Friday, March 16, 2018

Five Hollywood actors who ran for public office

...The ongoing woes of New York City’s subway system, which are run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — overseen by Mr. Cuomo — are widely seen as one of Mr. Cuomo’s greatest political vulnerabilities.
[Cynthia] Nixon has been openly critical of Mr. Cuomo for many months as she has mulled a campaign. But her conversations with two Democratic strategists, Bill Hyers and Rebecca Katz, who are aligned with the party’s left flank in the state, appear to be a sign of her growing seriousness.
I can't say I've ever had much interest in Sex and the City, so I know little about Cynthia Nixon beyond what I've read in the past few weeks. If she thinks she can take out Governor Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primaries and go all the way to Albany from there, well, who knows for sure?

I know I'm dissatisfied with Cuomo for his  indifference to the public transportation crisis here in New York, and the slow pace he has taken to not only finding a solution to that, but to enact tougher laws to deter reckless driving on city streets. 

I would need to know Nixon's ideas about transit before I could endorse her, but I have to admit, the thought of a Hollywood celebrity as governor of my home state is intriguing. (IMDB says she has played both Nancy Reagan and Eleanor Roosevelt in the past, and was in a Robert Altman TV mini-series about politics, Tanner '88.)

Celebrities running for public office is certainly nothing new. Ronald Reagan, of course, was governor of California long before he became the 40th US president. I recently provided a link to a review of a new book about how the Reagans used the movies to inform their politics. (The Amazon reviews are almost overwhelmingly positive so far, for what it's worth.) And who can forget Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent gubernatorial reign in California?

Here are a few more examples; some you probably know, others you might not, with varying levels of success.

- Wendell Corey. A star in such films as The File on Thelma Jordon and The Furies, he was Academy president for a stretch, from 1961-63, before he ran for the Santa Monica City Council in 1965 as a Republican. He tried running for Congress in 1966 but lost the primary. He remained in the city council until his death in 1968.

- Gina Lollobrigida. The Italian bombshell, who made it onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame just last month, once ran for the European Parliament back in 1999. This Chicago Tribune article quotes her as saying, "I've never been involved in politics, but when I got the offer I said `yes' immediately. . . . It's only afterward that I thought about why this was a good thing. I don't know how many votes I need. I don't know anything." She did not win. She did, however, hobnob with more than a few politicians when she took up photojournalism in the 70s.

- Glenda Jackson. The double Oscar-winner, on the other hand, has been defined almost as much by her politics as by her acting skills. For over twenty years, she was an MP in her native Britain representing the Labor Labour party, partly because Margaret Thatcher really pissed her off (and she wasn't very fond of Tony Blair either). Here's a record of her time in office which, I'm pleasantly surprised to see, includes a stint helping to run the London transportation system. She ruffled feathers in 2013 when she dissed Thatcher in Parliament after her death. In 2015 Jackson left politics and returned to acting, and currently, you can see her on Broadway.

- Melissa Gilbert. The former Little House on the Prairie star is currently making the gossip website rounds after dissing the Education Secretary for not knowing the score about  education in their home state of Michigan, but outside of that, she ran for Congress only three years ago as a Democrat, only to bow out citing health reasons.

- Fred Grandy. Yes, even Gopher from The Love Boat became a politician. The magna cum laude Harvard graduate ran for Congress as a Republican in his home state of Iowa, serving three terms. He tried running for governor in 1992 but didn't make it. Later in life, he co-hosted a political talk radio show.

If Cynthia Nixon throws her hat in the ring for New York governor, she'll have a long, uphill battle, but stranger things have happened.

Where art and politics meet

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