Let’s call a spade a spade. It surely says something about the new era we have entered into when the biggest celebrity at President Donald Trump’s inauguration was the President himself.
I know it’s not the most pressing subject to write about, given the pending executive orders from a Republican administration that threaten to decimate progress as we know it. But readers can satisfy themselves on two points: the performance schedule is at least a more worthy talking point than Kellyanne Conway’s Civil War jacket, and Trump was no doubt irritated by the C-list line-up.
President Trump – vain, narcissistic, self-obsessed – has long been ingratiated with and validated by celebrity culture. He could not have failed to miss the sparkle and magic that an A-list show provides. It was a grey, rainy day in Washington DC and the celebrities were rather grey and rainy to match. While Beyoncé and Stevie Wonder performed for Barack Obama, Trump couldn’t swing a cat without hitting three cover bands and Angelina Jolie’s dad.
Credit where credit is due. There was the rousing performance of 3 Doors Down, the national anthem by teenager Jackie Evancho, and the (oh-so-white choir) performance by Missouri State University. As the DC Fire Department Emerald Society Pipes played, did President Trump wonder where he went wrong? As the Republican Hindu Coalition performed, did he wish that he was back at Trump Tower watching CNN?
The lack of big names, apart from Trump himself, might also have partially accounted for the comparatively sparse crowds along the Mall. In 2009 and 2013, it was packed. In 2017, aerial footage showed that the back sections were almost empty. The front sections were mostly a sea of white and baseball caps.
More performers dropped out or spoke against Trump than those who participated. Charlotte Church, who was asked to perform, said she replied to the invitation with poo emojis. Rebecca Ferguson said she would only perform if she could sing the historically important song Strange Fruit. The Radio City Rockettes from New York did perform – even though at least 13 of the group’s members decided to sit it out.
He has always claimed he was a great unifier. But he couldn’t even cobble together a show consisting of names everyone had heard of.
To his credit, Trump did not mention the lack of red carpet eye-candy. (He might tweet about it later.) He only joked about the threat of rain, and how it would finally prove he had real hair, and that the military generals in his cabinet had looks good enough to be cast in a movie.
On the big night and during the formalities of the next day, Trump nodded, even sang along, swayed gently from side to side. With all the taxpayer money being spent on the ceremony while millions of Americans were about to lose their healthcare, at least one person was enjoying himself.
Yet the whole affair was very anti-climactic. Like a party without the music, all the pomp, fanfare and American tradition could not hide the lack of familiar faces and good quality entertainment.
No matter. As Trump’s aides insisted, the inauguration ceremony was not the Academy Awards. What a shame for President Trump. He had always enjoyed them.
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