The Trumps have often been compared to a mob family. Certainly, in the White House, they have created a dark alternative universe with an inverted ethical code, where the main value is loyalty to the godfather above all else.
An anti-Trump group called Mad Dog PAC has a billboard reading: “MAGA, Mobsters Are Governing America.”
.. As Michael Daly noted in The Daily Beast, “Traditionally, rats begin wearing a wire after they get jammed up.”
.. In the taped call, Cohen tells Trump that he has talked to the mogul’s trusted money manager and “Apprentice” guest star, Allen Weisselberg, about how to set up a company to reimburse David Pecker, the National Enquirer owner, for buying off Trump goomah Karen McDougal. Federal investigators in Manhattan now want to interview Weisselberg.
“Long term, this could be the most damaging,” Trump biographer Tim O’Brien told me, “because it gets into Trump’s wallet.”
.. Cohen the Fixer claims Trump knew about the Russian meeting during the campaign with his son and Paul Manafort. The president hit the mattresses on Twitter, denying it all.
.. Rudy Giuliani has somersaulted from a RICO-happy prosecutor to a man acting like a Mafia lawyer, telling Chris Cuomo that Cohen is an “incredible liar” when only three months ago he pronounced him “an honest, honorable lawyer.”
.. If the White House seems more and more like “Goodfellas,” it is not an accident.
“Trump has a very cinematic sense of himself,” O’Brien said. Like many on social media, he is driven to be the star of his own movie. He even considered going to film school in L.A. before he settled into his father’s business.
.. O’Brien recalled that Trump told him that he thought Clint Eastwood was the greatest movie star. “He and Melania model their squints on Eastwood,” the biographer noted. Trump also remarked, while they were watching “Sunset Boulevard” on the Trump plane, that a particular scene was amazing: the one where Norma Desmond obsessively watches her silent films and cries: “Have they forgotten what a star looks like? I’ll show them!”
.. Trump is drawn to people who know how to dominate a room and exaggerated displays of macho, citing three of his top five movies as
- “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,”
- “Goodfellas” and
- “The Godfather.”
.. As a young real estate developer, he would hang out at Yankee Stadium and study the larger-than-life figures in the V.I.P. box:
- George Steinbrenner,
- Lee Iacocca,
- Frank Sinatra,
- Roy Cohn,
- Rupert Murdoch,
- Cary Grant.
He was intent on learning how they grabbed the limelight.
.. “In his first big apartment project, Trump’s father had a partner connected to the Genovese and Gambino crime families,” said Michael D’Antonio, another Trump biographer. “He dealt with mobbed-up suppliers and union guys for decades.
.. “When Trump was a little boy, wandering around job sites with his dad — which was the only time he got to spend with him — he saw a lot of guys with broken noses and rough accents. And I think he is really enchanted by base male displays of strength. Think about ‘Goodfellas’ — people who prevail by cheating and fixing and lying. Trump doesn’t have the baseline intellect and experience to be proficient at governing. His proficiency is this mob style of bullying and tough-guy talk.”
As Steve Bannon noted approvingly, Trump has a Rat Pack air, and as O’Brien said, Trump was the sort of guy who kept gold bullion in his office.
.. Trump’s like a mobster, D’Antonio said, in the sense that he “does not believe that anyone is honest. He doesn’t believe that your motivations have anything to do with right and wrong and public service. It’s all about self-interest and a war of all against all. He’s turning America into Mulberry Street in the ’20s, where you meet your co-conspirators in the back of the candy store.”
The legendary singer was approaching fifty, under the weather, out of sorts, and unwilling to be interviewed. So Talese remained in L.A., hoping Sinatra might recover and reconsider, and he began talking to many of the people around Sinatra — his friends, his associates, his family, his countless hangers-on — and observing the man himself wherever he could. The result, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” ran in April 1966 and became one of the most celebrated magazine stories ever published, a pioneering example of what came to be called New Journalism — a work of rigorously faithful fact enlivened with the kind of vivid storytelling that had previously been reserved for fiction.
.. At other times, aiming to please, his men will overreact to his desires: when he casually observed that his big orange desert jeep in Palm Springs seemed in need of a new painting, the word was swiftly passed down through the channels, becoming ever more urgent as it went, until finally it was a command that the jeep be painted now, immediately, yesterday. To accomplish this would require the hiring of a special crew of painters to work all night, at overtime rates; which, in turn, meant that the order had to be bucked back up the line for further approval. When it finally got back to Sinatra’s desk, he did not know what it was all about; after he had figured it out he confessed, with a tired look on his face, that he did not care when the hell they painted the jeep.
Yet it would have been unwise for anyone to anticipate his reaction, for he is a wholly unpredictable man of many moods and great dimension, a man who responds instantaneously to instinct — suddenly, dramatically, wildly he responds, and nobody can predict what will follow.
.. Martin Sinatra, a ruddy and tattooed little blue-eyed Sicilian born in Catania, boxed under the name of “Marty O’Brien.” In those days, in those places, with the Irish running the lower reaches of city life, it was not uncommon for Italians to wind up with such names. Most of the Italians and Sicilians who migrated to America just prior to the 1900’s were poor and uneducated, were excluded from the building-trades unions dominated by the Irish, and were somewhat intimidated by the Irish police, Irish priests, Irish politicians.
.. He arrived suddenly on the scene when DiMaggio was silent, when paisanos were mournful, were quietly defensive about Hitler in their homeland. Sinatra became, in time, a kind of one-man Anti-Defamation League for Italians in America, the sort of organization that would be unlikely for them because, as the theory goes, they rarely agreed on anything, being extreme individualists: fine as soloists, but not so good in a choir; fine as heroes, but not so good in a parade.
.. “He can’t make his mother do anything she doesn’t want to do,” adding, “Even today, he wears the same brand of underwear I used to buy him.”
.. The fight, called a holy war between Muslims and Christians, was preceded by the introduction of three balding ex-champions, Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis, Sonny Liston
.. With most women Sinatra dates, his friends say, he never knows whether they want him for what he can do for them now — or will do for them later. With Ava Gardner, it was different. He could do nothing for her later. She was on top. If Sinatra learned anything from his experience with her, he possibly learned that when a proud man is down a woman cannot help. Particularly a woman on top.
What was weird is that, in Guralnick’s book, Goldman’s more sensational gossip was, on the whole, quietly confirmed—Elvis was a junkie with occult preoccupations, who did die of an overdose, and was toured to death by “Colonel” Tom Parker, in part because Parker really was an illegal immigrant, from Holland, who couldn’t get a passport and was frightened to take Elvis abroad—while being simultaneously deprecated as inessential.’
The ugly, scuttlebutt version of Elvis was, to put it bluntly, as a dumb fuck with a drug problem; Guralnick showed that he did have a drug problem, but was far from dumb, with keen spiritual yearnings that, through bad management and bad luck, got sidetracked into those grinding tours and substance abuse. The ugly, scuttlebutt version of Sinatra is as a bad guy with a big voice. Kaplan shows that the bad-guy stuff was, in truth, pretty bad, about as bad as one had imagined and a lot worse than one had hoped. He did hang out with and cultivate mobsters, real killers, though more in a semi-hostile, semi-affectionate fraternal manner than with the pitiful, feudal devotion pictured in “The Godfather.”
.. Worse, Sinatra beat people up, or had others beat them up for him, often in shameful acts of bullying—picking on casino employees or less successful, dependent entertainers.
.. Sinatra’s character flaw isn’t hard to name. He lived in daily fear of humiliation, and in its (often imagined) presence his temper tipped over in an instant. This was followed, usually, by remorse, once he had sobered up and stopped seeing red. But, in the interim, real damage was done to real people: he threw a telephone at a businessman once at the Beverly Hills Hotel, fracturing his skull and very nearly killing him. The other cause of his rage may be oddly taboo to tell. Sinatra was a bad, mean drunk, and, since he was often drunk, he was often bad and mean.
.. Nor is Kaplan simply an idolater. He sees how genius sits in a fortunate network, offering character sketches of Sinatra’s arrangers, who were as essential to Sinatra’s art as George Martin’s production was to the Beatles.
.. Shouldn’t this push aside the malicious gossip? Why does the other crap matter at all? It matters because if art and the lower reaches of journalism and biography converge on a single point of common purpose, it is in being truthful about human beings as they really are and not as we would have them be. History is what we have to struggle to remember even when legend is more pleasing. It would be nice if Sinatra had been a good guy with a few regrettable friendships rooted in Jersey simpatico—it was a lot worse than that. It would be nice if J.F.K. were a family man with a sometimes-wandering eye—the truth there, too, is more ravenous and complicated.
.. Sinatra’s painfully bipolar nature is exactly the pattern of his best music, with “swinging” records continually succeeded by sad ones, again and again, and though this is obviously partly a response to the oscillating commercial demands for dance music on the one hand and make-out music on the other, it isn’t just or mainly that. No one else even attempted it quite this relentlessly. We have “Songs for Swinging Lovers” and “Only the Lonely” because Sinatra was a desperately driven man with a melancholic depth.