Donald Trump may be officially out of the reality TV business, but it seems the “Celebrity Apprentice” host-turned-president-elect never really left the game. After all, what unfolds before the live-stream cameras at Trump Tower has all of the elements of a Kardashian-worthy unscripted drama.
The camera feed of the downtown Manhattan building’s lobby, which C-SPAN is airing live and Twitter is endlessly discussing as #elevatorcam, has offered up a bifurcated pageant. On one hand, viewers get to watch live as a new administration takes shape, experiencing a transparency not usually available when meetings between a president-elect and his allies and potential appointees happen in more private settings.
On the other, it’s become a spectacle, with the lobby’s gold elevators and marble walls serving as a theatrical backdrop. Would-be Cabinet secretaries must cross the gauntlet to meet with Trump and his transition team, each meeting touching off a round of fervent speculation. The 54 hours, 26 minutes and 42 seconds of footage (as of Wednesday morning) have featured cameos by a strange assortment of characters: One of Trump’s ex-wives, Marla Maples; former vice president Dan Quayle, the street performers known as the “Naked Cowboys,” serenading Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway; and some guy reading passages from Elie Wiesel’s “Night.”
— Emmanuel Touhey (@netouhey) November 28, 2016
C-SPAN can air the camera feed because unlike the building, which is private, the lobby is a public space from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. because of a deal Trump made with the city of New York in the late 1970s.
All along, there is a sense that Trump himself is directing the drama, then watching it unfold on-screen and on Twitter.
In Tuesday’s soapy episode, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski appeared. What’s Mika doing here? viewers wondered. (Meeting with future first daughter Ivanka Trump to discuss her motivational speaking series, it was later reported.)
The cam is not just for the famous: You can see gawking tourists and passersby snapping selfies and cheering when they spot Conway.
The must-see TV has clearly found an audience. C-SPAN spokesman Howard Mortman said the network is airing the feed to provide viewers a window into a newsworthy and important moment in politics. But, substance aside, he allows that there is something simply mesmerizing about the show that has made junkies out of viewers, including himself.
“There are those who want to watch the transfer of power — and there are people who just want to watch a bank of elevators all day,” he said. “I fall into both categories.”