Culture Re-View: The actors and singers who turned to politics

Sonny, right, and Cher sing during a taping of "The Danny Thomas Special" in Los Angeles in 1966
Sonny, right, and Cher sing during a taping of "The Danny Thomas Special" in Los Angeles in 1966 Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Jonny Walfisz
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Happy anniversary of Sonny Bono (of Sonny & Cher), getting elected as mayor of Palm Springs, California!


12 April 1988: Sonny Bono is elected as the mayor of Palm Springs, California

Sonny Bono is one of those unfortunate famous people who rarely have their name mentioned without the follow up question, mentioning their more famous partner.

“Sonny Bono, as in Sonny and Cher, Sonny?” is always the way that conversation goes. Just like with the non-Beyoncé members of Destiny’s Child, Bono has always disappeared a little into the shadow of his ex-wife and “Goddess of Pop” Cher.

But that does a discredit to Bono, who was a successful singer, songwriter and actor in his own right. For this Re-View though, we’re focusing on what Bono did after his musical career.

In the late 80s, Bono got involved in local politics because of frustrations with government bureaucracy over trying to open his own restaurant.

Standing up for what he believed in, Bono ran for mayor of Palm Springs in California. On this day in 1988 he was elected, starting a new era of his life. He served as mayor for four years, before running as the Republican nominee for the United States Senate in 1992. He lost that race, but was then successfully elected to the House of Representatives in 1994 to represent California's 44th congressional district.

Joe Marquette/AP1998
Sonny Bono stands on Capitol Hill in Washington in 1997Joe Marquette/AP1998

Bono died in 1998, but not before he could contribute to the passing of a bill extending copyright laws, that named after him in his honour as the “Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act”.

Here are some other unusual career left turns to politics:

Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Austrian bodybuilder made his name in the US by starring in some of the biggest blockbuster hits of the 80s. Legendary roles in The Terminator, Predator, and Kindergarten Cop guaranteed Schwarzenegger’s place in the pantheon of Hollywood greats. But it was his political turn that has made up most of his actions in the 21st century.

In 2003, Schwarzenegger was elected as the Governor of California. The Republican politician was re-elected in 2006, proving his popularity. Due to term limits, he returned to acting in 2011, but not before he earned the new and improved nickname “The Governator”.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger holds up his wife Maria Shriver's arm after he spoke to the crowd at his election night party in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2005.CHRIS CARLSON/AP

Donald Trump

We’re all more than familiar with the now criminally-indicted 45th President of the United States’ chequered past. The less said about his time as the host of ‘The Apprentice’ and his cameo in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, the better.

Jon Stewart

Ex-‘The Daily Show’ host Jon Stewart gained a huge following during his tenure for his impassioned yet informative rants on the political state of the United States. After quitting the show in 2015, Stewart has since used his celebrity to advocate for veterans and the emergency first responders to 9/11.

That’s as far as Stewart’s political career has gone so far, but every other week social media seems convinced he’d make a better presidential candidate than any other American, so we’ll count it.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Who could forget the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy? Before his days defending the beleaguered Ukrainian state against Putin’s advances, Zelenskyy was a comedic actor and starred in multiple films, including voicing the Ukrainian dub for Paddington Bear.

Zoya Shu/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy takes a selfie at the first congress of his party called Servant of the People in the city Botanical Garden, Kiev, Ukraine, 2019Zoya Shu/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved.

Most famously, Zelenskyy’s lead role in the 2015 show ‘Servant of the People’, where he played a schoolteacher elected as the President of Ukraine, has gone down in history as one of the most prophetic shows of all time.

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