Marla Maples is standing in front of a 150-foot waterfall on a cloudy summer day in June, her 5-foot-8 frame squeezed into a pair of exceedingly tight designer jeans. ”The most important thing we can do today is help clean up our planet,” the 26-year-old aspiring actress purrs into a TV camera. ”And I’m starting with these.” She holds up a fistful of supermarket tabloids with shrieking headlines — TRUMP MISTRESS CLOSE TO SUICIDE, says one — and dumps them into a garbage can. ”Things are looking better already,” she says, smiling and tossing back her long blond hair.
”Wonderful!” shouts a voice from behind the camera. ”That was wonderful, Marla. But try to look a little more hootchy-cootchy next time. Try to look a little cuter.”
Maples is filming an ad for No Excuses jeans, the sportswear that rose to fame after then-notorious Hart-breaker Donna Rice signed on as its spokeswoman in 1987. On this afternoon three years later, Marla Maples perches on the bank of a rocky river in the backwoods of Connecticut, swaating at insects, fluffing up her hair, and trying to look as hootchy-cootchy as possible.
Celebrities have been cashing in on their fame and notoriety for years, but Maples doesn’t come from sports or entertainment, the usual celeb proving grounds. For the last five months, she has been America’s most famous Other Woman. As Donald Trump’s alleged paramour, she has appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines. Producers have offered her movies, networks have offered her TV series, and Playboy offered her a million dollars for a nude spread. But, except for a brief interview in April with Diane Sawyer on ABC’s PrimeTime Live, Maples has remained almost completely silent.
”You wanna know why I decided to do this ad?” she says in her faint, singsong Southern accent. ”It was one simple reason. I realized that I had an opportunity to say something about a subject that’s always been really important to me — the environment.”
She isn’t joking: In addition to her reported $600,000 fee, Maples’ agreement with No Excuses stipulates that, along with the company’s tag line, the ads include the addresses of her favorite environmental groups. It further requires No Excuses to match her own $25,000 contribution to the Better World Society, an environmental group founded by cable-TV tycoon Ted Turner.
From the company’s point of view, the deal is a bargain ”The night this ad debuts, the whole country will be talking about us,” says Neil Cole, president of the jeans manufacturer. ”Every household in America will be saying our name.”
Cole has reason to be optimistic. After the company’s first ad campaign — the spot featuring Bimini tourist Donna Rice — jean sales doubled, to more than $20 million a year, Cole says. He thinks the Maples spot could pay bigger dividends, and he’s spending more on airtime for this campaign — $1 million — than he did on any of the others.
Maples is reluctant to discuss the details of her deal with Cole — along with a half-dozen other taboo subjects, including her finances, her future, and especially her love life — but the agreement clearly has benefits far beyond saving the planet: As her own publicity stunt, it’s worth millions.
”I’m not doing this commercial for the money or to further my career,” Maples insists. ”I’m doing it because I have a voice now — people are listening to me — so I have a chance to talk about something that’s important to the entire world.”
She flashes her best Pepsodent smile, bats her baby blues, and gives a very hootchy-cootchy look indeed.