Kristin Anderson was deep in conversation with acquaintances at a crowded Manhattan nightspot and did not notice the figure to her right on a red velvet couch — until, she recalls, his fingers slid under her miniskirt, moved up her inner thigh and touched her vagina through her underwear.
She recognized him as Donald Trump: "He was so distinctive looking — with the hair and the eyebrows. I mean, nobody else has those eyebrows."
At the time of the incident, which Anderson said took place in the early 1990s, she was in her early 20s, trying to make it as a model. She was paying the bills by working as a makeup artist and restaurant hostess. Trump was a big celebrity whose face was all over the tabloids and a regular presence on the New York club scene.
The episode, as Anderson described it, lasted no more than 30 seconds. Anderson said she and her companions were “very grossed out and weirded out” and thought, “Okay, Donald is gross. We all know he’s gross. Let’s just move on.”
Over the years, Anderson, now 46 and a photographer living in Southern California, recounted the story to people she knew, casually at first.
One friend, Kelly Stedman, told The Washington Post that Anderson told her about the encounter a few days after it happened.
“We were out at a girls’ brunch” at the Great Jones Cafe in Manhattan, Stedman said, recalling that when she and two other friends heard the story, they found themselves “laughing at how pathetic it was” on Trump’s part.
Anderson said she lived in New York City from 1991 until 2008. Brad Trent, a New York photographer, said he heard the story about Trump from Anderson at a dinner with a group of people in March 2007.
“It was just girls saying stories about how they got hit on by creepy old guys,” Trent said of the conversation around the table. “That’s when I found out about it.”
Anderson is one of a number of women who have come forward in recent days and said that Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, made unwanted sexual advances.
As Trump has done with others who have made accusations, his campaign said Anderson is making the whole thing up.
“Mr. Trump strongly denies this phony allegation by someone looking to get some free publicity. It is totally ridiculous,” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in an emailed statement.
Anderson, who said she does not support Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton, did not initially approach The Post. A reporter contacted her after hearing her story from a person who knew of it, and she spent several days trying to decide whether to go public.
Anderson's decision to do so follows last week's disclosure by The Post of a 2005 video in which Trump boasted to "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush that his celebrity gave him the ability to grab women "by the p---y. You can do anything."
Trump insisted that his comments were “just words” and dismissed them as “locker room banter.”
Pressed about them in Sunday night’s debate against Clinton, Trump said that he had never done the things he had talked about, which would constitute sexual assault.
What Anderson described, however, is consistent with the behavior Trump described on the video.
“It wasn’t a sexual come-on. I don’t know why he did it. It was like just to prove that he could do it and nothing would happen,” Anderson said. “There was zero conversation. We didn’t even really look at each other. It was very random, very nonchalant on his part.”
Anderson said that she was particularly disturbed by the way the video caught Trump and Bush, who were aboard a bus, crudely discussing Arianne Zucker, an actress they spotted waiting to escort them onto a soap-opera set. Bush has since been suspended from his job as co-host of NBC’s “Today” show, and the network is reportedly negotiating his departure.
“I watched this woman — who could have been me; it could have been anyone — walk in and shake his hand,” Anderson said. “That was just nauseating, because she has no idea what she was walking into and what could possibly happen to her. And that’s just wrong.”
As Anderson agonized over whether to tell her story publicly, the New York Times reported the accounts of two women who said that Trump had groped them, and a People magazine reporter wrote a first-person story claiming that in December 2005, Trump pushed her against a wall and began "forcing his tongue down my throat."
That decided it for Anderson.
“It’s a sexual assault issue, and it’s something that I’ve kept quiet on my own,” Anderson said. “And I’ve always kept quiet. And why should I keep quiet? Actually, all of the women should speak up, and if you’re touched inappropriately, tell somebody and speak up about it. Actually, go to the authorities and press some charges. It’s not okay.”
After nearly a quarter-century, there are details that Anderson struggled to recall.
The place was packed.
“There was a table in front of the couch, and there were people standing, people sitting. People are sitting on the arms of the couch,” she said.
She cannot name the people who were with her at the club but says it is likely they were co-workers from the restaurant where she was a hostess and with whom she long ago lost touch.
She believed her encounter with Trump had been at China Club but could not say for sure that it was not another Manhattan nightspot.
What she does remember vividly is the tufted red couch. As she pondered whether to share her story publicly, she Googled old photos of the club and found an image of a room crowded with the kind of couch she remembered.
A Newsday gossip item from December 1992 described China Club, located then at Broadway and 75th Street, as “Donald’s Monday-night nest,” where he made a practice of picking up women. At the time of the item, Trump had recently divorced his first wife, Ivana, and was not yet married to his second, Marla Maples.
On the busiest nights of its heyday, New York magazine once wrote, China Club would be “packed with more than 1,200 people, dancing, screaming, drinking, talking, mating, and smoking.”
Timothy Gleason, a longtime China Club manager, said he “never heard any accusations like” what Anderson described about Trump.
Anderson knows that because she has come forward, her personal life may be intensely scrutinized. She shared the fact that there have been rough spots. She has been twice divorced. In her breakup with one boyfriend, the couple placed restraining orders on each other. She was granted custody of their 5-year-old son.
Only in recent years did the incident with Trump start to take on larger meaning to her, Anderson said.
“Every once in a while, it [would] come up in a ‘remember the time when . . .’ conversation, and we [would] have a moment of disgust,” she wrote in an email to a Post reporter as she considered going on the record. “It didn’t cross my mind then that this person was a predator.”
Now, she said, she sees that behavior as a “gateway” to something worse.
A stranger “sort of groping you on the side, on the sly, like you’re some kind of stuffed animal on the couch. That’s really not okay, and it opens the door for much worse behavior on [his] part and for the girl, allowing worse things to happen to them because they feel that it’s inconsequential.”
“It’s really not nothing, and it sends an awful message to women that they’re nothing,” she added.
Anderson said she is not enamored with either of the major-party candidates. In May, records show, she switched her voter registration from Democrat to “no party preference.”
Anderson suggested jokingly that she might write in a vote for Mitt Romney or Oprah Winfrey to avoid casting one for Trump or Clinton.
“Both of them have some things that are good. And both of them have some things that are bad,” she said of the two major-party nominees. “But mostly, I’m just thinking — wow, this is the choice we have? This is it?”
Alice Crites contributed to this report.