- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2017

Country music stars Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood will be there. Comedian Drew Carey will be there. So will actor Jon Voight.

But the ever-changing lineup of entertainers and celebrities who confirmed for the celebrations surrounding Donald Trump’s inauguration — and then declined — grew longer in the days leading up to the inauguration.

A Bruce Springsteen cover band, “The B Street Band,” initially agreed to perform for New Jersey Republicans but pulled out earlier this week. Jennifer Holliday of “Dreamgirls” fame also was scheduled to perform, but declined after her gay fans lambasted her on social media. Elton John, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Aretha Franklin and Garth Brooks declined. Opera star Andrea Bocelli was confirmed at one point, and then withdrew after considerable backlash online.

No doubt agents, managers, public relations heads and record companies are aware of the risks and rewards of being associated with the new administration, and may be quietly telling their acts to steer clear of the controversy in a time of bitter partisanship.

Rebecca Ferguson, a former runner-up on the U.K.’s “X-Factor” show, said she was willing to accept an invitation to perform, but only if she could sing the anti-lynching ode “Strange Fruit,” a song she said “speaks to all the disregarded and downtrodden people in the United States.”

Miss Ferguson announced last week she would not perform.

British singer Charlotte Church also officially turned down an invitation. Miss Church, a classical/pop singer from Wales who rose to fame with her version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu,” asked Mr. Trump via Twitter why his inaugural organizing committee had even bothered to approach her given that “a simple internet search would show I think you’re a tyrant.”

Singer Marie Osmond offered to perform but apparently received no invite.

The celebrity quotient for President-elect Donald Trump’s first inaugural pales in comparison to past celebrations. Which is just fine, the incoming president insists. As one of his spokespeople said, “This is not Woodstock.” The head of the inaugural committee argued that Mr. Trump himself was “the greatest celebrity in the world.”

While President Obama had “yuuuge” A-list names at his 2009 inaugural events, including U2, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder, Mr. Trump’s inauguration has attracted no real headliners. Three acts — 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the iconic Rockettes — have been confirmed, but not without controversy.

One Tabernacle member, Jan Chamberlin, quit, stating that she could never “throw roses to Hitler and could never sing for [Mr. Trump].” After much confusion, the Rockettes management agreed to come but not to force any member to perform.

The Talladega Marching Tornadoes, the marching band for Alabama’s historically black Talladega College, will also perform at the event. But the announcement in December led to campuswide protests and a statement from school President Billy C. Hawkins that “we feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power.”

Pitching the A-listers

The inaugural committee has struggled to attract A-list stars, and there was even one unconfirmed report that organizers were offering leading talent bookers ambassadorships and administration posts if they could get some in their stable of stars to participate in the inauguration. Committee spokesman Boris Epsteyn told reporters “there is no truth to this insinuation.”

There will be some big Hollywood names in town this weekend — attending events protesting Mr. Trump’s inauguration. Among those who say they will join Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington and other anti-Trump events in town include actors Mark Ruffalo, Alec Baldwin, Scarlett Johansson and comedienne Amy Schumer.

No doubt Mr. Trump further alienated many in the entertainment industry last week after Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech decrying the president-elect for allegedly mocking a disabled reporter. Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly denied he was making fun of the reporter, tweeted that the multiple Academy Award-winner actress was “overrated.” Naturally, another firestorm erupted on Twitter.

So who is coming?

Mr. Carey, who supported Gary Johnson for president and once referred to Mr. Trump as “a maniac,” is emceeing the “Salute to Heroes/Veterans Inaugural Ball” with performances by Rascal Flatts vocalist Gary Le Vox. (His bandmates will not be joining him.) The rock band 3 Doors Down accepted an invite.

For Mr. Trump, who has in the past surrounded himself with glittery stars and beauty pageant winners, the snubs don’t seem to faze him. Reports say Mr. Trump sought help from “Celebrity Apprentice” producer Mark Burnett in bringing more celebrities to the event, although Mr. Burnett does not have an official role in the inauguration.

There were some high-profile “gets”: The Beach Boys will headline the highly popular Texas State Society’s Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor, The Dallas Morning News and Washington Post reported.

Group lead singer Mike Love performed at a fundraiser for GOP nominee John McCain in 2008. In September 2016 Mr. Love told the New York Post that Mr. Trump “has been a friend for a long time. Does that mean I agree with everything he says? No. But if we were asked [to play his inauguration], I’m sure that we would.”

Sam Moore, the 81-year-old half of the famous soul duo Sam & Dave, also revealed this week he will perform at the inauguration.

Mr. Trump himself has promised a very different kind of inauguration, with just three balls and a focus on getting to work instead of partying.

“I don’t want the celebrities,” he told Fox & Friends this week. “I want the people.”

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