If you’re young, beautiful, have a power job, money to play with, and a Brentwood Zip Code, Los Angeles can be a lot of fun.
Unless you’ve got Donald Trump’s name on your résumé. The scarlet T burns bright in Hollywood. It’s why Sean Spicer can only get work dressed as a bloated fishing lure on ABC and why Debra Messing got all House Un-American Activities Committee ahead of Trump’s Beverly Hills fundraiser this week, demanding that his donors be outed by name online.
So when Hope Hicks, one of the president’s closest confidants and his former communications director, arrived last year after taking a job as Fox’s chief communications officer, she wasn’t the toast of Tinseltown. Since then, it’s hardly been an episode of Entourage.
Recently, during a boutique fitness class at a local gym, Hicks was recognized and confronted by the instructor. Not everyone felt comfortable sweating next to someone who’d done Trump’s bidding. So Hicks collected her things and bounced.
The job is no cakewalk, either. Although Fox is a haven for many a Trump dropout, Hicks’s gig is big-time by anyone’s standards. Robert Iger’s Disney gobbled up much of 21st Century Fox this spring in a $71.3 billion acquisition, a salvo in the coming streaming wars. That left Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert’s heir apparent, to spin the remaining properties—Fox’s news, sports, and cable channels—into what the town now refers to as “New Fox,” making Hicks his lieutenant. “That job she’s doing has a real, fiscal impact,” said one top Hollywood exec. “It’s not the job version of a mercy fuck.”
Not everyone felt comfortable sweating next to someone who’d done Trump’s bidding.
Mercifully enough, the liberal entertainment press has not ripped Hicks to shreds since she took her new position. “There was certainly a high bar coming in because the instinct of a lot of the reporters out here was to trash her,” said one veteran reporter who frequently interacts with Hicks on the beat. “Even before she took the job, people at Fox wondered, ‘Why are we hiring this Trump lackey, oh my God.’ She doesn’t know a ton about the inner workings of this business, but that said, she also doesn’t act like she does.” The reporter had a confession to make. “I honestly can’t sit here and say there’s been a time where she fucked me on a story.”
Indeed, the entertainment executives and journalists I spoke to in L.A. describe Hicks much the way the Washington press corps does: delightful and delightfully competent. (Just don’t quote them on it!)
Speaking of which, Hicks’s friends say she misses Washington. Many White House staffers flame out or run shrieking from Trump’s orbit, but she’s kept in touch with her allies in the Oval. Even though L.A. makes up for everything the capital lacks—it’s got cultural relevancy, low humidity, smokers, good food, sex appeal, topography, and Barneys—working in the West Wing is a high like no other, and the comedown is rough. A year ago Hicks was at the white-hot center of the Free World, fielding calls from The New York Times and patching through heads of state. Now excitement comes in the form of tours of Century City back lots. (Though not always. Familiars say she self-deprecatingly describes her pariah status with certain Hollywood stars this way: “No one on the cast of Modern Family wants to see me.”)
“No one on the cast of Modern Family wants to see me.”
Hicks has been known to skip press events and premieres. She certainly understands there are places in L.A. where she cannot blend in: you won’t see her having lunch at industry cafeterias like the Grill in Beverly Hills, or slurping down red sauce at Craig’s in West Hollywood (even though her Trump-tainted contemporaries Tom Barrack and Anthony Scaramucci are known to brave those hostile waters). She sometimes hangs at Tower Bar—its dimly lit recesses a safe space for all forms of fame—but don’t expect to bump into her at a thrift store in Echo Park or a dive bar in Silver Lake anytime soon.
In Washington, Trump appointees have become inured to being treated like lepers by locals, heckled in grocery stores, restaurants, and bars. Hicks herself was badgered constantly by the Daily Mail when she lived there. But in D.C. there was a pirate-ship mentality, at least. Younger White House staffers band together, live in the same apartment buildings, and drink at the same spots.
Los Angeles is a far lonelier place for someone branded with that scarlet T.
Forget it, Hope. It’s Hollywood.
Shawn McCreesh is a reporter based in Washington, D.C.