the other was one of the first leading AIDS-assisting charities. Martha Graham, which, because of its later founder/creator, has been famous since its beginnings, was mired in legal issues for quite some time after Ms. Graham’s death, and only recently has emerged (rather successfully) into the public fund-raising arena, and is now having a renaissance.

This upcoming gala, which will be held next week (April 6), at the New York City Center, is a very big deal. Betty (Mrs. Gerald) Ford and Mikhail Baryshnikov are Honorary Chairs. Mrs. Trump is chairwoman. Vice-chairs are Reed and Delphine Krakoff, Diane von Furstenberg, Andre Leon Talley and Vera Wang. Among the Silent Auction Items that can be bid on after the performance at the dinner dance at the Tavern on the Green are a “Palm Beach Idyll: Weekend at Mar-a-Lago and Gold at the Trump International Golf Course.” (More funds for the Martha Graham Dance Company; pays to know the man who owns the golf course).

Lead sponsor for the evening will be Mr. Krakoff’s company Coach, Inc. and Benefactor of the evening will be Mr. and Mrs. Donald Trump. When I read the details on the invitation, I thought to myself, “The Martha Graham Dance Company” (which I have been covering for several years) “is going to have a very successful fund-raiser thanks to Melania Trump.”

So, with all that in mind, have a look at Lloyd Grove’s Tuesday morning column in the Daily News:

Melania makes her big entrance

It looks like Slovenian fashion model Melania Trump is giving socialite Blaine Trump a run for her money.

The latest Mrs. Donald Trump is making her official New York social debut April 6 as chairwoman of the Martha Graham Dance Company's New York season-opening fund-raising gala at Tavern on the Green.

"I did a lot of charity before in Palm Beach with my name, but it's my first one using his name," the 34-year-old former Ms. Knauss told Lowdown yesterday. "My great friend Andre Leon Talley introduced me to it and asked if I'd be chairwoman. I was delighted to accept."

So is she looking to compete with Blaine - the well-connected wife of Donald's older brother Robert - in Manhattan's most rarefied social climes?

Social reporter David Patrick Columbia, who runs, said Melania still has a ways to go.

"People who owe Donald in some way or another are now going to commit something to Martha Graham," Columbia said. "That's how these women are valuable to philanthropy. And it's also a nice way to elevate her status. It's completely harmless and highly cultured.

"But it's not absolutely the highest-profile of those. Blaine got herself interested in the very top of the top, like American Ballet Theatre and God's Love We Deliver."

It looks like Melania is giving Blaine a run for her money? To Lloyd Grove and his stringer maybe, but not to me.

And: Melania still has a ways to go?
According to? Lloyd Grove and his stringer maybe, but not to me.

Melania Trump marries the man she’s been involved with for several years. She always minds her manners, is always the picture of courtesy and discretion. Then she marries him and soon after makes her first step into participating in the great New York world of society and philanthropy by assisting a century old cultural institution in fund-raising. Those are the facts as I know them and relate them.

But to someone, she becomes a target, a source for whipping up some false agitation. On what is obviously a no-news day, it becomes a race with her sister-in-law and she’s not quite winning?? And all this becomes the result of something I said but didn’t say.

This is just a simple matter of manipulating the facts to insult one person and make another look mean-spirited, a perfect example of why media today is in trouble and a lot of people don’t believe any of it. Instead of reporting the facts, they use them to create bad news.

It’s bad news, personified.

March 30, 2005, Volume V, Number 55


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