The long read: John Di Domenico has been playing Donald Trump longer than anyone else except Trump himself
John Di Domenico looks nothing like Donald Trump: hes 17 years younger, several inches shorter and a natural brunet, though lately he keeps his head shaved to make putting on the coppery wig easier, and his eyebrows bleached to match. Becoming Trump requires a full hour of hair and makeup. He tapes three large photographs of the president, one in profile and two straight-on, to any mirror hes using, and then uses Ben Nye CoCo Tan foundation to turn his skin the requisite shade of atomic tangerine, dabs on wrinkles, lengthens his nose, and so on. Trump has quite a big head, but theres not much anyone can do about that.
Even with the elaborate costume, Di Domenicos physical resemblance to the president requires a little imagination but of the many people who do Trump, his take is the most uncanny. Its the voice. He recreates the uncommon way that Trump, to use Di Domenicos phrase, speaks from his teeth; the wild fluctuations of nasality; the inconsistent New York accent; the sibilant Ss and exaggerated vowels. He has also mastered the neck jerk, the squint, the off-tilt swagger. When Conan OBrien and Chelsea Handler needed a Trump for their late-night talk shows, they called Di Domenico, and he has also become a regular on Fox Newss morning talk show.
Di Domenico enjoys the appearances on Fox and ABC, the cameos on Glenn Becks radio show, the invitations to do adverts and spoof films, but he makes his living at corporate events, trade shows and private parties. Hes the guy executives hire to keep middle management amused at national sales meetings, or to provide a little excitement at the launch party of a flu-reduction medicine. Hes the booth decoration that gets passersby interested in your carpet company. He is the entertainment. He can do Guy Fieri and Jay Leno and Austin Powers and Dr Evil, but for the last decade his trademark impression has been Trump. At the peak of the 2016 campaign, that one impression earned him as much as $40,000 a month.
Whenever Di Domenico appears in public in costume, people turn and gawk. They pull out their phones to take video, or they laugh spontaneously. Oh my god, they say. Or, breathlessly, Donald!
One afternoon in March, exiting a New York hotel, the sight of Di Domenico-as-Trump sent the front desk manager into a fit of giggles that verged on a panic attack. Oh my god, the guy kept saying, trying to catch his breath. No way. Faux Trump squinted, aimed a presidential finger in the mans direction, and agreed to a selfie.
In the photograph, Di Domenico has his chest and gut thrown out, as if hes leading from the widest point of his red sateen tie. The wig crests low over his brow. Hes flashing a presidential thumbs-up with one hand, his head is cocked to one side so his eyes squint unevenly, and his mouth has that protruded, half-open look of an aggravated orangutan. Its all correct.
Di Domenico handed the man his business card, with details of how to find him on social media. Tag me, he said, Youre terrific. And left.
Two college-aged guys hanging around stared after him, vaguely stricken. Its really good, said one. His friend nodded and looked around the lobby, presumably for Secret Service agents, or a hidden camera crew. What the fuck is going on?
As a professional impersonator,Di Domenico makes his living in an America where, as the historian Daniel J Boorstin wrote in 1962, fantasy is more real than reality. We have become, he wrote, the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so realistic that [we] can live in them. By the time Trump started to appear on the front pages of New York City tabloids in the late 1980s, politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce had been transformed into congenial adjuncts of showbusiness, as the cultural theorist Neil Postman famously wrote in 1984. Under this new dispensation, celebrities emerged as the unpredictable real-life stars of a never-ending show unfolding in real time. Thirty years later, Americans remain so compelled by the power of celebrity to make life feel entertaining and meaningful that we are thrilled by the mere facsimile of a famous person, so long as he conveys a hint of the same magic.
When Trump declared his candidacy, he turned himself into the most visible celebrity in the world, and Di Domenicos career exploded. By Di Domenicos estimation, peak demand for Trump impressions came during the election cycle, when Trumps political aspirations could still be seen as a joke that hadnt yet arrived at the punchline. Di Domenico worked every day for more than a year. He was soon joined by a cadre of other Donalds: the comedian Anthony Atamanuik, whose work Di Domenico admires (Trump is all id. Anthonys Trump is the id on steroids,); the prolific impressionist Frank Caliendo; Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon; and, of course, Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live. Di Domenico, though, has been doing this for 13 years longer than any other major Trump impersonator which not only lends him a bit of godfatherly cred, but also gives his impression singular nuance.
The relationship between the impersonator and the impersonated is a bizarre form of intimacy. Apart from its lopsidedness, the connection is almost spousal, marked by the closeness that comes from living with someone day after day for years and years, memorising their gestures, assimilating their speech patterns. Theres admiration and irritation, conjecture about the others intentions and inner life, struggles to keep a separate identity, and the sense of ownership that comes from believing you know a person better than anyone else. Its a parasitic homage.
Di Domenico keeps inside him, nested like matryoshka dolls, all the many selves Trump has fashioned in the last 30 years: Trump the businessman on CNN silkily telling Larry King in 1989 that his breath stinks; Trump the reality television star firing Cyndi Lauper on The Celebrity Apprentice in 2010; Trump the candidate declaring that he could stand on 5th Avenue in New York and shoot someone without losing a vote. Di Domenico talks about Trump with the same casual authority he displays when talking about himself. Hes gained a lot of weight lately, hell remark offhandedly. Or, Nah, he doesnt have OCD. Or he has selective OCD. Frequently, Trumps cadence will sneak its way into Di Domenicos speech: a nasal vowel, a tremendous.
Every morning, Di Domenico reads the news, scanning for any stories or new behaviours he needs to incorporate. He can list and demonstrate Trumps most common gestures, most of which only appeared when he entered political life. Theres the T-Rex, when he plasters his forearms to his sides and waves his stiff hands back and forth, as if conducting a tiny, mad choir. Theres the OK slightly effete, open-handed, with the thumb and forefinger pinched together and the wrist cocked and loose. And the Hi, where Di Domenico reaches out his right arm and tilts the hand up in greeting. Then theres the Heil Hitler here he straightens his wrist though hes stopped doing that. I think someone told him to stop doing that.
Steve Richardss informative brand-new book charts the increase of the political radicals who are requiring us to reassess exactly what had actually ended up being unimaginable
O nce once again, after 8 June, all is up in the air. Britain is not likely to have 5 more years of steady and strong management from Theresa May. Unpredictability has actually ended up being the brand-new regular. Far less comprehended, beyond the simple rhetoric, is exactly what lies behind the taking apart of foreseeable politics. Why now? Why not a years earlier, when the monetary system crashed?
Thankfully, I have Steve Richardss most current musings to rely on as I, like everybody, look for to make sense of all of it. There disappears informative observer of the British scene than this reasoned expert turned standup. His newest book looks for to discuss the increase of the radical. More presciently, it looks for to describe how the so-called mainstream lost its method. The world prior to 8 June: Richards argues that the rot set in long back. Political leaders, so the stating goes, constantly battle the previous election. They are constantly behind the times. Harold Wilson and Edward Heath in the 1970s thought that just an earnings policy would be manageable for a public that still bore the scars of the prewar anxiety. They cannot see the social impulses that would cause the increase of Margaret Thatcher.
In the 1990s a brand-new reality emerged. Tony Blair and Bill Clinton thought the Thatcher/Reagan agreement on economics was immutable. The left might never ever be relied on once again and had to mimic the free-market. This method brought short-term electoral success. It likewise drained pipes advocates of optimism and perfects. These centre-left prime ministers and presidents may have been silver-tongued communicators with a forensic sense of tactical goals. They might have ruled undisputed for a years, however they were not visionaries. They might remarkably evaluate the current past and adjust their celebrations appropriately, however they might not see really far ahead.
Then came the 2007-08 monetary crash. Richards competes that it altered the characteristics of politics right away. Im not so sure. I composed at the time how a lot political ground had actually opened, however how couple of political leaders were prepared to proceed to it. I keep in mind having standup arguments with individuals around Gordon Brown. They might have connected strings to the bailouts. They might have pursued the numerous in the City who had actually acted immorally and in case they had actually troubled to examine and prosecute criminally. To have, really openly, led some leading investors from the dock to their jail cells would not just have actually been popular, it would have altered politics. Instead of weakening faith in entrepreneurial industrialism (the default worry of the Brownites and blairites), a public numeration may have strengthened self-confidence in the financial system. Due to the fact that they were frightened, they didnt do that simply.
David Cameron and George Osborne turned reasoning on its head. For a brief while they prospered in convincing citizens that the reason for their distress was not the super-rich and the greedy, however free-spending Labour federal governments . Austerity was the only response. Ed Miliband combated the 2015 election on that exact same paradigm although he didnt think it.
In the brand-new traumatically constraining context of the globalised economy, mainstream celebrations left wing and right have actually stopped working calamitously to discover methods of informing the fact about exactly what they can do, exactly what they wish to do and exactly what they think, with conviction, they must do, the author notes. He remarkably accomplishes: Their failure to frame arguments based upon an essence of fact offers area for the outsiders to thrive mendaciously.
Which brings us to Brexit and the lies and half facts that were informed throughout the project. The case for open borders, for European cohesion, was never ever made. Who has persuasively made the case for migration? The finest method to stop individuals coming to any nation in droves is to make it bad, unwelcoming and unpleasant. That is an indictment not simply of the hubristic and unlucky Remain project, however all federal governments of the 2 previous years.
Richards casts the despair in an international context, determining parallels from Austria to France, from Spain to Australia. Undoubtedly, he dedicates area to the weak point of Hillary Clinton and the area she permitted Donald Trump to make use of. The mainstream leaders on the centre left and centre right have actually partially opted to be weak.
How much is the media to blame? For sure, the relationship has actually long been hazardous the worry of antagonising media magnates; the function of broadcasters slavishly following the program of those papers; the function of social networks rejecting individuals in public life a minute to show, and making it difficult for users to distinguish in between truth and fiction. Smartly, Richards does not overemphasize the case. Phony news might threaten. Much of the time it is simply outrageous and far less ominous than it appears to be. To puts it simply, it is self-correcting and political leaders need to pay less attention.
So are we ready to introduce a brand-new age of a more bold and genuine politics? Among the paradoxes, the author recommends, is that Theresa May appeared to comprehend the requirement for the state to action in to remedy financial imbalances. Her absence of compassion and her other weak points are most likely to make sure that she will not endure enough time to evaluate this presumption. Will Jeremy Corbyn, that outsider of outsiders, become provided the possibility?
Richards does not quit on our political leaders. He will not dismiss an occupation he considers as honorable. In a market crowded with more piercing evaluations of Brexit and Trump, this sticks out for its factor and optimism.
I concur with the author that the majority of our political leaders, no matter what their shade, are well intentioned. They strive; they do their finest. Part of the issue is the quality of the consumption. Where are the fantastic magnate and business owners? Where are the world-renowned brain cosmetic surgeons and the film-makers? Rather, the ranks of green benches in your house of Commons is comprised of previous consultants and other various political hacks, who seldom endeavor beyond London SW1 and understand little of the world (not to mention Europe). Contrast that with France and the genuine transformation that Emmanuel Macron has actually caused. A brand-new generation of interesting outsiders is on the increase there. Thats exactly what I call a genuine election.
The Rise of the Outsiders: How Mainstream Politics Lost Its Way by Steve Richards is released by Atlantic (18.99). To purchase a copy for 14.24 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 03303336846. Free UK p &p over 10, online orders just. Phone orders minutes p &p of 1.99
The libertarian satirist and journalist tries to get to grips with the US election but merely shows his laziness and foolish prejudices
Its not just politicians who are getting older; satirists are, too. Near the end of this book PJ ORourke lets slip the startling revelation that he is just a few months younger than Hillary Clinton and only a year behind Trump, who at 70 became the oldest ever first-time president. Long gone is the ORourke of yore, a Republican answer to Hunter S Thompson, travelling the worlds danger zones in search of drink, women and leftwing stupidity. Now he operates more in the mould of HL Mencken, one of his heroes, who rarely felt the need to leave his beloved Baltimore in order to lambast the idiocy of his fellow Americans. ORourke lives, as it says on the dust jacket, in rural New England, as far away from the things he writes about as he can get. This is American politics as viewed from the back room in front of the TV, feet up on the recliner chair.
Its an approach that gives the book some of its charm but also explains its many failings. ORourke has a nice, world-weary way with the USs present political follies. He describes watching the first Republican presidential debate with his elderly father-in-law, who had the benefit of being deaf and half-blind, but still managed to find Carly Fiorina an impressive candidate. Now that Trump dominates everything, its good to be reminded of a time when he was just one hopelessly flawed candidate among many, each of them a wholly improbable future occupant of the White House. ORourke spends as much time on the losers as the eventual winner, skewering Chris Christie and Marco Rubio, Ben Carson and Scott Walker. They deserve it, of course, but somehow it feels a bit easy after all, the voters have already done much of the skewering for him.
The one Republican presidential hopeful ORourke likes is Rand Paul, curly-haired optometrist and son of perennial libertarian candidate Ron Paul. ORourke is taken with the younger Pauls intellectual seriousness but also with his willingness to laugh atthe contortions running for the presidency require of him (Paul senior is not known for his sense of irony). An early chance to meet Paul is one of thefew things that drags ORourke onto the campaign trail and he comes away a little lovelorn, which is faintly embarrassing. He tells us that he and Rand had a lengthy poli-sci geek yack about Alexander Hamiltons Federalist Paper No 84, the wonders ofthe tenth amendment and the philosophy of natural rights. ORourke assumes that his readers wont be interested in such things, but actually it would be better than hearing his complaints about theway his favourite candidate was treated. He thinks it unfair that Paul got pilloried for his agonised flip-flops on Middle East policy ORourke feels anyone who has a consistent view of what needs to be done in that part of the world is the real menace whereas Trump was allowed to get away with talking outright nonsense. We dont need ORourke to tell us that politics isunfair: we need him to tell us how Trump got away with it.
The real problem is that unlike Mencken who saw democracy as rule by fools or, as he christened it, the boobocracy ORourke seems to shy away from sticking it to the voters themselves. Because he never gets much beyond what he picks up from watching TV or reading the papers, he tends to be limited to mocking the pundits, who are a far easier target. Weall know by now that most of the people who spent the last year telling us how politics is meant to work turned out to have no idea. The voters made fools of conventional wisdom. But what about the forces of unreason at work among voters themselves? ORourke offers some half-hearted speculations about whats irking ordinary Americans, but his book would have been far better if he had stirred himself to go in search ofthe freakier side of public opinion, as he once would have. As a libertarian, ORourke is committed to believing in the right of people to think what they like. But for a libertarian he seems surprisingly reluctant to call them out on it.
It doesnt help that he comes across too often as a bit of a pundit himself. His continued harrying of the minor players in last years drama ends up sounding like a Washington insiders memory test. Even American readers may be struggling to remember at this point why they are supposed to care about presidential candidates Lincoln Chafee and George Pataki, so who knows what British readers are meant to make of it all. This is symptomatic of the books flawed setup. ORourke never makes it clear whether his musings on the events of last year were written in real time and are therefore allowed to be out of date or have been revised with the benefit of hindsight. Is this adiary of the campaign or is it a post-mortem? By lurching from one to the other, ORourke forfeits the readers patience and simply comes across as lazy.