Driving down the road and listening to yet another story on Donald Trump punctuated with Trump himself telling all who dare listen just how great he is, I could not help to let my mind drift to try to remember where have we have heard this schtick before. For those who don’t know what schtick is, it is a Yiddish word meaning a certain routine (usually comic but not always) associated with one person. The recently retired persona that Stephen Colbert pulled off on the comedy channel would be considered schtick.
While most people think that the Donald Trump they see at appearances and on debates is the REAL Donald, I tend to believe it is schtick – a made up persona. A persona made up with the express purpose of garnering attention to Trump.
In this respect Trump is hardly doing anything new or innovative. Most of us are familiar with the schtick of Cassius Clay much better known as Muhammad Ali. In reality, Ali is a humble and religious man. In his persona as the heavyweight boxing world’s champion, Ali was a bragging pretty boy who often made fun of opponents. One of his most memorable ploys was to make up short mocking poems about his opponents predicting the round he (Ali) would deliver the knockout punch. Ali would be quite arrogant in his interviews and his ring persona creating a character that had people paying great money to see him get beat. It brought in the crowds.
But Ali was not the first to capitalize hugely on this persona. No, Ali gives credit to a showman / athlete (and one time Iowan) by the name of Gorgeous George.
Gorgeous George was a professional wrestler at the time that TV became the ubiquitous presence in American homes. Professional wrestling was suited to the new medium and Gorgeous George and his obnoxious personality helped make professional wrestling the huge draw that it was in the early days of TV. Sporting curly golden locks, George would enter the wrestling ring wearing a flamboyant robe, preceded by an attendant who would perfume the ring as George entered. Prior to his match George would prance about the ring bragging how great he was to a a jam-packed house of locals who paid big bucks to see George go down in flames.
Many of you have probably already drawn the same parallels that popped into my mind. Bragging, obnoxious, hairstyle that looks unreal, making fun of opponents with mockery and making tons of money in the process. While many would link the Trump persona to Ali’s precedent, I think we could make a case that Gorgeous George is the Trump persona’s precursor with a bit of Ali thrown in to round off the effect.
The Gorgeous George schtick has been ridden to riches in wrestling and in boxing. Will Trump now ride it to the presidency in one of America’s roughest contact sports, presidential politics?
For those unfamiliar with Gorgeous George, here is a short youtube bio. Note the many similarities between The Gorgeous one and The Donald.