WRIT LARGE: Ch 2, Part 1
East meets West
I meet Ivana for lunch at Maison du Caviar. One of twenty-two Russian restaurants in Paris, it is located near the Arc de Triomphe.
She has brought along Kable, one of her fellow cast from the hit Netflix show, Asian Dynasty.
Kable says that he spent most of his time with Ivana during the COVID crisis.
“During the lockdown there was no shopping, no nothing. Having a friend like Ivana? Nothing’s shut down. We would stand outside Gucci while the sales associates held clothes up for us to look at through the window.”
Ivana’s laugh is infectious and Kable joins in. I smile back.
“This place wasn’t even open! Oh, how I missed it,” says Ivana.
I ask her if the one in Monte Carlo was open during COVID.
“Sadly, no it wasn’t either, but I prefer the Paris one.”
She orders a round of cocktails for her and Kable, and I defer to a mocktail.
“Thank you so much for meeting with me. I’ve heard so much about the syndicate, read your books voraciously and when I saw in the New York Times piece that you were there I just knew I had to see you.”
“I would’ve come over to New York, but I was already in Paris and I really wanted to take you to my favorite restaurant in the world. I hope you don’t mind me flying you over.”
I tell her it is my pleasure. I love any excuse to visit Paris and, like most of the world, became intrigued by her from watching Asian Dynasty.
She tells me this is the main reason she wanted to meet. She would like me to write her story as she wants to set the record straight. That show portrayed her as a member of a crazy rich Asian community in Los Angeles and yet for her, in the world that she was raised in, ‘crazy’ is not a good word to put next to the lifestyle she was born into.
She sips on her cocktail and eyes me out, looking for a response.
I tell her I’m listening.
She continues, telling me that she didn’t do anything except be born. It was all her parents. Her father was from the South Side of Chicago. Her mother was part Russian aristocracy, part Japanese. Her mother once told her that she had been born inside a crystal ball with a silver spoon in her mouth.
Her parents had accumulated their wealth in the arms and defence technology trade. Her father’s engineering firm had helped the US government rebuild Asia after WWII.
When her friend approached her about a series he was producing, she had thought she’d play a behind-the-scenes role. However, before she knew it, she was sitting in front of the camera. It was very hard for her because she is by nature very shy.
I find her to be captivating. Sitting across from me in all her Boucheron jewel-bedecked, Dior outfitted majesty, it is not hard to see why she was cast as the queen of LA’s rich asian set.
I say that I’m intrigued and encourage her to tell me more.
I suggest she starts at the beginning.
She was born in Tokyo where her American father had met her mother. She spent her first eight years there and used to take much delight in sneaking out and slipping away from her security guards. As a child she’d seen a pocket monkey in a store and it caught her eye. Her mother bought it for her.
When she moved to LA she was terrified she would have her pet monkey taken from her. So, for the flight over she’d dressed it up as a human. A flight attendant offered them both drinks and she said her sister would have a glass of milk.
Her father had already made arrangements for the monkey to get into the country legally, yet he didn’t tell Ivana. He wanted to see how she dealt with smuggling in a monkey.
While she’d wanted to join her father’s business, he flatly refused, passing the reins to her brother instead. She then chose to get married and had four very good marriages and four very good divorces.
“We only get one life, we should live it to its fullest and not get caught up. All things go through a natural cycle and love is not immune to this.”
She loves flying her helicopter and reading philosophy. Her grandfather was a philosopher and he wrote a number of books on the topic.
“I have known Ivana for a few years now and she is a wonderful person,” says Kable. “Asian Dynasty could only show a few sides to her and usually they were the controversial ones.”
I tell him I get it. I was already seeing more to her than I’d seen on screen.
I say that reality series tend to flatten people into stereotypes, often geometrically-shaped around conflict, whereas in real life it’s like, boom! I am seeing Ivana in all her majestic dimensions.
I tell her I’m interested, but that I have two conditions. First, that the book has me represented as the author. I don’t ghostwrite books under any circumstance. The second is a bit more delicate and I take my time telling her that this will not be a vanity book. It will be a warts and all story of her life.
I start by saying I’d like to explore more about how her father made his money, so as to put to rest any questions that may arise about his company’s involvement in Vietnam. From what I saw, they’d operated like a hotel, building and providing the infrastructure, but could not be responsible for what their guests did in their rooms on their own time.
“Yes, I love that. To be honest I wasn’t involved with his business. My father preferred me to be kept out of the loop.”
I let out what I hope is an inaudible sigh of relief. That felt like the most delicate matter. I tell her I’d also like to explore her four marriages, understand more about her relationship to her son and his relationship to his grandparents.
She nods her head.
I tell her we will go into much more detail later, but ask if there is anything further she’d like to share now?
She pushes aside her half-eaten plate of pasta and caviar and, leaning forward, puts her hand on my arm.
She says she can be quite compulsive. One day she woke up very early and had an urge to go to the flower market. She went without security at four am and while there, she met a homeless man. She was quite taken in by him and put him up in an apartment and filled it with food for a month.
She also loves shopping at Target and then giving the items she’s purchased to those in need.
“I have no sense of time.”
“She’s never been hindered by such arbitrary strictures,” says Kable.
With sufficient forward planning and many times on the spur of the moment she can have any establishment open to her. She says this as a matter of fact, with no boast or bravado in her tone.
She likes to unwind on the shooting range.
Kable nods, saying that he went with her once and she was like a demon shooting off six hundred rounds in short order.
She loves Lamborghinis, but in 2010 she was arrested in her favorite one for driving under the influence in Orange County. She had to undergo a sixty-day outpatient program.
Her wealth has also attracted bad elements. She was sued in 2015 by a former security guard for sexual harassment. He claimed that she had made, and she air quoted, “sexual advances, inquiries of a sexual nature, comments of a sexual nature, flirtation and attempts to be alone with him.” She thought it was ludicrous, but settled the case out of court to avoid publicity.
“I am very generous with people, almost childishly so. I know that, but I love doing it. However, if a person crosses me, they will feel my wrath.”
She wants the book to set the record straight about events like these and show the depth of her character. She is so much more than the one-liners she so loves to put out on screen.
I know better than to discuss compensation with Ivana. She will pay generously and I’ll set the fee at an amount that is meaningful to her, but not outrageous.
Kable says he has to go and hugs Ivana, saying he’ll see her in the evening. I gather there is a fashion party they are going to.
The table is barely cleared when a striking Asian woman, dressed impeccably in the season’s Dior, approaches the table and takes Kable’s still warm seat.