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Though Cox has told Parker, Walker, and many others close to her over the years about her Iacocca relationship (and her trips in the '90s to see him), the thrice-married millionaire responded through a spokeswoman that he and Cox merely "passed in the night" and that there was nothing "romantic" between them. He said he agreed to allow her to use his name as an honorary trustee for a year or so, but that he had no involvement with the museum.
Cox began fundraising for the museum in the name of the American Spirit Foundation, a nonprofit she'd formed in 1986, ostensibly to assist her Miss Liberty stint. ASF's incorporation papers made no reference to a museum among its long list of patriotic purposes. Nor was it chartered to raise funds for a museum, which state officials say it must be.
ASF was approved by the IRS as a tax-exempt organization in 1990, but it has filed the required disclosure forms in only two of its 10 years. The state attorney general's office wrote the organization a letter as recently as March 2000, noting that it had missed the last five years of filingscompleting a decade of virtually total noncompliance with state disclosure requirements. Yet in a May 1995 New York Observer article, Cox claimed the organization had already raised over $300,000.
Its first three years were a blur of bizarre events. That March, Parker and Cox flew to the Kentucky Derby, where ASF participated in an exhibit of Leroy Nieman's equine art, bringing home $21,500 as its share on the sale of a Nieman print. The ASF press release pointed out how Nieman's rise to fame started at Playboy in 1954, and Nieman told the Voice, "I probably knew Christina when she was a bunny. That's what was cited when she first called me about the museum." Parker alleged later in a letter to the museum board that the Nieman commission "was used to satisfy the personal debts of Miss Cox."
In August 1993, Parker took Cox to Monte Carlo to meet Prince Albert, the legendary playboy son of Princess Grace. Investment banker Ed McGuinn, a member of the museum's board who had played a key role in organizing a 1992 Hudson River Club fundraiser for it, made the trip too, together with another banker who had dated Parker and was listed as a museum supporter on a fundraising invitation. "I knew that Ed had visited her alone in her apartment," says Parker. "Christina had made overtures that they were together. She and I had a room at the hotel and so did the two guys. I didn't pay too much attention to what they were doing, but I had a couple of liaisons with my friend. They left without paying the bill and we called Ed and he eventually sent the money."
McGuinn says he "can't remember" if he ever visited Cox alone in her eastside apartment, but he adamantly denies any intimate relationship with her. He says he went to Monaco to attend the Red Cross Ball "as a business opportunity" when Cox told him she could arrange a meeting with the prince. McGuinn, who left the museum board a year later, denies paying the bill. Informed of the allegations, the banker who accompanied him declined to answer any questions about the trip.
Cox and Parker went to Texas right after Monaco for several days of wild partying at a friend's ranch. Parker was quoted in the book that later appeared about the royal family as saying that Cox "was uncomfortable around all the nudity" she, the prince, and the other partygoers engaged in at the pool. "She was acting very shy and prudish," Parker said then.
Parker adds now that it was "the open swinging" that bothered Cox, that Cox is a "one-on-one person," and that Cox did have a "few hours alone with the prince" at one point during the week, though Parker has "no idea what happened." In any event, Cox and Parker began listing the prince as an honorary trustee of the museum, and even after the Princess Grace Foundation insisted that his name be taken off museum letterhead, Cox stayed in touch. As recently as December 1999, she spent museum funds on a high-priced golf club for Albert and sent it to him. Malloy says Cox sent the putter "after a museum function that the prince participated in," though he could not say what event it was.
By December, the traveling duo had hit the road again, headed for Rome to see the pope. This time, unlike Cox's visit in 1992, a board member from Italy with connections at the Saint Peter's Basilica slipped them through a side door ahead of the line. Cox actually appeared before the pontiff in a Kentucky Derby T-shirt, partially covered by a jacket.
They'd had to rush from the hotel when the board member called. Cox carried a copy of the proposal, Parker recalls, and asked the pope to bless it. He made the sign of the cross, as he would again and again, for "the hundreds and hundreds of people" Parker could see in the line behind her.