From the Red Carpet to Capitol Hill: Entertainers Who Became Politicos

From the Red Carpet to Capitol Hill: Entertainers Who Became Politicos


Stephen Colbert upped the Super-PAC ante when he announced his rally today alongside ex-candidate Herman Cain in South Carolina. The event, dubbed “South Cain-olina,” is the latest salvo in Colbert’s ongoing “exploratory committee” blitz: Over the last two weeks he’s issued attack ads and press releases in a hilarious and scathing mockery of the 2012 election. The comedian’s electoral bid may be a stunt, but for many entertainers, the path from the red carpet to the capitol building can be surprisingly smooth. These dishy memoirs and biographies give insight into the phenomenon.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
“The Governator: From Muscle Beach to His Quest for the White House, the Improbable Rise of Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Ian Halperin
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s transformation from Austrian beefcake to governor of California is rather miraculous—it must have been hard for voters to imagine the Kindergarten Cop running a state. In 2010’s “The Governator” Halperin tells us how Schwarzenegger battled skepticism, incredulity and a fair share of “Terminator” impressions, soldiering on to win not one but two gubernatorial elections. Halperin also serves up unseemly details about Schwarzenegger’s womanizing and sexual harassment incidents, which led to controversy upon the book’s release.

Ronald Reagan
“An American Life: the Autobiography,” Ronald Reagan
Presidential hopefuls often feel compelled to show how American they are: how committed to the nation’s values, how immersed in its culture and pastimes. Ronald Reagan planted that seed early on when he played the role of a Notre Dame football player, George “The Gipper” Gipp, in the 1940 film “Knute Rockne, All American.” Decades later, during his successful 1980 presidential campaign, supporters revived “The Gipper” as an affectionate nickname. Reagan’s 1990 memoir, “An American Life,” takes readers inside the Oval Office during the decisive moments of his presidency—including who knew what when about the Iran-Contra affair—and makes clear one of the Great Communicator’s big regrets: that he never managed to balance the federal budget.

Al Franken
“The Truth (With Jokes),” Al Franken
Congress can be a humorless crowd, so thankfully they have Al Franken, who went from “Saturday Night Live” writer to radio personality to Minnesota junior Senator in 2008. In his 2006 book, “The Truth (With Jokes),” Franken slams Republicans for exploiting the threat of terrorism—he calls it “9/11/24/7″—and skewers everyone from Rush Limbaugh to the mainstream news media with his trademark acrid wit.

Fred Thomspon
“Teaching the Pig to Dance,” Fred Thomspon
Republican Tennessee Senator and one-time presidential hopeful Fred Thompson was actually a Congressman before he became an actor. After he was asked to play himself in the 1983 film “Marie,” about a Tennessean political scandal, Thompson continued nabbing politician roles with regularity, even while fulfilling his congressional duties. He began shooting for his most-famous role, as the District Attorney on “Law and Order,” during the August 2002 Senate recess. In his 2010 book, “Teaching the Pig to Dance,” he traces his success in Hollywood and government back to his rascally childhood in the tiny of town of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, where the main attraction is a giant statue of Davy Crockett.

Jesse Ventura
“Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me,” Jesse Ventura
Before serving as Governor of Minnesota from 1999-2003, Jesse Ventura enjoyed notoriety as nothing less than a professional tough guy. This includes an 11-year career in WWE (his ring name was “The Body”), for which he earned a spot in the Hall of Fame, and roles in films such as “Predator,” “Ricochet” and “The Master of Disguise.” His 2009 memoir of political activism questions everything from the war in Iraq to America’s two-party political system—and imagines a future Ventura presidential run on the WWE ticket.

Kevin Powell
“Open Letters to America: Essays,” Kevin Powell
Kevin Powell was one of seven housemates on MTV’s very first season of “The Real World” back in 1992. Unlike some of his recent successors, Powell used the fame to his advantage, embarking on a successful career as a journalist and political activist. He ran for New York State Congress twice, in 2006 and 2008, and has vocalized plans to run again. 2009’s “Open Letters to America,” the latest of Powell’s 10 books, collects many of the political writings that have made him a popular figurehead for his generation.

Sonny Bono
“And the Beat Goes On,” Sonny Bono

Representing California’s 44th congressional district in the House of Representatives is by no means what Sonny, of Sonny & Cher, is best known for. But during his tenure he co-authored a seminal bill to extend copyright protection. He also served a term as mayor of Palm Springs. “And the Beat Goes On” (1992) chronicles the charitable spirit and ambition that animated both his musical and political career.


  1. Don’t know where to post this question, so I’m adding it to this entry:
    When, oh when, will Bookish be functioning beyond its blog? I’ve been waiting for what seems like several years after hearing of its potential wonders.
    Thanks, and I hope we don’t have to wait an additional several years.

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