Anthony Scaramucci often said that he wasn’t a backstabber but a frontstabber, so you’ll know it if he comes for you. He repeated it in TV interviews during his bonkers tenure as White House communications director, working as Donald Trump’s top spokesman, and he’s repeating it now over dinner at his restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, almost exactly a year on from the day he was fired.
And, in a gimmick that is typical Scaramucci – or The Mooch, as he invites you to call him – he keeps a steak knife in the restaurant, his name carved into the enormous blade. “These are frontstabbing knives,” he says, flashing a set of fluorescent white teeth, before tackling a pork chop the size of a hubcap.
When the history books come to write about Trump’s White House, and arrive at July 2017, when the notoriously foul-mouthed Scaramucci spent all of eleven days inside, what will they say? He charged his way in and smashed all the china he could lay his hands on, forcing out the previous spokesman, Sean Spicer, and chief of staff Reince Priebus (Lyin’ Spicer and Rancid Penis, as Scaramucci calls them).
"...or The Mooch, as he invites you to call him..."
Then, in one of the greatest political cock-ups since appeasement, he gave an on-record interview to a Washington D.C. reporter and raged against his colleagues in the communications department, threatening to fire everyone. He creatively insulted the senior staff, especially chief strategist Steve Bannon, who he said was giving so many interviews to the media it was like he was trying to “suck his own cock.” (Scaramucci later said he misspoke, clarifying that the obese Bannon wasn’t “anatomically capable of it.”)
Trump saw the scandal as a distraction and fired Scaramucci. To make matters worse, it later emerged that he had missed the birth of his son to attend a Trump rally for the Boy Scouts of West Virginia, and tried to make do by sending his wife Deidre a congratulatory text. By then she had filed for divorce, meaning Scaramucci had lost his wife and his job in the space of a month. It’s not that he flew too close to the sun, but rather, in an act of terrific self-sabotage, accelerated straight into it.
This wasn’t the first time Scaramucci unloaded both barrels on his own loafered feet. He’s a financier by trade (so what he was doing in the most important PR role on earth is anyone’s guess), and back when he was starting out in the cut-throat world of 1980s Wall Street, he only lasted a year before he was hurled out of the real estate department of Goldman Sachs.
It was a sacking that left him incandescent with rage, and he would later write in one of his two autobiographies that he felt a “torrent of anger and resentment,” almost lashing out at the boss who gave him the heave-ho. In Goodbye Gordon Gekko: How to Win Your Fortune Without Losing your Head (2010) and Hopping over the Rabbit Hole: How Entrepreneurs Turn Failure into Success (2016), he writes at length about the need to let go of inner rage, rise above conflict and not hold grudges.
He would have done well to read his own books when he joined the White House. At one point, in book two, he laughably quotes Buddha on hate – “[It’s] the poison you ingest yourself, hoping it will kill the person you are angry at.” How did Scaramucci, the zen master of Wall Street, the guy who preached about how to find nirvana in market neutral portfolios, become the President’s foaming attack dog?
The Mooch joined forces with Trump for Election 2016 (and will do so again for 2020) out of genuine admiration. Scaramucci sees Trump as a humble outsider who worked his way inside New York’s elite – just like himself. “I saw this billionaire living in a glass tower next to Tiffany’s who was somehow in direct touch with people I grew up with,” he said in a recent interview.
Scaramucci often reminds you of his middle class upbringing in his books – his parents held blue collar jobs and with his older brother, young Anthony was the first in his family to go to college. Let’s be clear – it would be deluded to think that Donald Trump is an all-American bootstrapper who elbow-greased his way to success. He is a property heir who was given a million-dollar golden leg up into life.
But Scaramucci is completely sold, and sees Trump as a populist hero saving America. He will tell me later that if called upon, he would “probably go back” to the White House. “I’m a patriot and I want to serve my country,” he explains, clarifying: “There’s zero point zero percent chance the president would ever ask me back.”
For now, D.C. is behind him. Scaramucci has returned to his New York hedge fund, Skybridge Capital, and is back to preaching his message of forgive and forget. And here he is! He struts into the Hunt and Fish Club, the glittering steakhouse he set up near Times Square. The name is a nod to a former hangout of mafia boss John Gotti, who often had dinner in a restaurant by the same name after a long day of fitting rivals with new pairs of concrete boots.
Scaramucci’s place caters to the fantastically-wealthy cheque-cashers and neck-breakers of Midtown and because Scaramucci is something of a tourist attraction, to lemur-eyed Midwesterners eager to catch a glimpse of the man himself. Sure enough, the clientele is a mix of slick suits and t-shirts doing their best to hide ponderous guts.
They all swivel their bulging necks to watch as Scaramucci walks in with the air of a feudal lord gracing his subjects. He receives handshakes and hey-great-to-see-yas from guests as if they were peasants paying tribute, and in return he bestows shoulder claps, arm squeezes and drinks on the house to close friends.
“I’m a patriot and I want to serve my country...”
Perhaps in a nod to Trump, who is known to rarely leave conditioned air, the inside temperature is fixed somewhere around the Baltic winter mark. The menu is eye-watering – $20 wagyu meatballs, $40 swordfish, $60 ribeye. That’s the point, Scaramucci says – he wants his restaurant to be the place where you can spend a lot of money and not feel guilty.
He even describes it as the place where Senator Elizabeth Warren, the anti-bank firebrand famous for trashing Scaramucci’s colleagues, “would be throwing up in as she opened the door.” Over a glass of Don Julio 1942, a prohibitively costly tequila, he explains: “This is the return to an age on Wall Street when people were actually enjoying themselves when they went to dinner.”
From the second we meet, he’s giving us full Scaramucci, the Italian-American frontstabber, dialed up to 11. He points a lot (one index finger for an important point, two at the same time for a very important point), and swears constantly – “fucken” is his favorite word. To the British ear, his shtick sounds like a character right off the set of The Sopranos. He takes one look at Fred Castleberry, our impeccably dressed photographer, and roars with laughter: “Look at how he’s wearing the fucken tie! It’s just to let you know his shit does not stink. Look at this guy! This guy is fucken unbelievable.” I spot Scaramucci’s own tie – a $200 number from Salvatore Ferragamo, so he should know.
He continues like this for a while, spouting off x-rated remarks with the trading floor banter he’s fluent in after 30 years in finance. At one point he tells me, not that I’d really asked, what keeps him so looking so young. He asks me to confirm that I’ve got my tape recorder on, then he says: “I do this a lot,” and thrusts the finger of his right hand in and out of a circle made by the finger and thumb of his left hand. “You gotta do that.” How many times a week? “Well, God made 10 fingers for a reason. He wanted you to fuck ten times,” he says. His advice? “You gotta try to get in six or seven. Am I wrong?”
I really don’t want to imagine Scaramucci, recent spokesman for the leader of the free world, on the job, but I must have encouraged him because now he’s talking about masturbation. “There’s two types of men,” he says. “There’s those that jack off, and there’s those that lie and say they don’t.
There’s no other fucken type. Don’t deny that you don’t fucken pull your little wang, because I know you fucken do. Don’t fucken deny it.” So how many times does he jack off? “I don’t have to jerk off, what’s wrong with you?” Which, in Scaramucci logic, would make him a liar.
It is a relief when dinner arrives, which is a colossal ribeye with a thimble of sauce and three small toenails of fried garlic. The Mooch rattles off his other secrets to looking young. He does look good for 55, but claims not to use botox (“You can tell, I can move my eyes – there’s no fucken work”). He points to his hair, and admits using dye – “I put a little bit of fucken juice in every three weeks.”
He describes his old hair color as “Cuban leader black,” and recently changed it to “Latin American dictator brown,” because he wanted to look better on TV. He tells me that underneath the dye, he’s “as white as this fucken napkin,” so I ask if he would ever go natural. He looks at me like I just told him I was a key player on the Hillary Clinton campaign and snaps: “What are you, nuts?”
The meatball starter has arrived, a large tumor drowned in mozzarella and what New Yorkers call “red sauce”. Mama’s meatballs appear in Scaramucci’s book when describing Sunday family rituals – the French madeleine of Italian American kids growing up on Long Island. “That’s a championship meatball,” he says, not unlike Trump, as he spoons thick slices onto my plate.
He describes the recipe to me, a mixture of pork, wagyu beef and veal. And that’s also a line straight out of the ‘dinner in prison’ scene in Goodfellas, where gangsters discuss the correct way of making ragu – where the mafioso Vinnie reminds his cellmates about the importance of “three kinds of meat in the meatball – veal, beef and pork.”
Scaramucci’s act reminds me so much of the gangster creations from The Godfather and The Sopranos, I have to ask what those films and shows mean to him. After all, his restaurant is named in homage to a vicious New York gangster. His answer takes me aback. “It’s the last frontier of racial discrimination in our country,” he snarls. “When I’m in the White House, I’m a human pinky ring, ‘Tony Goombah takes over the press shop.’ Go look at the late night comedians, they’re all attacking me with these very simplistic, racially charged jokes about me being Italian. And that all comes from the movies. Because Italians are basically considered to be white, they’re an ethnic group that can be racially, aggressively stereotyped and attacked.”
I’m not convinced about mafia gags being the “last frontier of racial discrimination” in America. Call me a naive Brit, but it’s not as if within living memory, Italian Americans had to sit at the back of the bus or send their kids to segregated schools or be banned from voting. Don’t tell that to Scaramucci, because this is a raw nerve. “If I start making jokes about lawyers, it’s perfectly acceptable to do. But if I start making jokes about people that have a different sexual orientation to me, that’s inappropriate. Different race, inappropriate. But Italians? You’re totally allowed to take shots at them. That’s because of Hollywood.”
Anyway, he’s got a new book coming out. I’m a little surprised he hasn’t mentioned it already, because I’m the one who asks him about it. Why else he would have done this interview, if not for a plug? The Blue Collar President is out this October, although it’s not quite clear what it’s about. (A previous memoir was rejected for being “not good,” as one publisher put it.)
He told reporters earlier this March he would analyze Trump as a strategist and communicator, but Scaramucci told me over dinner in May that his book would focus on himself, his time in the campaign and his whirlwind stint in Trump’s inner circle. Later, he admits he’s only “three quarters” of the way through writing it, which I assume is the literary equivalent of the ‘I’m just two minutes away’ blag, something you say when you are in fact still tying your laces and haven’t left the house.
'When I’m in the White House, I’m a human pinky ring..."
I press him several times for any exciting details from the book, any sensational bits that will have people talking, but he fobs me off. He even tries to claim that a headline-worthy extract from the book will be about Trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, which compared to Michael Wolff’s hand grenade volume Fire and Fury, sounds extremely tedious.
I suspect Scaramucci’s willingness to discuss Iran, something he does twice over dinner, comes from his morning yammering about it on MSNBC. He was going to go on Fox News later that night for a second round of Iran commentary, but luckily for our interview, his spot was canceled at the last minute. Scaramucci must have memorized a few neat soundbites about the deal that would have been perfect for conservative TV but are wasted on me. That doesn’t stop him from feeding me lines about theocratic regimes and Trump’s bold foreign policy. Yawn.
In any case, it will have been over a year since he crashed out of the White House. Isn’t that a little late to cash in with a kiss-and-tell? “Oh I don’t care,” he says. He must be joking! Doesn’t he want the book to sell? “Oh yeah, I would like the book to sell but I’ve written three international best sellers. And if you don’t believe me, you can come into my basement and I’ll show you every fucken copy I had to buy to make them best sellers. I don’t really fucken care. You know what I’m saying? I don’t fucken care.”
I get the feeling Scaramucci is getting a bit frustrated, and now the plates have been cleared away, he starts tapping his cutlery on the table. I ask him what’s next, and he says: “I’m gonna open up a sex shop. I’ve got some fucken great innovations on sex stores.” What will he sell, pills to give you the energy to boff 10 times a week, like The Mooch? “You know I don’t need that. Maybe you fucken need that, but I don’t need that shit.”
So what else? “I’m going to triple the size of that company over the next six or seven years. After which, you and I will have a steak dinner and I’ll tell you what I’m doing next. Living well is the best revenge, motherfucker.”
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The Diary ― 12 months ago