Franken only latest show biz star to enter politics

With the arrival of former Saturday Night Live comic Al Franken to the hallowed halls of the U.S. Senate, we thought it would be a good time to salute those trailblazing celebrities who parlayed fame into political office. Here, we rank our top 5. — Scott Montgomery, Times government/politics editor

Ronald Reagan

The Gipper. His nickname has higher name ID than half the people who served as president in the past 50 years. He was a journeyman movie actor who wasn't afraid to work with chimps (or couldn't afford not to), but as a politician he was a driven conservative with a common touch. Points off: None. Hard to beat two terms as president.

2 John Glenn

The first (and then later the oldest) American to orbit the earth, Glenn rode his ticker-tape fame as an astronaut of the 1960s into a 24-year career in the U.S. Senate for Ohio. Points off: He really, really wanted to be president.

3 Arnold Schwarzenegger

From bodybuilder to action hero, nobody has plotted the trajectory of celebrity with greater precision than the current governor of California. Points off: Have you read what's happening in California lately?

4 Clint Eastwood

Four-time Oscar winner Eastwood ran for mayor of tiny Carmel, Calif., in 1986 on a classic I-can-do-better-than-those-bozos platform. He won in a landslide, served a single term and returned full time to movies. Points off: Two years as mayor, no body count.

5 Sonny Bono

He was a goofy celebrity whose fame had lots to with his proximity to wife Cher, but Bono was a serious politician. He spent four years as mayor of Palm Springs, lost a U.S. Senate bid, then won a seat in Congress with the GOP tidal wave of 1994. Points off: Probably shouldn't have been famous in the first place.

Conversely, these one-time celebs-turned-pols made our bottom 5.

Jesse Ventura

The famed wrestler ran a fun campaign, but he wasn't amusing in Minnesota's Governor's Mansion.

2 Fred Thompson

His sober bearing won him TV (Law and Order) and movie roles and enough Tennessee votes to join the Senate, but he ran a befuddled presidential campaign.

3 Fred Grandy

"Gopher" from The Love Boat made it to Washington, serving four terms as a Republican congressman from Iowa. He once told People magazine, "If there were no Gopher, there would be no Fred Grandy for Congress."

4 Ben Jones

"Cooter" from The Dukes of Hazzard was elected to two terms as a Democratic congressman from Georgia. When he was defeated for re-election in 1992, he returned to acting. His biggest role: playing a media consultant in 1998's Primary Colors.

5 Shirley Temple Black

The movie legend became a mover and shaker in GOP politics. She lost her one shot at elective office but enjoyed the fruits of activism with a string of diplomatic assignments.

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Franken only latest show biz star to enter politics 07/11/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 11, 2009 7:33pm]

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