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Celebrities Who Quit Hollywood for Politics

You likely follow the crazy lives of celebrities. You might even give yourself a bigger headache by following the madness of politics. But what happens when these two worlds collide?

Many major Hollywood celebrities have put aside their entertainment careers to serve the public. They’ve served America as senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen, mayors, ambassadors, and presidents!

Working in the beast that is Hollywood certainly helps people handle criticism, develop a persona, and inspire the public. Their political careers of course all have mixed reviews. Their success as politicians, or lack of it, all depends on whom you ask!

Let’s learn about the prominent celebrities who quit Hollywood and pursued a career in politics…

RONALD REAGAN

Ronald Reagan is arguably one of the most influential presidents in recent history. He championed the ideas of limited government and the American dream to the world. He was also instrumental in promoting liberty to the world.

One of his greatest performances wasn’t on screen, but when he stated “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall…” as a demand to tear down the Berlin Wall and open up Eastern Europe to the rest of the world.

Ronald Reagan began his entertainment career as a radio announcer in the 1930s. He began his film career in the late 1930s with his first starring role in the 1937 film Love Is on the Air.

In the early 1940s, he played the role of George Gipp in Knute Rockne, All American. This role became hugely popular and he earned the nickname “The Gipper” which he was referred to as for the rest of his life.

He soon became one of Hollywood’s most prominent celebrities and was a respected actor. He would eventually serve as the President of the Screen Actors Guild – perhaps an early indication of his abilities to lead. One of his greatest achievements during this time was to ensure that television actors would earn residuals when episodes in which they performed would re-rerun on TV. Perhaps an early indication of the importance he gave capitalism and economic liberty.

He was originally a Democrat and then joined the Republican Party in 1962. He felt distant from the policies of the former party and became famous for saying “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.” Today, he’s remembered as one of the most influential figures of conservatism and the free market in the Western World.

Ronald Reagan served as the 40th President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. He died in 2004 from pneumonia, also suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

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SHIRLEY TEMPLE

One of America’s most well-known child stars was Shirley Temple. She began her career at the age of 3, and soon became one of the world’s most popular child stars. She continued to act as an adult, but only made occasional appearances in films and TV shows after the age of 22.

She appeared in notable films such as Now and Forever, Curly Top, Captain January, Wee Willie-Winkie, Heidi, and The Little Princess.

Her TV career included Shirley Temple’s Storybook and guest appearances of popular variety shows such as The Red Skelton Show.

But as an adult, she wanted to focus most of her career in politics. She ran as a member of the Republican Party to serve in California’s 11th Congressional district. However, she lost to fellow Republican Pete McCloskey.

She would later serve as the US Ambassador to Ghana and later, to Czechoslovakia. During her time as ambassador to Czechoslovakia, she witnessed the Velvet Revolution which brought down communism in the country.

She helped formalize diplomatic relations between the United States and Czechoslovakia following its dissolution. She died at the age of 85 in 2014 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

She’ll always be remembered as one of the world’s most famous child stars. But we will perhaps also remember her for her service in the US government and with foreign relations.

AL FRANKEN

Al Franken began his comedy writing and performance training while still in high school. He was later hired as one of the writers for the first season of Saturday Night Live.

He also wrote the film One More Saturday Night alongside frequent collaborator and friend Tom Davis. He also had minor roles in major comedy films such as Trading Places.

He later transitioned into radio and writing books. Much of his work at this time revolved around political satire, particularly attacking the American Right.

He decided to put his ideas into practice when he served as senator from Minnesota from 2009 to 2018. During this time, he spent much of his career focused on politics with showbiz taking a side.

In 2018, he was accused of sexual misconduct which, of course, made him the subject of controversy. He was made to resign from his position in the Senate. He decided to return to his showbiz roots and now hosts The Al Franken Show on Sirius XM Radio.

SONNY BONO

After the popularity of Sonny and Cher began to fade and the duo split up, Sonny Bono decided to pursue a career in politics.

He began his career as a songwriter before becoming a singer in his own right. He and Cher became a popular singing duo, particularly with their hits “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On.”

Sonny acted in TV shows and TV movies including The Love Boat, Charlie’s Angels, The Six Million Dollar Man, CHiPs, and Murder on Flight 502. He also appeared in major films such as Airplane II: The Sequel, Hairspray, and Men in Black.

He once tried to open a restaurant in Palm Springs and became frustrated with the bureaucracy that he had to face with the process. He ran for mayor and served in this capacity from 1988 to 1992.

He ran as a Republican for the US Senate but lost the nomination to Bruce Herschensohn. He later served in the House of Representatives in California’s 44th congressional district. One of his goals during this time was to extend copyright protections. This bill didn’t pass. However, after his death the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act to honor his memory.

Sonny Bono died in 1998 after sustaining injuries from a skiing accident. He was 62 years old.

KAL PENN

Kalpen Modi, better known as Kal Penn, has entertained us in great films such as American Desi, Van Wilder, Malibu’s Most Wanted, the Harold & Kumar films, The Namesake and Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain.

But during the Obama Administration, he spent time away from Hollywood to serve as an associate director for the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. He previously served as a member of President Obama’s National Arts Policy Committee and campaigned for his re-election.

While a career in politics might not be what you’d expect from Kal Penn, his grandparents participated in fighting for the independence of India – which he credits as influencing his own interest in politics.

Today, he’s returned to his acting career, appearing in films such as Once Upon a Time in Venice, The Layover, and The Ashram. But his interest in politics hasn’t faded away, as in 2020, he hosted a miniseries called Kal Penn Approves this Message – which discussed political and social issues in the United States including the 2020 Presidential election.

ARNOLD SCHWARZNEGGER

Perhaps no major celebrity today symbolizes the American Dream today than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Before his career in Hollywood, he was a professional bodybuilder and also ran a bricklaying business. He gained stardom in the US as a bodybuilder and was the subject of the documentary, Pumping Iron. He also ran a mail-order business sending instructional tapes about bodybuilding.

His acting career had begun in the 1970s, but it was his starring role in the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian that made him a movie star. This was followed by a slew of some of Hollywood’s most popular action films including The Terminator series, True Lies, and Total Recall.

Apart from his work in showbiz, he also ventured into other avenues such as investing in the Planet Hollywood restaurants. He took an interest in politics early on.

His political leanings came when he was watching Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey each campaign for their presidency. A friend of his translated both candidates’ views and policies from English to German so that Arnold could understand.

He immediately found Nixon appealing. Nixon advocated for smaller government and lowering taxes. This was in contrast with the policies of Austria that Arnold had left behind. He decided to join the Republican Party upon learning about their policies.

He served as California’s Governor for two terms from 2003 to 2011. While no longer involved in politics, he’s still vocal about political issues. He was critical of the last Republican President Donald Trump. He’s also been vocal about climate change and has advocated for lowering meat consumption.

His recent political statements have divided fans. Many felt let down when he made his “Screw Your Freedom” remarks with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. On the flip side, he also stated that California’s recent recall election was due to ordinary people being upset at Governor Gavin Newsome’s record.

Regardless of his recent statements and views, Arnold Schwarzenegger remains one of America’s most popular immigrant success stories. While serving two-terms as Governor is an achievement, it looks like we’ll always remember him as an action hero and a brilliant bodybuilder!

So, what do you think? Did these celebrities manage to do a great job in politics as they did in their Hollywood careers?

Do you think that many celebrities today can make a great impact in politics? Or would we all be better off if they stayed out of politics?

Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

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