On holiday in New York early this past autumn, I was intrigued by an online advertisement that read, “Very rich young couple seeks gay Filipino houseboy to live and work in their Manhattan penthouse.” I applied for it as a lark, though, being neither gay nor Filipino, I never dreamed I’d even be considered for it, and thus was flabbergasted when the agency that was doing the hiring phoned to invite me in for an interview. It turned out that the relevant account executive had for decades been a fan of my Kinks liner notes and Rolling Stone negative review of the first Led Zeppelin album, and we spoke of little else during my 40-minute interview.
Imagine my surprise when I was actually offered the position and discovered that the rich couple for which I’d be working was none other than controversial property developer Donald J. Trump and his lovely third wife Melania!
In my first months as one of their team of domestic servants, Melania seemed to come to regard me as someone in whom she could confide. She told me that, as the daughter of a Slovenian tannery worker who habitually drank himself to death before he could bring his meager wages home, she loved the luxury by which she was surrounded — the gold-plated walls, and mink cushions and what have you — but wished that her husband, intent on making life better for all Americans, hadn’t resolved to run for political office, as she saw him only a couple of hours a day, and even then in the company of his advisor Steve Bannon, whose body odour often made it impossible for her to remain in the same room. I would commiserate in my famously soft, compassionate-seeming voice, and she would tell me how lucky she felt to have me in her life.
After Mr. Trump was elected, and before he (or Mr. Bannon) hit on the idea of holding gratitude rallies in such cities as Cincinnati, he put her in charge of organising a Trump family concert, to be broadcast live on NBC, as a way of thanking the American electorate. Unbeknownst to only a few very close family friends, his two elder sons, Uday and Whosit, had been conspiring for years to become rock stars with their band Gekko, named after the Michael Douglas character in the 1987 film Wall Street. Modelled after Nelson, featuring one-time teen idol Ricky Nelson’s twin sons, except with much shorter, slicked-back hair, and featuring some of New York’s most in-demand session players, the band played mostly songs associated with Phil Collins, as well as Kenny G’s “Songbird” and “Forever in Love”.
Melania had insisted that other family members too be invited to participate. Tiffany, Mr. Trump’s daughter by Marla Maples, had volunteered to do a favourite Tracey Chapman song, to be specified just before the concert, while Mr. Trump’s youngest child, Barron von Richtofen, was in the process of deciding between Justin Bieber’s “I’m Sorry” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Happiness in Slavery”. Melania herself was taking voice lessons from Mariah Carey's one-time vocal coach in anticipation of singing "Zdravljica”, the Slovenian national anthem, pending stepdaughter Ivanka’s ability to persuade the Voices of East Harlem to get back together.
We talked about more than just the concert, of course. I had by this time come to feel sufficiently secure to voice my concern about Mr. Trump’s apparent intention to dismantle the environmental protection apparatus assembled under Barack Obama. Melania explained that Mr. Trump believed China or Hilary Clinton to have made up the whole climate change crisis to try to keep persons like himself from becoming richer. “Maybe they did,” I said, acknowledging that I am no more a scientist than Mr. Trump himself. “But let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that there’s a 50-50 chance of human-caused global warming being real. No. Let’s say there’s just one chance in 10. Would you put little Barron on an airplane with a 10 percent chance of crashing? I suspect you wouldn’t. You and Mr. Trump and Uday, Whosit, Ivanka, and even Tiffany are all unlikely to suffer awfully during their own life spans, but what about little Barron? What about Mr. Trump’s eight grandchildren? Are you not horrified by the thought that Mr. Trump’s actions might have even a 10 percent chance of condemning all of them to great discomfort, if not horror, later in life?”
Melania looked shocked for a moment, and then began to cry. And the next morning the guy at the agency through which I’d been hired texted me that the Trumps no longer required my services, and that I had 90 minutes in which to remove all my belongings from the Tower. Some day I'll learn to keep my opinions to myself!