The Show Must Go On
The RNC’s Opening-Night D-Listers: Antonio Sabato Jr., Scott Baio, and Willie Robertson
For months, the GOP nominee promised showbiz flair, but the opening night speeches brought all the star power of a poorly watched reality television show.
On Monday, the inaugural night of the 2016 Republican National Convention finally kicked off in Cleveland, Ohio. It was an evening GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump had, for months, had promised would be a spectacular, fun-filled, star-studded night to remember.
"It's very important to put some showbiz into a convention, otherwise, people are going to fall asleep," Trump told The Washington Post in April. "We don't have the people who know how to put showbiz into a convention." (Trump also noted that the 2012 nominating event that made Mitt Romney the last Republican standard bearer was "the single most boring convention I've ever seen.")
Trump promised us fireworks and showbiz flair — and what we got was all the star power of a low-rated season of Celebrity Apprentice.
On an evening billed as Trump and the GOP's "Make America Safe Again" night — a program that leaned heavily on Benghazi and undocumented immigrants murdering American sons and daughters — the celebrity speakers on the main stage at the Quicken Loans Arena included a 'Duck Dynasty' religious-right star, Chachi Arcola from 'Happy Days,' and a former Calvin Klein underwear model and soap-opera actor who nowadays tweets about how Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama should be sent to Gitmo.
All three managed to deliver brief, instantly forgettable, and reliably cookie-cutter speeches.
"No matter who you are, Donald Trump will have your back," Willie Robertson, CEO of Duck Commander and the star of reality TV show Duck Dynasty who joined Fox News as a contributor in March, assured the crowd.
Scott Baio, who portrayed the charming child-gangster in the movie-musical comedy 'Bugsy Malone' and the stiff lawyer Bob Loblaw in the sitcom 'Arrested Development,' reminded the audience that the United States is still "the greatest country God ever created," but that America is also "not about getting free stuff."
"Is Donald Trump a Messiah? No, he's just a man," Baio continued.
Earlier this month, Baio told The Daily Beast that he would not be able to attend or speak at the Republican convention because his wife's "health isn't well."
Later in the night, Antonio Sabáto Jr. — an ex-model whose acting credits include 'General Hospital,' 'Melrose Place,' and, more recently, 'Celebrity Wife Swap' — told his story of being the kind of immigrant Trump doesn't resent.
"I came here from Rome, Italy…[and] I follow all the rules, and finally became a naturalized citizen," he said to heated applause.
"I believe we need Donald Trump, who shares my beliefs and my faith, to get our country back on track," Sabáto told the convention hall. "Donald Trump will put us back on the right track."
And that was it.
There was no Jon Voight, who had even had private talks with the Trump campaign earlier this year about the possibility of speaking at the convention.
There was no Clint Eastwood.
There was no Mike Tyson, the boxer and convicted rapist, whom Trump had previously courted to play a role in the 2016 convention.
There wasn't even a Stacey Dash.
There was, however, a Don King — but he was nowhere near the microphone and lectern of the convention hall.
Earlier in the day, the legendary (and enthusiastically pro-Trump) boxing promoter made his way to the area just outside of the Quicken Loans Arena to complain to reporters about how Republican officials, including Reince Priebus, had convinced Trump not to invite King to be a primetime convention speaker. (King had once stomped a man to death.)
“I’m not speaking because Reince Priebus is still thinking he don’t like black people,” King told the huddle of journalists.
Until very recently, Trump had repeatedly stated publicly how much he loved King and how he had asked if the famous boxing promoter would speak at convention.
King told The Daily Beast that Trump had personally called him to discuss why he would not ultimately be featured on the official roster of speakers.
"He come back and he told me that that's [how] it is," King said.
But at least we'll always have Baio.