Donald Trump made his name with opulent hotels and a dramatic reality TV show, but his inauguration on Friday as the 45th U.S. president is shaping up as a more understated affair, with big names in entertainment staying away.
Like those who came before him, Trump will take his oath on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building and lead a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, but there will be fewer official balls and less glitz and celebrity talent to welcome in the new president.
Inaugurations have been star-studded affairs since 1941, when President Franklin Roosevelt held a gala with actors Charlie Chaplin, Mickey Rooney and other stars of the era, said Jim Bendat, a historian who has written a book on U.S. inaugurations.
But this year, several singers – including Elton John and Charlotte Church – declined invitations to perform at inaugural events. Trump, a New York businessman and former star of “The Apprentice” TV show, won with a populist platform that included promises to build a wall along the Mexican border, restrict immigration from Muslim countries and dismantle Obamacare.
Broadway star Jennifer Holliday said yes to performing, but backed down after a backlash from fans.
“You can’t really find precedent for that,” Bendat said in an interview.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, singer Jackie Evancho and the Rockettes dancing troupe are among those slated to perform, although individual Rockettes will be allowed to opt out of performing if they so choose.
Trump’s inaugural committee has said it is intentionally avoiding top entertainers.
“We’re fortunate in that we have the greatest celebrity in the world, which is the president-elect,” Tom Barrack, inaugural committee chairman, told reporters at Trump Tower in New York last week.
“So what we’ve done, instead of trying to surround him with what people consider A-listers, is we are going to surround him with the soft sensuality of the place,” Barrack said.
Trump is slated to attend three official galas. Other modern inaugurations have had around 10 official balls, which the president and first lady would attend in rapid succession, typically dancing during each appearance.
Then-President Bill Clinton held a record 14 balls during his 1997 inauguration, Bendat said.