Last week, action-movie star and ponytail advocate Steven Seagal announced his aspirations to run for Governor of Arizona. The 61-year old martial arts expert made the comments while promoting Steven Seagal — Lawman: Maricopa County, his reality show which is shot in Arizona and features Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America.” Seagall is a member of Arpaio’s “posse”: a group of some 3,000 unpaid civilians who support the sheriff’s aggressive ideas for targeting undocumented immigrants throughout the state. It’s unclear as to whether or not Seagal’s announcement was an off-the-cuff comment, an attempt to promote a reality show, or serious business. In any event, one thing is clear: Steven Seagal cares about immigration…and karate.
But the action star isn’t the only unlikely celebrity to have thrown his hat in the political ring. Let’s take a look at a few other celebs who’ve attempted to cross-over their careers from the screen to the political arena.
Jesse “the Body” Ventura
At first, we all naturally scoffed at the idea of a professional wrestler turned politico. Surely, his years in the ring, body-slamming his opponents and generating soap-opera level drama, would never transfer into politics. Just imagine our surprise when Jesse Ventura beat not one but two mainstream candidates in the 1998 Minnesota gubernatorial race. The former wrestling pro ran for office as a member of the Reform Party and proudly served one term as Minnesota’s Governor.
Our neighbors to the south in Carmel, CA elected Dirty Harry mayor by a landslide victory! Actor/director/gun enthusiast Clint Eastwood received nearly three-quarters (72.5%, to be exact) of the total vote in the 1986 mayoral election. He held the office of mayor from 1986-1988. Unfortunately, he did not get rich from this venture. Turns out, being mayor of Carmel paid only $200 a month. Not shockingly, Clint opted not to run for a second term. Back to Hollywood, baby!
Any self-respecting Millennial will remember Sean Duffy from MTV’s 1997 season of The Real World: Boston (or at least his appearance on 2002’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge). He also totally married Rachel (you know, the one who loved Puck) from the original Real World: San Francisco. But did you know he also secured the office of District Attorney of Ashland County, Wisconsin? Yup, he held the office from 2002 until 2010 at which point he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional district. It’s truly shocking to think that MTV reality show fame can be a stepping stone to political success.
Not too long after the beloved child star grew up, she became very active in California’s Republican Party. Undeterred by her unsuccessful first attempt to gain a seat in the House of Representatives in 1967, Temple went on to be appointed Representative to the 24th US General Assembly of the United Nations just two years later. She also served as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana in 1976 and U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989, tap-dancing and politicizing her way into their hearts.
Kal Penn puff-puff-passed his way into our hearts as the high-as-a-kite Kumar Patel in the enlightening 2004 feature, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. The filmed spawned a 2008 sequel, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, which was less enlightening. By 2009, Penn had given up acting in favor of politics. He joined the Obama administration in the White House Office of Public Engagement as Associate Director. He currently serves as a liaison with the Pacific-Islander and Asian-American communities. Remember, just say no to derailing film careers.
Gary Coleman and Mary Carey
The 2003 California gubernatorial election saw no fewer than 135 eager candidates. Two of those candidates were allegedly running as a joke, a joke on whom we aren’t sure. Diff’rnt Strokes star Gary Coleman’s 2003 campaign was sponsored by our very own East Bay Express and was said to be a satirical comment on the recall election. While adult film star Mary Carey ran on an 11-point platform which included the promises of making lap-dances tax-deductible (good news for some SoMa lunchtime buffet goers), taxing breast augmentation, and a proposed “Porn for Pistols” exchange program. Coleman placed 8th overall while Carey came in 10th out of the 135 candidates, with the Terminator taking the title.