Celebrities in Politics: Stars in Office

Ronald Reagan's official presidential portrait from 1981. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
Ronald Reagan’s official presidential portrait from 1981. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the 30th anniversary of actor and director Clint Eastwood being elected as mayor of Carmel, California. Here are some things you may not have known about celebrities in politics.

The state of California, rather obviously, has had a disproportionate share of celebrity politicians.

Actor and dancer George Murphy was among the first notable actors elected to a major office when he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1965.

Musician Sonny Bono was mayor of Palm Springs, and later represented the area in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of the state.

California also elected Ronald Reagan governor before he was elected President of the United States.

Under Reagan, former child star Shirley Temple served as U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia after serving as ambassador to Ghana under Gerald Ford.

But California isn’t the only state that has elected celebrities.

Fred Grandy, better known as Gopher on TV’s “The Love Boat” was elected to Congress from Iowa.

Actor Ben Jones, who played Cooter on “The Dukes of Hazzard,” represented the Fourth Congressional District of Georgia from 1989 to 1993.

Actor Fred Thompson was elected to the U.S. Senate after roles in movies such as “Die  Hard 2” and “The Hunt for Red October.” He would return to acting as the district attorney in later years of “Law and Order.”

Talk show host Jerry Springer went from politics to celebrity. He was a lawyer before being elected to the city council of Cincinnati and then serving as mayor. He used that experience to enter television journalism and eventually start his talk show.

Former professional wrestler and actor Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota in 1999 after serving as mayor of the city of Brooklyn Park.

Former “Saturday Night Live” writer and performer Al Franken currently serves Minnesota as a member of the U.S. Senate.

Our question: Besides acting, what do George Murphy, Ronald Reagan and Charlton Heston have in common?

Today is National Zoo Lovers Day and National Empanada Day.

It’s the birthday of figure skater and actress Sonja Henie, Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and baseball pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter.

Because our event doesn’t have a specific date associated with it, we will spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1990, the top song in the U.S. was “Love Will Lead You Back” by Taylor Dayne.

The No. 1 movie was “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” while “The Bourne Ultimatum” by Robert Ludlum topped the New York Times best seller list.


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