DANCE LIKE NOBODY'S WATCHING
“This is interpretive dance—also known as Mooch Moves—for my time in the White House.”
Last Monday, the New York Post published a video of the former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci doing a dramatic retelling—in dance!—of his tumultuous ten-day tenure in the White House in July, 2017. Although one year later, standing in front of a white background at the Post’s studios in a well-tailored blue blazer and just-casual-enough black sneakers, he insists that he had the job for eleven days, not ten. Either way, he was fired on July 31st for insulting other members of the White House, in an attempt by Chief of Staff John Kelly to return some semblance of order to the Trump Administration.
In the video, Scaramucci does a different dance move for each of the eleven (ten?) days of his stint as Communications Director. Day One, he says to the camera, was “Mooch cleaning house.” He makes some terribly awkward sweeping and dusting motions over the cheery electronic harpsichord music in the background. Day Four: “I’m with the Boy Scouts,” he says with a salute, referring to his visit with Trump to the Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. “My son is born, I’m missing that,” he continues, rocking an imaginary baby and drawing a single tear from his eye with his finger. “That’s a very big bummer for me.” Big bummer, indeed. According to Page Six reporting, he texted his wife, “Congratulations, I’ll pray for our child," after her delivery, clearly exuding the simultaneous excitement and distress of a man missing the birth of his son.
“The Mooch” (as he likes to call himself) has previously tried to claim that he’s uninterested in media attention. In the now-infamous interview with the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza on Day Five—the conversation that got him fired—Scaramucci said he was different from the attention-craving Steve Bannon because he was, well, not trying to suck on his own genitalia. But Scaramucci’s bizarre dance stunt, along with appearances on every major TV news outlet, are all part of the press tour for his new book, Trump: The Blue Collar President. In the book, he praises Trump for showing him the plight of the American middle class, because Trump has clearly shown us how getting “a small loan of a million dollars” (or more, per recent New York Times reporting) from your father, and not paying your contractors could put any billionaire real estate developer deeply in touch with the working man.
Scaramucci has joined the ranks of other former Trump officials who, after leaving the White House, now claim to be in on the joke. In a surprise appearance at last year’s Emmys, Scaramucci’s predecessor, Sean Spicer, announced to the cheers of the crowd that “this will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period.” Omarosa Manigault Newman, former director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, went on Colbert in March, and laughed about the doublespeak of calling Trump’s support for white supremacists after Charlottesville “racial, not racist.” These officials feel they have license to lie while in office, but once they leave, they can assure everyone that they never really meant what they were saying. As for Scaramucci, he’s still an outspoken supporter of the Trump administration and its policies. But doing these kinds of videos and media appearances gives his message of support enough of a wink and a nudge to ensure wealthy New York finance-types will still come to his book party.
To represent the end of his time in the White House, Scaramucci for Day Twelve (which was, in reality, Day Eleven) gets down on one knee and puts his hands in a prayer position. “Thank you God that it’s over,” he says, almost somberly. Hopefully, two Novembers from now we’ll all be saying the same thing.
GRITTY IS NOT A WORKER
When I opened Twitter one day in late September and learned of Gritty’s debut, it felt like the first piece of good news in weeks. Some intern at the Philadelphia Flyers, it seemed, had pitched a nonsensical new mascot for the city’s hockey team and, with presumably no better options, the higher-ups at the Flyers gave Gritty the stamp of approval.
To me, lying in bed that morning, Gritty was nothing more than a big orange guy who didn’t look like he’d been okayed by a focus-group. There’s no premise or gimmick to him: he’s got orange fur and hair, bulbous googly eyes, a hockey jersey and helmet, and a pear-shaped figure uncannily similar to that of the Phanatic, the Phillies’ mascot. He’s dressed like a hockey player, but really, he just looks like a red-bearded hockey fan pounding buds in the back row of the Wells Fargo Center. Indeed, Gritty felt like someone I knew growing up in Philadelphia—maybe I’d shared a wooder ice or heavily cheesed steak with him after school—and my god, did it bring a nostalgic tear to my eye.
And so, when the national media noticed Gritty, all I could think was: get your hands off my city. To the New Yorker, Gritty was absurd, but to Philadelphians, he was just one of us. In a city where men post up on street corners to go fishing in the sewer; where it’s commonplace for bus drivers to stop traffic to have conversations with one another; where local hero Meek Mill was helicoptered into the Sixers’ locker room to hype up the team just hours after he was released from jail; and where the cancelation of an annual wing-eating contest recently incited public outcry (#RIPWingBowl), Gritty’s own chaos makes perfect sense.
But for Gritty, like the rest of us, with age came politicization. On September 26, two days after Gritty came onto the scene, Jacobin (the “leading voice of the American Left”) tweeted “Gritty is a worker.” Soon after, Donald Trump visited Philadelphia and Gritty appeared on a number of protesters’ picket signs. And with that, Gritty was swiftly concretized as a symbol of leftism nationwide. But as soon as memes emerged depicting Gritty calling for the fall of the state and chopping off Pepe the Frog’s head in a guillotine, so too did the conservative backlash. On October 7, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece titled “Antifa Appropriates a Creepy Mascot” with the subtitle “Keep your Marxist hands off Gritty. He belongs to Philly.”
While the Indy can get behind Gritty’s politics, this reporter—the Indy’s resident Philadelphian—must regrettably side with the Journal on one front: Gritty belongs to Philly. At the end of the day, his incorporation into socialist politics doesn’t really add up. He’s the mascot of a for-profit hockey team owned by Comcast, the second largest corporation in Philadelphia, and his team is living by the anti-union creed: last week, the real-life Flyers crossed a hotel workers picket line in Boston.
Gritty doesn’t work for socialism or the Wall Street Journal, but he works for Philly. He’s a perfect storm of Comcast, cheese-wiz orange fur, and havoc. As one caller to a local public radio program speculated, Gritty might have been birthed of the scrapyard fire that took place in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia around the same time he arrived on the scene. Gritty was born in Philly and, like any loyal Flyers fan, he’ll die there too.
PERSONAL EFFECTS by Liby Hays