The Stars Who Come Out at the Democratic Convention

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

Gloria Swanson, 1944

The actress (left), sitting next to her son, Joseph Swanson, and Margaret Kelly, wife of Chicago Mayor Edward J. Kelly, watch the wartime convention proceedings that will propel President Franklin Roosevelt to a fourth term. Until the U.S. entered World War II, Swanson had owned an engineering firm that she set up for four Jewish inventors she helped spirit out of Europe.

Ed Clark//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Mahalia Jackson, 1956

The Queen of Gospel sings "The Lord's Prayer" to close the convention in Chicago, which chooses Adlai Stevenson to challenge incumbent President Dwight Eisenhower. After Stevenson loses the election, Jackson, a committed Democrat, sings for Eisenhower, as she did for President Truman and will for presidents Kennedy and Johnson.


Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford, 1960

The three film stars, among a cavalcade of celebrities who will lead the delegates in singing the national anthem, share a laugh with Pat Kennedy Lawford, wife of the English-born actor and sister of the L.A. convention's choice for president, John F. Kennedy. (Sinatra would later become a Republican after a bitter falling out with JFK.)

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Paul Newman and Arthur Miller, 1968

The actor and the playwright are both delegates from Connecticut pledged to poet and U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota in his unsuccessful bid for the presidential nomination as an anti-Vietnam War candidate. On the last day, Chicago police and Illinois National Guardsmen clash with protesters. Miller later calls the convention "the closest thing to a session of the All-Union Soviet that ever took place outside of Russia."


Shirley MacLaine, 1972

The actress, here in Miami Beach with civil rights activist Jesse Jackson (who would run for the Democratic nomination in 1984 and 1988), "campaigned virtually nonstop for two years," George McGovern, the presidential nominee, later writes. MacLaine, who attended the 1960 Democratic convention at age 26, somehow finds the time to edit the book McGovern: The Man and His Beliefs.

Owen Franken/Corbis

Warren Beatty, 1976

In 1972 he was in George McGovern's inner circle, but this year the actor is in a new role as a delegate for California Gov. Jerry Brown in New York, where the real political action can be found at parties around town. Spotting Beatty holding hands with a woman outside one party, Newsweek reports, comedian Chevy Chase calls out, "Hey, Beatty, who's the chick?" "Be nice," shouts back the woman in question, Rep. Bella Abzug, the prominent feminist activist.

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Morgan Fairchild, 1988

In Atlanta, the Falcon Crest TV show starlet is a magnet for handsome politicos like Rep. Joe Kennedy, with her here. Fairchild introduces herself to U.S. Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado by saying, "We met once before, I don't know if you remember me," according to one report. "That's the funniest line of the convention," replies Hart, who'd been the front-runner to head the party's ticket until his extramarital affair with model Donna Rice surfaced.

Diana Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Christopher Reeve, 1996

The Superman actor, permanently paralyzed from a horseback-riding accident, brings the crowd in Chicago to tears during his speech about America's moral obligation to the needy: "America does not let its needy citizens fend for themselves. America is stronger when all of us take care of all of us."

Misha Erwitt/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Christie Brinkley, 2000

The supermodel and actress — in L.A. as a New York delegate representing the well-heeled Hamptons — leads a round of the Pledge of Allegiance with children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Brinkley offers a "video diary" on ABC's Good Morning America, telling host Charles Gibson: "I'm very proud to be a delegate. I mainly get my picture taken."

Axel Koester/Sygma/Corbis

Stevie Wonder, 2000

The Motown icon leads the national anthem and sings "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," as presidential nominee Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, embrace. In 2008 Wonder will salute Barack Obama's nomination with a rendition of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered. I'm Yours" Obama later kids that had he "not been a Stevie Wonder fan, [wife] Michelle might not have dated me."

Douglas Graham/Roll Call/Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 2004

In Boston, the braided troubadour and farmers' advocate sings with a gospel choir about the Promised Land. Eight years later, Roseanne Barr will court Nelson via Twitter to be her running mate as she vies to be the Green Party's presidential nominee. He responds: "I know whoever ur choice is they will be happy to serve w u."

Gary Hershorn/Reuters/Corbis

Oprah Winfrey, 2008

The uber-celeb holds court on the last day of the convention in Denver. Economists estimate that "the Winfrey effect" — her endorsement of Barack Obama for president — gave the future president a million-vote boost in the primaries. "My vote is not a vote against anybody," Winfrey tells Good Morning America anchor Diane Sawyer. "It's a vote for."

Shawn Thew/epa/Corbis

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