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Tuesday, August 21, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Marla Sez: `I Am Not A Homewrecker'

Tribune Media Services Inc.

The `nice kid' from small-town Georgia talks about Donald, Ivana and true love

Donald and Ivana Trump go to court this week to talk about their marriage's money agreement. And Marla Maples, the so-called other woman, simply talks - for the first time since the blowup began six months ago. Today, the first of two parts of Maples' story.

She was a Southern angel, Baptist-style.

Princess pretty, she curled up every Georgia twilight with her favorite book - the Holy Bible - and read again and again the Ten Commandments:

``Honor your father and your mother,'' the little girl chanted. ``You shall not commit adultery . . .''

And inside she whispered, ``Please make them stay together.''

Her father was a deacon of the church. ``He came into my room when I was 15 and told me he needed to separate from Mom,'' remembers Marla Maples. ``I told him, `Dad, the Bible says you shall not inherit the kingdom of God if you divorce.'

``But the marriage was killing him. And it happened anyway.''

Today, galaxies distant from small-town Dalton and a bump or two beyond an inauspicious Big Apple career as a print-ad model and B-film actress who worried a lot about ``having to waitress, stay home, eat pasta,'' Bible-fearing Marla Maples lives another life - as the companion of a world-famous billionaire who is in court this week to sort through the pieces of his own wrecked marriage.

She's ``a nice kid,'' Donald Trump says for the public prints.

``He has to be discreet,'' Marla explains away her gentleman friend's apparent diffidence.

The two of them have been an item for several years - for precisely how long is one of Donald Trump's domestic legal issues, as he fights to uphold the terms of his prenuptial agreement with the estranged Ivana Trump. The relationship was a quiet one until last winter, when Trump's marriage exploded on the ski slopes of Aspen.

Since then, Marla Maples has become a star - Celebrity Mistress, Homewrecker of the Western World. Accordingly, she ponders career opportunities. ``Should it be acting?'' she frets. ``Writing a book? Singing? Should I be hosting a talk show?'' She makes few moves without The Donald's approval.

``Donald doesn't want Marla to look like she's against Ivana,'' says Trump's PR guru Chuck Jones. ``Donald wants picture approval. Donald says to emphasize her early years.''

Notably, she did resist Trump's insistence that she accept Playboy magazine's million-dollar centerfold offer. ``Trump himself was on the phone negotiating the fee,'' remembers a top Playboy editor. ``He wanted her to do the nude layout. She didn't.'' (``I'm thankful for my body, but I didn't want to exploit it,'' Marla offers. ``How would I ever be taken seriously?'')

``Marla,'' says Chuck Jones, ``came along and fulfilled perfectly what Donald really needed. When two people plan a future together, she is not a mistress.''

Michael Kennedy, attorney for Ivana Trump, disagrees. In this week's hearing about the Trump prenuptial agreement, he hopes to shoot down the 1987 document guaranteeing Ivana a paltry $25 million - seeking instead a full half-share in the Trump empire, still impressive despite Trump's many recent reverses of business fortune.

Slamming back in her first print interview after six months of hiding out, giving half-answers and making cameo appearances with The Donald, Marla Maples at long last discusses her love affair with Donald Trump, recounts the true story of Aspen, reveals her abortion at age 20, and lets loose on the other woman in her own life, Ivana Trump.

You've been under stress.

(Laughter) ``Can you tell?''

But you look fantabulous.

``My body is a combination of my father's - he has blondish-white hair, beautiful blue eyes and a voice like Elvis' that used to set the girls swooning - and my mother's - she has an hourglass figure, to put it mildly, very voluptuous, like Sophia Loren.''

Are you a bimbo?

``Check out my high-school and college records. I'm a Scorpio, a perfectionist, and I was always an overachiever in school - got straight A's. I was also a tomboy, a champion intramural basketball player for nine years, `Go, Farrah, goooooo,' they'd chant. I played a mean game of softball, rode motorcycles, was on the gymnastics team, did ballet, played the trumpet, and competed in beauty contests with a jazz soft-shoe routine. Yeah, I was a real bimbo! I was a fighter.''

During your beauty pageant days as Miss Photogenic, Miss Teen, what were you trying to prove?

``My mother pushed me into those pageants, wanted me to be Miss America, but that was never my dream. I felt so empty. I wanted to be known for a talent, for a sweetness, for a belief in God - not a body. It was demeaning. It was what people thought I should do.''

And you followed right along.

``Because I was a people pleaser, always thought of myself as being the perfect little girl . . .''

. . . who discovered that beauty can also be a disability?

``Exactly. That was always my biggest fear, that I would be treated like an object. And I've seen my worst fears come true.''

Geraldo broadcast an exercise video picturing you in a skintight leotard, jumping in place, your breasts bouncing.

``Uhhhh! People thought that was me; and it was not an exercise video - it was a still shoot, in which the photographer assured me the bouncing wouldn't show. I was miserably self-conscious during the shoot, and begged him not to have me jump. I didn't know there was a hidden video camera in the back. Just another example of abuse.''

You've had loads of it lately. When the tabloids broke the story of your affair with Trump last winter . . .

``I was in shock, because I couldn't understand why it was such a big deal when Mandela was being freed.''

Weren't you embarrassed?

``I was never embarrassed. I never felt I did anything wrong.''

But you went into hiding, in Guatemala no less, for three and a half weeks. Come on.

``This wasn't the time to get an acting job, but it was the best period of my life. I visited poverty-stricken areas where just getting through the day, surviving, was important. I wanted to let Donald and Ivana settle their problems without Marla Maples standing in the center of it all.''

Weren't you humiliated?

``I was humiliated by what people were allowed to believe - by the false perception of me. I wanted to scream out the truth, tell them I AM NOT A HOMEWRECKER, that people go through divorce, that life is a series of cycles, that people are allowed to be in love.''

And now you're famous . . .

``So many times I've wanted to just cut off my hair, dye it black, and work with what's on the inside. It's been very hard to break the mold, and posing in Playboy would have locked it into cement. But God gives you gifts in life - I've been blessed with a nice face, body, hair . . .''

What's your opinion of a single girl who dates a married man with children?

(Laughter) ``I'm the worst one to ask that.''

You're the best one.

``I once knew a woman who did go out with a married man and I judged her harshly. I felt it was wrong. It's a betrayal. To me, marriage is forever. I had no respect for any man who would ever think of cheating on his wife.''

What about Donald Trump?

``Ahhhhh. (Long pause) What I've learned is that nothing is black and white. Sometimes, our biggest fears and hypocrisies come back to haunt us - to teach us lessons. I judged somebody else and now I've come face to face with it. I've experienced the pain she experienced, the lies and the guilt. I absolutely believe that my higher power put this in my path so that I would learn not to judge, just to love.''

You've always been religious.

``And as a girl I picked up the Bible and read `Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not fornicate . . .' But after my parents' divorce, I learned you can't take the Bible literally and be happy.''

But for a girl who believes that marriage is for forever, how can you live with the suggestion that you destroyed the Trump marriage?

``Because I didn't. It's THEIR PROBLEM. Whether Donald had met me or somebody else, it wouldn't have mattered if they had a solid marriage. And what's marriage? When does a marriage end? In a true marriage, you have to share your true feelings.''

Does Trump share his with you?

``Mmmmmmmmm. (Laughter) We want to be real careful and not flaunt anything right now, don't want too much written about The Donald and The Marla.''

But who does Donald Trump really love?

``I think you know.''

Do you love Donald Trump?

``I do, I do. People would be surprised to see how innocent and pure the love is.''

You're convinced there will be a Trump divorce?

``Yes. Who am I to play God, but the ball is rolling. I can relate to the pain Ivana's got to go through, I feel for her and I hope she can remain friends with Donald for the children's sake. When my father was splitting from my mom, he told me: `Don't ever, ever, let me put you in the middle of all this.' It was a very rough time for me.''

Disillusioned at an early age.

``That's true. I knew they weren't happy, but as a Bible-fearing girl, I had to rethink my whole faith. I eventually realized that God was not going to condemn them for getting a divorce. Still, Dad was the deacon of our church, and it was very embarrassing that Stan Maples was leaving his wife. But my mother was longing for more companionship and my father was buried in bills. The marriage was killing him.''

And you turned to Jeff Sandlin, your boyfriend at the time.

(Laughter) ``Well, dating was never my problem. I loved Jeff, though I believed you wait until you get married to have sex.''

But you didn't.

``Finding out the dream was a lie really hurt me. I started dating Jeff when I was 16 and didn't have a physical relationship with him until I was 17. I was so let down in myself, especially because I found out he wasn't the one I was meant to marry.''

But you stayed with him for six years.

``I stayed with him longer than I should have out of old Southern Baptist guilt. I felt since we had gone ahead, I had to make it work - and I tried, but there was too much arguing, too much competition. He was jealous if I even talked to anybody else. You can't have a relationship if you can't trust.''

Speaking of trust, Sandlin sold the story of your abortion to The National Enquirer for $11,000.

``I hope he can live with that.''

After you started dating again, you turned to becoming an actress . . .

``But I never wanted to be one, not really. I felt pushed to act and maybe that's why I never was very good at it, always putting other people's feelings above my own. Everybody but me wanted this small-town girl to become a star, to take the world by storm.''

And so you have.

``But this is not the way I envisioned my life to be.''

(Copyright, 1990, by Glenn Plaskin. Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.)

Tomorrow: Marla Maples talks about the confrontation in Aspen, Co., that brought the Trump-Maples relationship into the open.

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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