There was a year—I don’t remember the exact one but definitely around the height of his new-found celebrité in entertainment—when the ad dollars of the universe landed me work on multiple short projects with the man that 2016 loves to hate: Donald Trump. Over the years I had filmed in many of his buildings, but I had never worked with the man until then.
I had been hired to help produce an opulent birthday video for some wealthy New York socialite. We filmed birthday wishes from members of the one percent. Some were pleasant and some just wanted to get it over with. I got the impression that being the rich friend of a rich friend was a lot more work than it should be. And with the varying stories of him I had heard I really had no expectations of “The Donald.” He had been pleasant (but not necessarily friendly) when we had briefly worked together in a previous shoot. But this job was different.
It had been several months since the previous shoot, but, surprisingly, he remembered me. He had forgotten my name, but quickly asked for it again. I am clearly Hispanic, but I never once thought he was racist. Within the moment of my presenting myself and telling the crew where to start setting up, he even shook my hand and said it was nice to see me again. I was impressed by this. There was no reason for him to remember me. I forget names and faces all the time—an occupational hazard when you meet new people on a near daily basis. That he would remember me at all was impressive.
When my soundman started to put the lav on Trump’s shirt, I could see The Donald’s eyes cartoonishly widen with discomfort. His face contorted. He tried to bear it as long as he could (I would say around 15 seconds), but then curtly asked the soundman to step back. His germaphobia was apparent.
“I’ve got it,” he said. “I’ve done this a thousand times.”
He then fumbled about and proceeded to put it on incorrectly. Thankfully, I had a great crew and the sound was fine. There were some other minor instances where he was terse with crewmembers, but I reminded myself he was taking time out of a busy schedule to be nice for a “friend’s” birthday. You never know the kind of day anyone is having and you should, in my opinion, always try to be nice to everyone, but he wasn’t an outright jerk; so I just let it roll off my back. He would direct all of his questions to me and virtually ignored everyone else.
Yes, I have literally had my eyes one inch from the top of his head and have my opinion on what the hell is going on up there. People have had their opinions of him well before he began his presidential bid. The problem is that when you enter an arena as an already somewhat mythical figure it becomes difficult for many of us to see between the lines, or, in Trump’s case, hear between them.
I am not vain enough to think Trump would remember me now. I also don’t care. Life is hard enough without getting caught up in the lives of others. I never thought he was a bad person; though, as the campaign process lurches ever so painfully forward, I find myself dumbfounded by his behavior. My brief impressions of him in person do not add up to the bizarre reality-television persona he has morphed into. Used to be, his shows were something you could simply turn off. But now the whole world is watching. And if you want to keep your show going you need to keep the ratings up, offering up as entertainment whatever the majority of people are buying. That is not the person I recall meeting. Slightly ridiculous, yes, but not a panderer for the sake of winning the night or, in this case, winning the nation. That desire to win, I believe, has him lost, trapped in a persona and a show, that he never intended to be.