"The Mob Responds Well to a Toupeed Con-Man Who Talks About His Penis”: Witness the Great Phallic Unraveling of 2016
As we contemplate the Great Phallic Unraveling that comprises the political rise of Donald Trump, it’s important to have historical perspective on the presidency. Since I’m the author of a five-volume unofficial biography of Richard Nixon—”Devil in Gethsemane”—and “Harlot’s Empanada,” a 3,000-page novel about the CIA’s involvement in Central America, I have more perspective than anyone. Somewhat due to attrition but mostly due to talent, I remain The Greatest Living American Writer. Therefore, it’s my job to call our present moment into focus. But to understand the present, we must journey backward into the gauzy, cisgendered American past.
In one of those halcyon moments in the late 1930s before the world fell, I sat in a rowboat with the Roosevelts on the Hudson River, gladly pulling along America’s first family with the strength of my lithe, hairless, proto-bisexual arms. My family had been friendly with the Roosevelts since the dawn of Gotham. Hedging our bets, along with our hedges, we also befriended the Kennedys and Bushes, sponsored the early career of Ronald Reagan, and owned property in Arkansas where the Clintons picked their nits. Needless to say, my access to the corridors of presidential power has been unparalleled throughout the decades. This is somewhat surprising, given that I’m also the foremost literary critic of America’s imperial adventures.
Regardless, on that drizzly day on the Hudson as Hitler contemplated Poland, FDR and Eleanor warned me to monitor the rise of fascism in America.
“Be wary of aggressive promises,” FDR said. “The mob responds well to a toupeed con-man who talks about his penis.”
At the time, it seemed to me that a mischievous house-servant had once again mixed laudanum into the president’s morning Ovaltine, and I dismissed his comment with a witty Thorstein Veblen reference that caused him and the first lady to roar with laughter. But decades later, while doing mushrooms with Ken Kesey in Panama, I thought of what FDR had said. So when I returned home, I dropped the same wisdom on “Firing Line,” as I debated Germaine Greer about the publication of my essay, “The World Is a Diseased Vagina,” in Esquire’s special “women’s lib” issue. “FDR once told me that the mob responds well to a toupeed con-man who talks about his penis,” I said, and then Gore Vidal leapt from the audience and smacked me over the head with a thick Winter Fiction issue of the Partisan Review.
The thought didn’t occur to me again until I met Donald Trump.
It was 1986, and, even though I hardly needed the money, I worked as a roving correspondent for Spy magazine, penning vicious celebrity profiles under the pseudonym “Sidney Falco.” I enjoyed countless gold-plated lunches in the Age of Greed. Trump was a speaker at one of them.
“He was a really nasty guy,” Trump said of one of his real-estate rivals. “Very lousy. So I mailed him a shit-stained dildo to tell him what I thought of him. Later, he called me and said, ‘You know, I just want to thank you.’”
The crowd chuckled uncomfortably. I mean, who among them hadn’t embarrassed a competitor with a soiled sex toy? But to actually talk about it in public?
“The dildo was about the size of my penis,” Trump said. “Maybe a little smaller.”
And then I knew: This was the man about whom FDR had warned me. I wrote the event up in Spy, hoping that anyone would care. No one did. Afterward, I repeatedly tried to alert the American public, through my self-published 1990s zine Trump Alert, which I hand-copied myself in a Seattle coffeehouse, and then in a monograph published by Soft Skull Press, and, finally, while live-recapping the first season of “The Apprentice” for Television Without Pity. Unfortunately, no one was much paying attention to my work during my “indie period.” Here’s what I wrote in the final edition of Trump Alert, before I turned my literary attentions to daddyblogging:
“The mob—not to be confused with Married To the Mob, an unsuccessful satire of The Godfather—responds best to totalitarian rhetoric that the party leaders deem taboo, or that even the game Taboo deems taboo. Someone truly dangerous like Donald Trump will do anything to get elected. If he ever runs for President, he’ll win with a joke about ejaculating on a stripper’s tits. Respectable society will sniff, but the mob will vote him in, like hungry dogs jumping on his throbbing bone.”
Today, as I reclaim my literary throne, I stand by those words. The intellectuals of the world must rise above the Trump rabble, to explain, to inform, to bring back that old-timey democracy. Only through our words can America be saved from the ultimate defilement, the back-flap rear entry of a candidate no one wanted. We’ll write him out of existence, or we’ll die trying. My somewhat lesser fellow writers, we must unite to tell the people! I don’t care to belong to a country in which Donald Trump has a member.
Neal Pollack, the Greatest Living American Writer and a contributor to Salon since before some of you were born, is the author of 10 books of fiction and nonfiction. His latest is “Not Coming Soon to a Theater Near You,” a Kindle Single about his failure to make it in Hollywood.