From Al Jolson to Alice Cooper: Unique Celebrity Presidential Endorsements

This week Dave Mustaine, front man of the legendary heavy metal band Megadeth, threw his support behind surging Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum. While there has been much debate over the years about the value of endorsements, there is a long history of celebrities endorsing the candidacies of presidential contenders.

Here is a closer look at some unique celebrity endorsements of the past:

Al Jolson, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford (Election of 1920) – Warren G. Harding was probably the first presidential candidate to make wide use of celebrity endorsements as we know them today, and he got a lot of celebrity endorsements during his 1920 campaign for president. The most famous film actors of the day, including Jolson, Fairbanks, Pickford and others, were photographed visiting Harding in Ohio as part of his “front porch” campaign. Jolson also wrote Harding’s campaign song. Whether it helped him or not, the Republican won in a landslide capturing more than 60 percent of the popular vote.

The Rat Pack (Election of 1960) – The young, rich and handsome John F. Kennedy attracted much attention from the celebrities of the day who seemed to fall all over themselves to endorse the Democrat during his presidential run in 1960. None were bigger or more prominent than Frank Sinatra and the “Rat Pack” that included Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and others. Members of the Pack even sang the national anthem at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles that year. And Sinatra recorded a new version of the song “High Hopes” as the campaign song for JFK. Perhaps it was this star-powered push that helped Kennedy to victory over Richard Nixon in one of the closest U.S. elections in history.

Alice Cooper (Election of 2004) – With the Iraq War raging and his popularity numbers sagging, few celebrities seemed to be stepping forward to endorse Republican incumbent George W. Bush during his reelection campaign of 2004. That’s what made rock legend Cooper’s endorsement all the more unusual. Famous for his outlandish, drug and alcohol-fueled performances that often included snakes, electric chairs and lots of fake blood, Cooper told an interviewer at the time that a group of musicians campaigning for Bush’s challenger, John Kerry, were guilty of “treason against rock ‘n’ roll.” Cooper further explained that if he “wasn’t already a Bush supporter, [he] would have immediately switched. Linda Ronstadt? Don Henley? Geez, that’s a good reason right there to vote for Bush.”

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