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The Stars Who Come Out at the GOP Convention

Every 4 years the worlds of entertainment and politics mix on the national stage

  • Bettmann/Corbis

    Cecil B. DeMille

    1944
    Famous for his epic films like The Ten Commandments, the director's second convention as a delegate — he's at left in the photo with another delegate — was anticlimactic. New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey secured the nomination on the first ballot in Chicago.

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    George Murphy

    1948
    The Hollywood song-and-dance man (Broadway Melody of 1940For Me and My Gal) is a delegate in Philadelphia for California Gov. Earl Warren, who lost to New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey. Murphy will be elected in 1964 to the U.S. Senate from California, becoming the first well-known American entertainer to make a successful transition to politics.

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    Ethel Merman

    1956
    The belt-'em-out diva of Broadway livens up the show at San Francisco's cavernous Cow Palace with a rousing rendition of "Alexander's Ragtime Band" set to new lyrics ("Come on along, join the Eisenhower parade …"). Merman, a GOP loyalist who made her singing debut at age 5 at the Astoria Republican Club in Queens, N.Y., will sing at Ronald Reagan's 1981 inaugural gala.

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    Pat Boone

    1972
    The pop-music legend and his family lead the national anthem in Miami Beach. Four years later, as he flies back to California from the party's convention in Kansas City, Boone asks Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz a well-intentioned political question that elicits an obscenely racist joke from Butz and leads, when reported in the press months later, to his resignation.

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    Charlton Heston

    1972
    He campaigned for Adlai Stevenson in 1956 and John F. Kennedy in 1960, but by 1972 the Academy Award-winning actor is front and center at the GOP convention. Heston, known for his roles in such motion picture epics as The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, becomes the high-profile president of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003.

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    Sonny Bono

    1976
    Heading into the last season of The Sonny and Cher Show (a year after the duo's divorce), he turned up in a VIP box with Jack and Susan Ford to cheer on their father, President Gerald Ford. Bono later gave up show business for politics, serving as mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., from 1988 to 1992 and in the U.S. House from 1995 to 1998.

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    Ray Charles

    1984
    Chosen by his party to seek a second term, President Reagan, with his wife, Nancy, greets Charles after the singer and pianist rouses the flag-waving delegates in Dallas to join in his emotional rendition of "America the Beautiful." Reagan helps the Kennedy Center honor Charles in Washington two years later.

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  • Ron Edmonds/AP Photo

    Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock

    2000
    The reigning champion of the World Wrestling Federation, all 6-foot-3, 270 pounds of him, introduces the convention chairman, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, in Philadelphia. Why The Rock? Hastert is a former high school wrestling coach. But more important, The Rock enjoys a vast following of young Americans and heads up a voter registration drive.

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    Dorothy Hamill, Lynn Swann

    2004
    The Olympic gold medalist in figure skating and the Pro Football Hall of Fame player-turned-sportscaster team up to address GOP delegates at Madison Square Garden in New York. Hamill cut her political teeth campaigning for Ronald Reagan, her onetime neighbor in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Swann would become the GOP gubernatorial nominee in Pennsylvania in 2006 (he lost).

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    Bo Derek

    2004
    The star of the movie 10 appears at a second GOP convention. In 2000, she contributed to the Latino theme of the convention's final evening by including a few words of Spanish in her introduction of California assemblyman Abel Maldonado, a son of Mexican immigrants. At both occasions, George W. Bush speaks in English when he accepts his party's nomination for president.

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    Jon Voight

    2008
    Conventioneers in St. Paul, Minn., get a sneak preview of the actor in the movie An American Carol, a send-up of liberal documentary filmmaker Michael Moore in which Voight plays the ghost of George Washington. Another well-known patriot, John McCain, gives a solid performance delivering his speech to accept the presidential nomination.

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    Cowboy Troy, John Rich and Gretchen Wilson

    2008
    The country music stars team up on a unique presentation of the national anthem before Rich launches into "Raisin' McCain," a tribute song he wrote and performed at some McCain campaign stops.

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