The moment was so great in magnitude that it even made Beyoncé weak in the knees. As Barack Obama, donning a perfectly tailored white-tie tuxedo, shared his first dance as 44th President of the United States with his wife Michelle at the 2009 Inaugural Ball, the country's most celebrated pop star stood feet away, serenading the First Couple with Etta James' "At Last." Over her career, Beyoncé had become famous for her bombastic, unrestrained exploration of the stage, but in this moment, Queen Bey was just a girl, standing in reverence, with the humility of a high school student who had won a contest to be there. In an interview afterwards, through tears, she described performing for the first black President as "the most important day" of her life. It was the type of moment Donald Trump desperately wishes he could capture for himself, but never will, because he is a fucking loser.
Donald Trump has hung his entire career on his celebrity, and only his celebrity. After all, he has the business acumen of a ripe mango, the looks of moldy mango, and the charm of a mango after it's been eaten, shit out, and left in a dumpster for seven months. The only thing he's had going for him is that he lives the life of a rich and famous person, thanks in large part to years of tax-dodging and a hefty inheritance from his father. For decades, his lifestyle spent hobnobbing with A-listers has been his sole social currency and public persona—a clownish caricature of a comically lavish mogul. He would gleefully post a photo on Instagram of himself popping his lil baby carrot thumbs up, posing beside any celebrity that would come within 500 yards of him, from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to Tiger Woods. He bought a beauty pageant just so he could have his name attached to attractive women. He even hosted a TV show with the word right in the title—The Celebrity Apprentice, a reality circle jerk that featured celebrities competing for Big Donny's approval, insomuch as Bret Michaels and Stephen Baldwin can be considered celebrities.
But over the last few years, the glitterati which once paid lip service to The Donald as a pop culture fixture has turned its back on him. Over the course of his venture into politics, he has gone from a red carpet staple to a party pariah, and who can even say why? Fame is fickle, but perhaps it has something to do with—and this is just a stab in the dark here—his years-long clinging to the racist birther movement, his characterization of Mexicans as rapists and criminals, his idea to put Muslims on a national registry, his suggestion that there should be punishment for women who have abortions, mocking of disabled people, his bragging of sexual assault, and his incessant, erratic Twitter tirades aimed at anyone or anything who has even vaguely wronged him. But again, it's anyone's guess.
As his very humiliating fall from Hollywood grace became increasingly public, with celebrities openly bashing him in interviews, on social media, or to anyone who would listen, Trump began to cling to a new friend: the average American. Yessir, even though he lives in a golden tower in the sky with his name embossed on it, he wasn't interested in celebrities anymore, he was now a regular KFC-eating Joe Schmo, a newfound man of the finger-lickin' people. But because his public id spewings render him so glaringly transparent, it was easy to see that, inside, he was hurting.
After Beyoncé and husband Jay Z endorsed his opponent Hillary Clinton at one of her events right before November's election, Trump lamented to his minions over and over at his rallies. In Nevada, a state he took pride in mispronouncing the name of, he called Clinton's use of celeb power "a form of cheating." The crowd, acting as a room of his psychiatrists, lapped it up and their applause gave him the consoling his frail little ego so blatantly needed. In North Carolina, he claimed to draw bigger crowds than Beyoncé's concerts. (He doesn't.) "You know what? I don't need Beyoncé and I don't need Jay Z," the man-baby whimpered to a cheering Colorado audience who didn't realize he would gleefully piss on every one of their faces if he believed it would briefly make Billy Bush smile. "I don't need J. Lo and I don't need Jon Bon Jovi," he continued, noting that he still likes them, though, in case you'd forgotten that he knows many famous people. "They're all nice."
And to his credit, he was right. He didn't need them. He was able to swindle enough blue collared 'Mericuns to ride their naivety straight to the White House. He successfully swapped his star power for his "Movement," the name he's bestowed upon his loyal army of red hat-wearing mouthbreathers, united in their blind anger and deep seated prejudices. Maybe, he hoped, 60 million nobodies were equal to one somebody!
But now Donald Trump has a problem: He needs celebrities once again. Bigly.
Historically, the Presidential inauguration has offered a chance for the incoming President to rub elbows with A-listers, who in turn get the prestigious honor of performing for the leader of the free world. It's a time-honored tradition. Frank Sinatra hosted a hell of a pre-inaugural ball for John F. Kennedy in '61. Michael Jackson, Elton John, and Barbra Streisand turned out for Bill Clinton in '93, with a performance from Fleetwood Mac. Even Ricky Martin, Jessica Simpson, and Destiny's Child performed for George W. Bush in 2001, with Beyoncé hyping up the crowd by saying, "I wanna hear you say Bush!" But in his greatest hour of need, Trump's cherished celeb pals are nowhere to be found.
Mere days away from his inauguration, he and his team are comically scrambling to get someone—anyone—to appear at this thing, and implicitly endorse the incoming Fuchsia Fuhrer. When Trump's senior adviser Kellyanne Conway was asked on Fox & Friends if it was true that she was trying to land megastars Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars, she winked at the camera and said, "They can call me!" But they didn't. The phone didn't seem to ring at all at Trump headquarters. In fact, artists went out of their way to deny any role in performing, even in the hypothetical. Elton John, Garth Brooks, the Chainsmokers, John Legend, Andrea Bocelli, Adam Lambert, and more took a hard pass. Members of the Rockettes expressed their displeasure in being asked to perform.
Even dead celebs are distancing themselves from Trump post-mortem, with Nancy Sinatra proclaiming on Twitter that, were he alive today, her father wouldn't perform and support Trump's bigotry.
The manager of the Dixie Chicks summed it up best when asked about the stakes of signing on to play the devil's song: "If anyone does do it, I hope that the check that they get is in the nine figures. Because it's probably the last check they're ever going to get… No one is prepared to normalize what is going on in the country right now."
The Trump camp, so thirsty for a big name, reportedly offered ambassadorship to talent bookers in exchange for participation. But even then, no one bit. There wasn't a Backstreet Boy, Hanson brother, or New Kid on any Block desperate enough to take the bait. So his team went celebrity dumpster diving, but the only act they could drudge up at the bottom of the barrel for this star-dudded event was Jackie Evancho, a 16-year-old former America's Got Talent contestant who also lost the popular vote (but beat out a black light-themed performance troupe!). Trump even bragged that this announcement "skyrocketed" her album sales. (It didn't.) Also signed on for the pre-inaugural Great America Alliance Inaugural Gala (real name) are Cowboy Troy [file not found] and bro country duo Big & Rich, whose selection was likely due to their name giving Trump a tingle in his wrinkly scrotum. As parade filler, there will be a slew of military groups, high school marching bands, and other various Americana representation that would perpetuate the illusion that Trump is blue collar enough to have ever used a public toilet.
It's a veritable lineup of all-american rejects, not to be confused with The All-American Rejects, who people might actually recognize.
Trump doubled down on the man-of-the-people lie he tells himself these days via Twitter: "The so-called 'A' list celebrities are all wanting tixs to the inauguration, but look what they did for Hillary, NOTHING. I want the PEOPLE!" he tweeted to his 19 million Pepes. Hopefully, the PEOPLE are entertained by MEDIOCRITY. It's a pathetic whimper from a crushed spirit—a boy whose birthday party no one showed up to so he claimed they weren't invited anyway. (Side note: "tix" is the internet plural of "tickets," not "tixs.")
Further humiliating is that Barack Obama threw himself a little going away party at the White House this Friday. Among those in attendance at this casual, last-minute shindig were Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Solange, Chris Rock, George Clooney, Usher, Robert De Niro, Stevie Wonder, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Jerry Seinfeld, Chance the Rapper, and George Lucas. It was Obama's epic parting own on his successor, a reminder that he is a beloved, bonafide star and that Trump is career cyanide.
And just this weekend, Meryl Streep led a room full of the most famous people in the world to applaud her call for peace and civility, prompting another predictable angry tweetstorm from the thin-skinned Trump.
There's a beautiful, Shakespearean tragedy in this Trump saga. Here is a man who spent a lifetime seeking fame at all costs, who climbed the social ladder so high that he reached the top, but there was no one there to celebrate with him. An irony befitting of Citizen Kane or, at the very least, The Real Housewives of New Jersey. To quote the only coherent thing Trump has said over the last year: Sad!
Regardless of who actually shows up, though, on January 20, President Trump will share a first dance with his wife Ivanka—sorry, Melania!—and the two will sway to the crooning of some D-lister he wouldn't have been caught in the same room with in his heyday, a better time when he was rubbing elbows exclusively with beautiful, successful people at his beloved New York City galas and weddings. His tuxedo jacket will be cut too wide in the hip and too long past his waist as he rocks his lumpy body awkwardly back and forth against his third wife.
The day will mark the official start of a long, daily fight that citizens must engage in to keep their healthcare, to avoid discrimination, and to have their voices heard. But for this moment, we can all gawk at the humiliated emperor who so desperately craves celebrity endorsements but with all his money and power couldn't get one to save his life. We can watch the embarrassment in the charred remains of his face as he waltzes in shame, stripped of the one thing that ever made him remotely interesting and denied of the moment that he worked for his whole life. And we can just fucking laugh.
Dan Ozzi is on Twitter and has more famous friends than Donald Trump - @danozzi