Whether it was his 11 days as White House director of communications or his 10 days competing on Fox’s military-style “Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test” (premiering Wednesday at 8 p.m.), native Long Islander Anthony Scaramucci is what he is.
“I’m a [mischief-maker],” the 58-year-old financier says, using more colorful language. Speaking by phone from his home in Manhasset, where he lives with wife Deidre, 43, and their sons Nicholas, 8, and James, 5, he adds, “I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you or going on reality shows if I weren’t. … I think that’s part of being a New Yorker from Long Island.”
As such, he is one of 16 celebrities, who also include former Mets star Mike Piazza, dropped into a Jordanian desert, where instructors described as ex-Special Forces operatives put them through their paces. This includes falling backward from a hovering helicopter into a body of water, inching across a gorge on a rope line some hundred feet above the ground, and making do with barrels as toilets.
Why subject himself to this? “The simplest answer is, it seemed super-exciting,” says the Mineola-born and Port Washington-raised Scaramucci, one of three children of retired crane operator and sand miner Alexander, 87, and homemaker Marie, 85. “The more long-winded, philosophical answer” is that his father and two uncles served in the military and he wanted to put himself through a similar “physical and mental test.”
Yet he also competed in the much less strenuous “Celebrity Big Brother” in 2019, so are there other reasons for someone in his position to risk reality-show ridicule? “I think what you learn when you’re an entrepreneur is that you’re comfortable taking risks,” he says, sidestepping his actual reasons. “And I believe what my grandmother said to me when I was a kid: ‘What other people think of you is none of your business.’ ”
For Scaramucci — who graduated from Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington, followed by Tufts University and Harvard Law School, both in Massachusetts, before beginning a successful Wall Street career — many of his risks have worked out. “The White House thing frankly didn’t,” he says of his short run in July 2017 as the Trump administration’s spokesperson.
A GOP fundraiser, Scaramucci initially had supported Scott Walker and Jeb Bush during the 2016 primaries, and was a vocal Donald Trump critic. When Trump got the nomination, Scaramucci became — in what he calls a “worse than opportunistic” decision — a vocal supporter eventually asked to succeed Sean Spicer as communications director.
“I let my ego make that decision,” he says. “I made a decision and it was the wrong decision.”
He might have made another in not having apprised his wife of the exact nature of the dangerous exercises before he left for Jordan in May. “I just told her I’m going to shoot this television show but left out what we were doing,” he says. “When she saw the trailer” for the series, “she was, like, ‘OK, you’re an imbecile.’ ”
If so, he’s in estimable company: Aside from himself and Piazza, there are sports figures Danny Amendola, Dwight Howard, Gus Kenworthy, Nastia Liukin and Carli Lloyd, reality-TV stars Hannah Brown, Tyler Florence, Kate Gosselin, Kenya Moore and Dr. Drew Pinsky, and entertainers Melanie “Mel B” Brown, Montell Jordan, Beverley Mitchell and Jamie Lynn Spears — at least some of whom, he says, have become “permanent, lifelong friends.”
And although there’s no cash prize at the end, there may be more than one “winner,” since winning is simply surviving. As Fox describes, “[T]he only way for these recruits to leave is to give up on their own accord, through failure or potential injury, or by force from the” instructors.