With only a few weeks until Inauguration Day, President-elect Trump has proven himself incapable of booking even one A-list performer. Sad! Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli almost signed on, before bowing to pressure from his more liberal-minded fans. Bocelli, who technically could not have voted for the president-elect, was a natural candidate for the gig. The 58-year-old blind legend has sold over 80 million records worldwide, making him objectively famous. More importantly, the crooner is a longtime pal of our president-elect. Trump hosted Bocelli for a private concert in 2010 at his country club Mar-a-Lago, and took his family to his Central Park mega-concert in 2011. According to reports, Trump was even bumping some Bocelli in Trump Tower back in June 2015, right before delivering his presidential announcement speech. So Bocelli’s decision to back out of the inauguration is undoubtedly a huge disappointment to Donald Trump, who reportedly “personally approached” the singer with an offer. Faced with a pantheon of performers who would rather gouge out their own eyes than celebrate the president-elect’s inauguration, Trump’s team is quickly running out of options.
Trump’s efforts to find a celebrity date to his own ball take on a new level of poignancy in light of his historical obsession with A-list stars. Throughout his career, he’s attempted to augment his own star power by attaching himself to celebrities. That means photobombing their selfies, trying to date them, and attempting to crash their weddings. Donald Trump name-drops like Samantha Jones on steroids. On Twitter, he’s fan girl’d over Miley Cyrus, sucked up to Mark Cuban, and shared unsolicited opinions on the breakups of Kristen Stewart and Katy Perry. He even made a spinoff show, The Celebrity Apprentice, specifically designed to place Trump in a boardroom of his “celebrity” peers. The irony, of course, is that the series only managed to attract the sorts of C-listers that have become Trump’s bread and butter. Shunned by the Katy Perrys and Meryl Streeps of the world, the president-elect has had to resign himself to the celebrity equivalents of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
How Donald Trump’s exposed hair will fare once exposed to Capitol Hill’s winds is quickly becoming the least of his worries. Initially, the president-elect’s team boasted that they had booked Elton John for their Inauguration Day festivities. This bold proclamation was news to Elton John, who was quick to put those unsubstantiated rumors to rest. Ever the optimist, Trump was reportedly set on a roster of big names, like Justin Timberlake, Aretha Franklin, and Katy Perry. Weirdly enough, these liberal stars aren’t lining up for some Mitt Romney-style public humiliation. According to a report in The Wrap, Trump’s team was so desperate to book a marquee name that they offered money and ambassadorships to any talent manager who could reel in an A-lister. The bookers were allegedly approached by some very generous members of Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee. One insider confessed that he was “shocked” by the indecent proposal: “Never in a million years have I heard something so crazy,” he told The Wrap. “That was the moment I almost dropped the phone.”
Trump has spent the weeks since the election celebrating with his paltry collection of pals, which include Don King, Fabio, and his Twitter account. On Thanksgiving, a day dedicated to expressing gratitude with loved ones, Trump showed that he was grateful for these C-list celebrities. Fabio, who’s famous for lending his oiled abs to a string of romance novel covers in the ’80s and ’90s, was seated with the rest of Trump’s esteemed Mar-a-Lago guests, feasting on a menu of fake food like “Ahi Tuna Martinis” and “Mr. Trump’s Wedge Salad.” Fabio’s star power was rivaled only by Don King’s, the boxing manager and promoter who Mike Tyson once called a “wretched, slimy, reptilian motherfucker.” In the past, King has been investigated for his mob connections, and accused of fraud by multiple boxers. He was also convicted of manslaughter—but was later pardoned.
Of course, Don King and Fabio weren’t the only stars who bothered to RSVP to the president-elect’s Thanksgiving dinner—Richard Nixon’s grandson, Christopher, also managed to stop by.
Not satisfied with his turkey dinner, Don King also made an appearance at a late December Mar-a-Lago press conference. Before he launched into the policy-lite and largely fact-free meat of his speech, Trump took a moment to introduce his sidekick. “You all know Don King? Who doesn’t know Don King,” the president-elect asked the crowd of doubtlessly confused reporters. King responded, “It’s just great to be an American. And now with our leader, we’re gonna... make America great again.” Fabio later popped up again in the Trump universe, lending his flowing locks to New Year’s at Mar-a-Lago alongside Sly and Frank Stallone.
In past years, when America didn’t appear to be located directly over a Hellmouth, the president has surrounded himself with great thinkers and entertainment luminaries. Barack and Michelle Obama, for example, count hip-hop’s first couple, Beyoncé and Jay Z, among their inner circle. Conversely, Trump spent the last leg of his presidential campaign bashing Bey and Jay after they performed on his opponent’s behalf. Trump’s multi-pronged attack against Beyoncé and Jay Z seemed designed to answer an age-old question: Can a major party candidate actually get 0 percent of the African-American vote? He began by criticizing, as a self-professed pussy-grabber does, the musical icons’ dirty mouths.
“Isn’t it amazing that when Jay Z and Beyoncé use the filthy language they use in the songs—using words that, if I ever said those words, it would be the reinstitution of the electric chair, right? Right? It’s true,” he announced at a Florida rally.
And Trump just couldn’t stop. At a different rally in South Carolina, he uttered one of the most flagrant lies of his campaign. “Beyoncé and Jay Z, I like them, I like them,” he began. “And you know what they do? I get bigger crowds than they do. It’s true. I get far bigger crowds.” Luckily, the Twitterverse’s incredulous reaction GIFs and sassy thinking-face emojis didn’t go unheard. The fact-checking organization Politifact, presumably elated to end this suicidal ideation-inducing election cycle with a “fun one,” dove deep into Trump’s divisive claim. They cited Jay Z and Beyoncé’s co-headlined On The Run tour, which boasted an average crowd size of 45,700 per concert. Comparatively, Trump’s rallies, which average at around 27,000 per rally, are just intimate kickbacks. Politifact couldn’t help themselves from adding an extra little dig at the Republican candidate, gleefully noting, “Based on the latest Billboard numbers, Trump draws crowds similar to Phish.”
The sad thing is, like all bullies, Trump was coming from a place of deep insecurity. By mocking Hillary Clinton and her battalion of A-listers, Trump was attempting to disguise his own celebrity-induced shame. After all, November 2016 told a tale of two very different “star”-studded campaigns. In Hillary’s camp, we had Bey, Jay, and basically every celebrity with a vagina. And in Donald Trump’s corner was Ted Nugent, grabbing his balls.
If there’s one thing Trump has ever wanted—other than Billy Bush’s attention—it’s fame. Donald Trump has spent his entire life chasing after the A-list, consoling himself with the coterie of C-listers he keeps by his side. In 2015, The New York Times wrote an article entitled, “Rise of Donald Trump Divides Black Celebrities He Calls His Friends.” It emphasized the fact that, much like Leonardo DiCaprio or Taylor Swift, Trump is fixated on assembling a famous posse. According to the article, Trump often bragged about his friendships with celebrities. He once said of Michael Jackson, who had a place in one of Manhattan’s Trump buildings, “He follows me around, in the sense that he likes what I have.” If that outrageous anecdote sounds false, it wouldn’t be the first time Trump has lied to associate himself with A-listers. Occasionally, Donald Trump would reportedly disguise himself as his own publicist to plant self-aggrandizing stories in the press.
In 1991, a People reporter called Trump’s office looking for a comment about the demise of Trump and Ivana’s 12-year marriage. That reporter got more than she bargained for courtesy of a return call from John Miller, one of Trump’s many alter-egos. Miller, who identified himself as Trump’s publicist, claimed that Trump had dumped Maples for the Italian model Carla Bruni. “He really didn’t want to make a commitment,” Miller said. “He’s coming out of a marriage, and he’s starting to do tremendously well financially.” Miller, like his boss, was incredibly loquacious. “Actresses,” Miller continued, “just call to see if they can go out with him and things.” Madonna “wanted to go out with him.” According to the publicist, Trump had “three other girlfriends” in addition to living with Maples. He also claimed that Kim Basinger had been trying to date Trump. These bald-faced lies are even more ridiculous when you consider the fact that they were being spread by Donald Trump posing as a made-up publicist. Editors at New York tabloids told The Washington Post that calls from Trump’s fake personas were so common they became a recurring joke.
Trump would apparently sink to any low to be associated with the rich and famous. Actress Salma Hayek claims that when she first met the real-estate mogul, he got her home phone number and refused to leave her alone. After she repeatedly refused his advances, going so far as to tell him that she wouldn’t go out with him even if she didn’t have a boyfriend, she says Trump decided to get even. Hayek believes that he proceeded to plant a story in the National Enquirer, insisting that Donald Trump had rejected Hayek because she was too short. “Later, he called and left me a message. ‘Can you believe this? Who would say this? I don’t want people to think this about you,’” the actress said. “He thought that I would try to go out with him so people wouldn’t think that’s why he wouldn’t go out with me.”
In addition to being pettier than a Drake single, Trump consistently allows his fascination with fame to get in the way of his non-existent better judgment. That’s why he clings to every single celebrity in his limited arsenal—people like Mike Tyson, who is a convicted rapist. Unfortunately, even Trump’s handful of secret A-list supporters couldn’t seem to make it to his Republican National Convention. Initially, the nominee promised a 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. People wondered if Trump would call up Tom Brady, who he has made a habit of calling a close friend. At the very least, we imagined that he would book Clint Eastwood or Ben Roethlisberger. Even Stacey Dash, the former Clueless star turned conservative wingnut, would have sufficed. But for all of his posturing, Trump’s convention was decidedly D-list, “starring” Scott Baio, Antonio Sabáto Jr., and the guy from Duck Dynasty.
President Obama essentially predicted this disgrace all the way back in 2011, when he mocked Trump’s C-list reality TV show.
At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Obama skewered the world’s preeminent birther. He addressed Trump directly, joking, “We all know about your credentials, and your breadth of experience. For example, on a recent episode of Celebrity Apprentice, at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team did not impress the men from Omaha Steaks. There was lots of blame to go around, but you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. Ultimately, you didn’t blame [rapper] Lil Jon or [singer] Meat Loaf, you fired Gary Busey. These are the kinds of decisions that keep me up at night. Well-handled, sir! Well-handled.”
Despite his A-list obsessions, Trump has spent his entire career—and soon his presidency—rubbing elbows with entertainment has-beens. While Obama may not have seen the Trump presidency coming, he certainly knew how to hit him where it hurts.