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03.10.16 4:55 PM ET

Was France’s Former First Lady Once Donald Trump’s Waterloo?

In one week in July 1991, today’s GOP frontrunner put on a bizarre alias to tell the media that he was with Carla Bruni—and dumping Marla Maples. How did Trump come out the loser?

Hard to believe now but back in the early 1990s, Donald Trump was as popular with supermodels as he is today with white supremacists.

The New York tabloids breathlessly covered his exploits as he cheated on his first wife, Czech “fashion model” by way of Montreal, Ivana, dallied, dumped, and then reconciled with his Georgia-born mistress Marla Maples—all while trying to woo “the best, the most beautiful” women in Europe.

But during one week in the summer of 1991, one of Trump’s alleged conquests on the Continent apparently shut him down—and may have led him to run back to Maples in New York with a marriage proposal.

According to various sources, including the recent book by Michael D’Antonio, Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success, Bruni, now the wife of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was “outraged” when she heard Trump asked that all his dates submit to an AIDS test.

“In all honesty, Donald is completely awkward with women,” a Trump insider told the New York Daily News that July as if to explain. “He never developed small talk. He’s not very social. He doesn’t have any friends. Plus, he’s completely paranoid about venereal disease and AIDS.”

At the time, Bruni’s past lovers included Mick Jagger, (while he was with Jerry Hall), Eric Clapton, and Kevin Costner.

“Trump was no more than a passing fancy if that,” a former editor of French Elle in Paris said Wednesday. “She might have liked his money and power but she never would have put up with Trump once she really got to know him. She didn’t need to.”

Bruni’s appearance in the chronicles of Trump coincided with a surreal phone interview conducted by a writer for People magazine with a man who said he was Trump’s PR man but turned out to be Trump himself.

It was early July 1991 and the romance and sex scandals swirling around Trump, then 45, were nearing their zenith.

After years of denying he was having an affair with Maples, who got into a confrontation with Ivana on the slopes of Aspen over the Christmas holidays of 1989, Trump and Ivana had separated on the grounds of Trump’s “cruel and inhumane” treatment of her.

“To tell you the truth, I’ve made Ivana a very popular woman. I’ve made a lot of satellites. Hey, whether it’s Marla or Ivana. Marla can do any movie she wants to now. Ivana can do whatever she wants,” Trump told Vanity Fair in a story about the divorce in 1990.

That same year, Maples famously told the New York Post in a front-page headline that Trump was the “best sex I ever had.”

But their relationship proved as rocky as Trump’s last few years with Ivana.

On June 27, 1991, the Post ran another front-page story—announcing Trump had dumped Marla for Bruni, who at the time was a dead ringer for his future wife, Slovenian model Melania Knauss. This was not long after Trump had bought Maples a big diamond ring that everyone took for an engagement ring.

People magazine phoned Trump’s office in New York to find out if it was true that he dumped Marla and the conversation that followed, said writer Sue Carswell, was “simply bizarre.”

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Carswell wrote in her account that after calling the office, a man identifying himself as “John Miller” called her back and said he was handling publicity for Trump. Carswell taped the call, and from the start she thought “Miller” sounded suspiciously like Trump. She even later played the tape for Post columnist Cindy Adams, who told her it was definitely Trump.

“There is no John Miller. That’s Donald,” Adams told her; another person familiar with Trump’s voice also identified him as the man pretending to be John Miller. Maples also listened to the tape and said it was Trump, according to People.

Carswell told The Daily Beast on Thursday that Trump and Maples later acknowledged to her that Trump had been “John Miller.” The New York Post ran a story about the recorded phone conversation saying “not since Watergate has a tape been so juicy,” Carswell recalled.

During the conversation, Carswell asked “Miller” if Trump was truly done with Maples and now seeing Bruni. He said yes.

“Her name is Carla Bruni Fredesh,” “Miller” said. “I don’t know how to spell the last name. She dropped [a big rock star, who is married] for Donald. And that’s where it stands.”

“Miller” said the ring he bought for Maples had not been an engagement ring and said he didn’t care if Maples was upset about being dumped and if she trashed him in the media.

Trump alias Miller went on to boast to Carswell about a veritable army of women who were chasing him.

Madonna was one, he claimed, and Kim Basinger was another.

“[Kim] wanted to come up and discuss a real estate transaction,” Miller/Trump told Carswell. “That was the reason she came up. Competitively, it was tough. It was for Marla and it will be for Carla.”

But was it tough for Carla? Or did she blow off Trump the way Trump was accustomed to dumping lovers himself?

Because just a few days later, on July 3, Trump called in to the Regis and Kathie Lee show to announce his engagement to Maples.

“Marla’s a very special girl,” Trump said.

Trump and Maples were divorced after six years of marriage in 1999. He’s been married to Knauss, his third wife, since 2005.