Paula Patrice was barely old enough to drink the alcohol she served up as a New York City bartender when she got into the elevator at Trump Tower in 1993. The aspiring model rode to what she thought would be the top floor—it was the highest she’d ever been in any building, anyway—to meet her date for the night, millionaire and New York City nightclub fixture Donald Trump.
Trump, then a 46-year-old father of three, had recently divorced his wife Ivana and his tumultuous relationship with aspiring actress Marla Maples was apparently off again when a reporter at Newsday wrote that Trump had “stolen” Paula from a bouncer at the Country Club on East 86th Street, one of a handful of Manhattan nightspots that served as a meeting space for young models who dreamed of being the next Cindy Crawford and the rich men who could finance their New York City stays.
But Paula didn't go to the Penthouse. When Paula entered the Fifth Avenue apartment, it was clear she wasn’t in Trump’s home but instead a sort of corporate apartment. There was no food or personal belongings. The only thing in the fridge was Champagne.
Trump came in and poured her a drink. They sat on the couch and admired the view.
“And the first thing he did was try and stick his tongue down my throat,” she recalls. “Can we at least pretend to have a dinner? Can we be seen in public?”
Paula says she then told him, “I’m sorry, no,” and thought, “Crap, there goes the PR.”
Paula’s story echoes comments that Trump made to Access Hollywood host Billy Bush in 2005, when he bragged, “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
Since a tape of that conversation—in which Trump also boasted, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything”—was leaked the The Washington Post, several women have come forward in recent weeks with accounts of sexual assault that include forced kissing and groping by the Republican nominee for president.
Trump has emphatically denied every accusation, at times with the caveat that the women accusing him of assault were too unattractive to be believed. Over the weekend, he vowed to sue each of the accusers after the election. The Trump campaign has not replied to requests for comment for this story.
Unlike Trump’s accusers, several of whom have appeared on television to recount feeling violated by the alleged assaults, Paula said her kiss with Trump annoyed her and amused her, but it didn’t harm her. Trump was, she said, a sign of the times.
“The Donald Trumps were a dime a dozen,” Paula said. “It’s terrible, but at the same time, in those days, that was the way these guys behaved. Sure, I went there hoping for a nice gentlemanly night out, but I didn’t feel violated by his forwardness.
“I mean, it wasn’t even a move. It was, at the most, novice level. The guy had no moves. Maybe he got better moves?”
According to Page Six and Newsday reports from the time, Trump spent many a night in Manhattan nightclubs during his three-year hiatus between marriages from 1991 to 1993.
“Trump at that time was just part of that New York City scene,” Paula said.
Clubs like the China Club (the setting of an alleged sexual assault by Trump) and the Country Club, where Paula worked, were, Paula describes, “a little ecosystem of party promoters and New York City celebrities.” And the chronicling of their comings and goings in the gossip rags was an exercise in self-promotion.
According to Paula, her boss, restaurateur Myles Chefetz, was “a genius public relations manipulator,” who had the idea to fill the club with exotic dancers. Chefetz would send limos to strip clubs Scores and Stringfellows at shift change. “That’s when the people like Trump started to come,” Paula said.
In December 1992, Newsday reported, “Model / bartender Paula [Patrice], was lured away by the Comeback Kid [a reference to Trump]. What’s worse is that all of this is being done right inside the [China] club, which is fast becoming Donald’s Monday-night nest.”
The news that Paula and Trump had been an item was untrue, Paula said. And she thinks it probably started with Billy “Wild Bill” Stanton—then head of VIP at the China Club, and these days, a private eye who seems to have found the fame he desired appearing as a security expert on network television. Stanton returned my request for comment and offered to discuss gun rights, specifically concealed carry on college campuses, but declined to answer—or even hear—questions about what Paula described as “his facilitation of the ‘social networking’ in the NYC nightlife scene.”
While any romance thus far had been purely invention by the press and club promoters, before long, the future presidential candidate actually came calling.
“Trump did call me several times and invited me to take his helicopter to Atlantic City,” Paula said. “I was living in a rat hole with a roommate and partying my butt off. I could have cared less about getting in a helicopter—and to be alone? I don’t put myself in these situations. I’m not getting in a helicopter and going to another city with a man I don’t know. How would I get home?
“But then he invited me to Trump Tower, said we’d go out and have dinner.”
Paula didn’t get dinner that night. She left Trump Tower and thought little of it until she got a call months later, inviting her to a dinner party at Adnan Khashoggi’s apartment. Khashoggi, a Saudi arms dealer who was briefly known as the richest man in the world, was hosting a small get-together for Saudi Prince Khalid bin Sultan.
“Donald had handed me off,” Paula said.
According to news reports from the time, Khashoggi and Trump were friends. They went to parties together and hung out in Aspen together over the holidays, and Trump bought what was then the world’s longest private yacht from Khashoggi for $30 million. Khashoggi and Trump also shared the title of America’s cheapest zillionaire—bestowed by Spy magazine, which had mailed checks for 13 cents to New York’s “well-known, well-heeled,” finding only Trump and Khashoggi cashed them. Khashoggi was present at a Mar-a-Lago party where Trump brought in models by the busload, and he attended Trump’s wedding to Maples in 1993.
Paula accepted the invitation and spent the evening with Khashoggi, Al-Waleed, Trump, Maples, and a dozen other guests in the duplex 18,000-square-foot luxury apartment in the Olympic Towers.
“I spoke to [Trump] that night. We were cordial,” Paula remembers. “I was there for free Champagne and a good time, and then I was going home.”
In the years following her brushes with Trump and other rich men like him, Paula actually became a model, gracing the cover of Italian Vogue and staying out of the trouble so many aspiring models fell into. “I got to a legit place after jumping through a bunch of rich men hoops,” she said.
As for Trump, the worst she’ll say about the man who asked her on a date and then shoved his tongue down her throat is what she told her mom after her trip to Trump Tower 25 years ago.
“I told her, ‘He’s a jerk.’ And to use that language with my mother was strong. He was just so handsy.
“During that time there were so many men like Trump. If they could get it, they were going to, if they were allowed to behave a certain way, they would. Because they cannot police themselves. It’s one thing when it’s Trump the millionaire from New York City; it’s another when you’re talking about the presidency of the United States.”
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