Not-So-Lucky Stars of Political Theater

— Just because "Cooter" from The Dukes of Hazzard won a seat in Congress, it doesn't guarantee everyone in Hollywood a second career in politics.

With Arnold Schwarzenegger riding high in the polls in the California recall election, you have to imagine even more entertainers will mull second careers in public service.

You certainly don't need to be a star with the Oscar-winning stature of Charlton Heston to make it on the national stage. To be sure, Ronald Reagan wasn't held back because he played second fiddle to a chimp in Bedtime for Bonzo.

If Fred Grandy — Gopher on TV's The Love Boat — served four years in Congress as a representative from Iowa, anything's possible.

"The fact that I was Gopher was probably worth a couple of hundred thousand dollars worth of campaign finance," Grandy admits.

"I don't think being a magna cum laude from Harvard was anywhere near as valuable as being Gopher on The Love Boat. If I had to give up one I'd give up the degree in a heartbeat."

Celebrity has its limits, however. Grandy was unsuccessful in 1994, when he unsuccessfully challenged Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad in the GOP primary.

The Political Drive of a ‘NASCAR’ Democrat

TV's Cooter has had his setbacks, too. Ben Jones, the actor who played the country-fried mechanic on The Dukes of Hazzard, lost in 1986, when he first ran for Congress in Georgia.

Describing himself as a "NASCAR Democrat," Jones ran again and won two years later. He was reelected but unseated in his third term.

Jones lost again last year, when he ran for the House of Representatives in Virginia. Still, he stuck to his "Cooter" strategy, parading in the Duke's souped-up Dodge known as "The General Lee," which still sports a Confederate flag. But again, he lost.

So while Sonny Bono and Jesse Ventura made politics look easy, it's not for everybody.

Perhaps that's why fellow wrestler Hulk Hogan didn't follow Jesse into politics, even though he swore he would five years ago, when he retired.

Here's a look at some celebrities who didn't exactly enjoy stellar political careers.

Falling Political Stars

The Dead Kennedy Mystique: The Kennedy name has gone far in politics, but not far enough to elect Jello Biafra — the lead singer of the Dead Kennedys — as the mayor of San Francisco.

In 1979, when punk rock was reaching a high, screeching note, Biafra — born Eric Boucher — threw his hat in the ring and amazingly came in fourth in a field of 10 candidates, in an election that was wild, even by San Francisco standards.

An outspoken critic of "corporate feudalism," Biafra promised to outlaw cars from the city. Under his administration, he swore that businessmen would be forced to wear clown suits. He promised to set a "Board of Bribery" in an attempt to set standard public rates.

Biafra's campaign slogan: "Free Beer."

Dead Kennedy fans gave the front runner and eventual winner Dianne Feinstein a real "Holiday in Cambodia," vacuuming leaves from her lawn to mock her promise to clean up the city.

In all, Biafra garnered 6,600 votes and city officials were so shocked, they proposed a law to restrict candidates from using funny names on an election ballet.

Citizen Munster: Contrary to popular belief, Al Lewis is not a dead man — he just played one on TV, cackling into America's collective conscious as Grandpa on The Munsters.

In 1998, when the 88-year-old left-wing activist stepped in as the New York Green Party's gubernatorial candidate, he jokingly said he had to remind people he was among the living both because of his age and his work as a comedic vampire.

The Green Party took a turn to the gangrene after former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, the party's first choice to challenge Gov. George Pataki, turned them down.

But once the Greens settled on Lewis, they hardly ran from his Munster past. They even fought, albeit unsuccessfully, to have their candidate listed on the ballot as "Grandpa Al Lewis."

At the very least, the Greens were hoping Lewis had the name recognition to earn the 50,000 votes needed to secure the party a permanent spot on the statewide ballot. But this Munster became something of a political horror show, after he called convicted mob boss John Gotti "a friend" and embraced Al Goldstein as "America's greatest pornographer."

Lewis and the Greens had to sweat it out. On the day after the election, Lewis had 49,741 votes. Luckily, once the absentee ballots were counted, Grandpa Munster rose from a political grave, securing the final few votes needed to keep the New York Greens on the ballot.

Shirley Temple Treated Like a Kid: There was anything but smooth sailing on the Good Ship Lollypop in 1967, when the most celebrated child actor of Hollywood's golden age ran for Congress.

"The political cartoonists had a lot of fun with me. They showed me as a 6-year-old or a 5-year-old kicking LBJ in the shins," the 75-year-old actress, now known as Shirley Temple Black, tells Reuters. "That also probably hurt my campaign a bit because it was probably difficult to look at a woman and not see the 7-year-old tap dancing."

Still, Temple Black later served Republican administrations as ambassador to the former Czechoslovakia and Ghana where she undoubtedly found that international diplomacy and tap dancing are very much the same.

Beverly Hillbillies Feudin': The man who played millionaire hillbilly Jed Clampett was none too happy when Miss Hathaway made a run for a congressional seat in Pennsylvania.

Buddy Ebsen took on Nancy Kulp, his fellow The Beverly Hillbillies cast member dismissing her as "too liberal," providing radio support for incumbent Republican Bud Shuster.

"He's not the kindly old Jed Clampett you saw on the show," Kulp told Time magazine, as the 1984 congressional election heated up. "I've worked so hard on this campaign. It's none of his business and he should have stayed out of it."

Kulp admitted she and Ebsen had difficulties on the set. "But I would never have done something like this to him."

With no record in public office, she called in fellow actor Ed Asner for support. "I think I've been successful in making the distinction between actress and politician," she said. "But there's always someone who screams, 'Where's Jethro?' "

After losing, Kulp and her two terriers declared California was the place they ought to be, so they loaded up their truck and moved to the land of movie stars, swimming pools … and TV sitcoms.

Stearn's Private Parts Are Financial: Shock jock Howard Stern loves to talk about his sexual proclivities on the air. But he found political life a little too revealing in 1994, when New York election officials demanded that he reveal his income, as is required by state law.

Stern withdrew as the Libertarian candidate for governor in his own trademark style:

"I spend 25 hours a week telling you the most intimate details of my life," he announced on his show. "If you want to know how much money I make, screw you. I am never going to tell you how much money I make."

The whole election may have been one big joke to Stern, who was promising to bring back the electric chair with the slogan, "A volt for every vote."

Still, he turned New York politics upside down. Incumbent Mario Cuomo and Republican George Pataki were locked in a tight race, and each was eager to cater to the Stern constituency, which was estimated between 5 percent and 10 percent of the electorate.

"Howard Stern believes in the death penalty, less taxes and more efficient government," Pataki spokeswoman Caroline Quartararo told newspapers. "Sounds like a George Pataki voter."

Pataki eventually won.

Here Come Old Flattop: In 1969, Timothy Leary, turned to John Lennon in his bid to challenge Ronald Reagan for the California governorship.

The celebrity drug guru asked Lennon to write a campaign song and the late Beatle delivered the hit "Come Together," which he saw as a "We Shall Overcome" for the hippy movement.

But by the time the 1970 election rolled around, Leary would be in prison, serving a 10-year sentence at the California Men's Colony at San Luis Obispo. While Leary escaped prison and fled the country, he was in no position to run for office, even in California.

Lennon's anthem, however, did have a second life in politics. At the Republican National Convention in 2000, Dick Cheney stepped to the podium to accept his party's nomination as vice president as the sound system played, of all songs, "Come Together."

The surreal lyrics, which begin, "Here come ole flattop, he come grovin' up slowly," didn't seem to bother Cheney or his staff, nor did the line, "got to be a joker he just do what he please."

In any event, for all Lennon and Leary's drugged-out indulgences, this is one thing they never could have imagined.

And it just goes to show you, in show business and politics, anything's possible.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.