Zito, Schuster, NYPost
There will be no Beyoncé wiggling on stage. Bruce Springsteen, Ariana Grande, John Legend and Elton John aren’t going to be there either. In fact, pretty much every A-lister from the Hollywood and entertainment world has decided to skip Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday. And whether or not Trump himself is wrestling with that public rejection, the people who voted for him are not.
The “blue-collar billionaire” will have a day that’s more befitting of the working-class base that put him in the White House: one without fanfare or celebrities or fancy couture (although his wife, Melania, will most certainly be dressed to the nines). Call it the People’s Inauguration, one that celebrates the ordinary American, and that suits his fans just fine.
“They could have zero entertainment at the inauguration, and I really don’t think for one minute that it would matter,” said Leslie Rossi, of Youngstown, Pa., a state that shocked the nation when it switched from blue to red on Election Day.
Rossi, a 46-year-old mother of eight, and her husband, Michael, 51, were so confident Trump was going to win that they booked their rooms in DC last July. The Rossi family own a mechanical testing and research company in Westmoreland County that employs about 200 people. They also own the legendary “Trump House,” a nearly 100-year-old building painted entirely red, white and blue that’s guarded by a 14-foot steel cutout of Trump’s likeness.
“This is about a man and a movement and the people who participated and were inspired by it,” Rossi said. “I suspect the events will reflect that, and that probably works for most people attending.”
Melanie Patterson, a 57-year-old businesswoman from western Pennsylvania, echoes Rossi’s sentiments.
“You know what they say about inaugural balls? You dance with the one who brought you there,” said Patterson, who is attending the swearing-in ceremony with several of her friends. “Donald Trump is dancing and celebrating with the people who put him in the White House. Let Hollywood stay home or take a knee this time around. We will be fine.”
Trump’s events will be smaller than Obama’s — and lift up the little guy, said Boris Epshteyn, director of communications for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Our next president will have just three official inaugural balls, down from the 10 separate balls for Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. “He will also continue the official Commander-in-Chief Inaugural Ball — a tradition started by George W. Bush, but he will expand that ball to include first responders like firefighters and police officers as well as veterans, military families and wounded warriors.”
Donald Trump is dancing and celebrating with the people who put him in the White House. Let Hollywood stay home or take a knee this time around.
The traditional parade — including high-school marching bands, 4-H drill teams and the Boy Scouts — from the US Capitol to the White House is also being cut back. It has been shortened from two and a half hours for Obama’s last swearing in to just one hour for Trump. Tom Barrack, chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, said “one of the biggest complaints people have about the inauguration is that the parade is too long and everyone is cold. The parade route is one and a half miles, it can be freezing cold and [the crowd] has been waiting since 6 a.m.”
Barrack added that the parade will celebrate the armed forces: “There is going to be more military presence. There’s going to be more participation. There’s going to be an aircraft for the first time in a long time. You’re going to have a better parade in a shorter period of time.”
Barrack adds that Trump isn’t that interested in receiving adulation, but would rather focus on getting things done. “It’s mostly about America getting back to work. At the end of the day, that’s his message. It’s not about the coronation event for him. He’s saying I told you what I was going to do, let me get back and do it and judge me in the next 100 days or 200 days or 300 days. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about how good of a party he can throw.”
Meanwhile, social commentator R. Couri Hay says there’s a good reason fewer balls are being held this year: “The balls are a way to pay back the big donors, but Trump’s campaign wasn’t designed that way. He didn’t have a [big] donor-based campaign.”
While Trump did get some fat-cat support, he mostly self-funded his run and also relied on so-called small donors. In September, he broke the Republican record for the most money raised by a presidential candidate from donors who gave $200 or less — a total close to $100 million, according to Politico.
It’s a good bet that this small-donor base isn’t part of the DC elite, many of whom are clearing out of nation’s capitol on inauguration night, said Kevin Chaffee, senior editor at Washington Life magazine.
“An awful lot of people who are disappointed with the results are leaving town,” said Chaffee. “It’s not like this incoming president has the entertainment and Hollywood-style people coming. Jon Voight is coming and a few of these odd ducks.”
Obama’s first inauguration attracted some of the biggest A-listers in America to perform including Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Jon Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Herbie Hancock, John Mellencamp, Springsteen, U2, Usher and Stevie Wonder, among others.
For his second swearing-in, Beyoncé was back again along with Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, members of the “Glee” cast, Legend, Smokey Robinson, Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett and many more boldface names.
Trump, meanwhile, has allegedly struggled to book any high-level performers. According to reports, Elton John, Garth Brooks, KISS, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli have all turned him down. Welsh warbler Charlotte Church said she was invited to sing and ridiculed the idea with a fiery tweet aimed at Trump: “A simple Internet search would show I think you’re a tyrant. Bye.” Moby also lambasted the president-elect on social media after Trump’s team reportedly extended an invitation: “Hahahahaha,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “I guess I’d DJ at an inaugural ball if as payment #trump released his tax returns. Oscar winner Meryl Streep wasn’t invited but still made her rejection of Trump clear with a controversial speech at the Golden Globes last Sunday that slammed the president-elect’s “instinct to humiliate.”
So far, Trump’s entertainment lineup includes the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Radio City Rockettes, “America’s Got Talent” singer Jackie Evancho, the Talladega College Marching Band, country music performers Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy, gospel singers like Traviss Greene, and a few other low-key musical acts. Longtime Republican and transgender activist Caitlyn Jenner is scheduled to attend, along with a few other GOP diehards with name recognition.
Barrack disputed the rumors that A-listers were declining invitations to the inauguration: “The only person who can offer a job for entertainment in this inauguration is me,” he said. “I haven’t offered one A-lister, and I haven’t been turned down by one A-lister. What you hear is rhetoric. Does that elitist portion of celebrity still withhold their applause for this president-elect? Most likely. But . . . we haven’t gone to that level of celebrity.”
Still, the situation is ironic, given that reality star Trump is from the entertainment world and is comfortable amidst fame and riches, though not enthralled with glamour or style. His suits are ill-fitting and at times rumpled; he is a teetotaller uninterested in galas. “Trump isn’t a big party guy. He goes out and shows up when he has to,” said Washington Life’s Chaffee.
Inauguration chairman Barrack said President Obama needed the imprimatur of Hollywood and celebrity because he was an unknown when he came into office, while Trump is already famous. “When [Obama] came into office, he had no celebrity. It was appropriate for [him]. Now you have a president, who for the past 12 years has lived in celebrity with his own TV show, so he doesn’t need that piece for his presidency.”
Trump voter Patterson, who comes from a long line of steelworkers, coal miners and staunch Democrats, said the only disappointing thing about the inauguration is that entertainers don’t understand what Trump’s victory means to his voters and how diminished their standing is among them.
“Hollywood claims they are somehow victims,” she said. “The only thing they are victims of is their own arrogance.”
Jesse Crammer, 19, can’t wait for Friday, and all he wants to see during the inauguration is President Trump’s remarks about the moment. “He is all of the celebrity I need,” said the high-school sophomore from the Keystone State.
“This night is about him; it is about us. It would be really cool if he opened up his remarks and asked people attending one of the balls, in particular the ball that will have our military, police and first responders in attendance, and ask them to talk about their lives.
“[Trump’s] message about ‘making America great’ was aspirational; it was about something bigger than ourselves, and perhaps that is what Hollywood does not get. They cannot imagine something bigger than themselves.”
— with additional reporting by Doree Lewak