It was supposed to be an exclusive party at Mar-a-Lago, Donald J. Trump’s members-only club in Palm Beach, Fla. But other than the two dozen or so women flown in to provide the entertainment, the only guests were Mr. Trump and Jeffrey Epstein.
The year was 1992 and the event was a “calendar girl” competition, something that George Houraney, a Florida-based businessman who ran American Dream Enterprise, had organized at Mr. Trump’s request.
“I arranged to have some contestants fly in,” Mr. Houraney recalled in an interview on Monday. “At the very first party, I said, ‘Who’s coming tonight? I have 28 girls coming.’ It was him and Epstein.”
Mr. Houraney, who had just partnered with Mr. Trump to host events at his casinos, said he was surprised. “I said, ‘Donald, this is supposed to be a party with V.I.P.s. You’re telling me it’s you and Epstein?’”
In fact, that was the case, an indication of a yearslong friendship between the president and Mr. Epstein that some say ended only after a failed business arrangement between them. The full nature of their eventual falling out is not clear.
But through a mutual appreciation of wealth and women, and years of occupying adjacent real estate in Palm Beach and on Page Six, the lives of the two men routinely intersected for decades — until the connection turned from a status symbol into a liability, and Mr. Trump made sure to publicize the fact that he had barred his onetime friend from his clubs.
“In those days, if you didn’t know Trump and you didn’t know Epstein, you were a nobody,” said Alan Dershowitz, the longtime Harvard University Law School professor who later served on Mr. Epstein’s defense team when he was charged with unlawful sex with minors in 2006.
SOURCE: Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman
The New York Times