Clinton "Hangover" rumors: The tradition continues

Nixon, Quayle, Bush and the Reagans also tried (or almost tried) show business after the White House

By Steve Kornacki
Published November 15, 2010 7:20PM (EST)

Bill Clinton's office won't say whether he did, as rumor has it, film a cameo for the upcoming sequel to "The Hangover" while in Thailand over the weekend. In a way, the chatter makes perfect sense, since Clinton is such a naturally gifted performer. And he demonstrated some decent acting chops in a memorable video that was prepared for the last White House Correspondents Dinner of his presidency (the setup:  A bored president is passing his final days in office by doing the laundry, manning the White House switchboard and making sandwiches for his wife).

If Clinton is, in fact, going Hollywood, he will only be the latest former president (or vice-president) to take a stab at show business. Some recent memorable examples:

  • Richard Nixon: In the fall of 1968, the former V.P., then the GOP nominee for president, appeared on "Laugh-In," uttering the show's famous catchphrase, apparently unaware that "Sock it to me!" was supposed to be a command -- and not a question:

  • Ronald Reagan: In the summer of 1989, months after he left office, the Gipper -- a radio play-by-play man for minor league baseball games in the 1930s -- agreed to call the first inning of Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, joining Vin Scully in NBC's booth. Reagan's first inning appearance was supposed to be brief, but it ended up dragging on for 25 minutes in what was the highest-scoring opening inning in years. The reviews were mixed. Some chided the former president for seeming nervous and not knowing much about the players. Others found him charming. Here's how the Washington Post's Tom Shales assessed his performance:

Reagan did little actual play-by-play, sticking mostly to supplying background material given him in advance. But when Ozzie Smith began the game by hitting a foul into the stands, you could hear Reagan say, "Whoops," and then, "Somebody has a souvenir."

Later, when a man was thrown out at first, Reagan said, "Aw-oh!" Indicating that he was not the best-informed commentator as he was not the best-informed president, Reagan confessed he didn't know if Julio Franco's first name was pronounced "Hoolio or "Joolio." But he corrected Scully when Scully misidentified another player as Franco. "Oh, I thought it was Tony Gwynn," Reagan said. And so it was.

Scully was adept at bringing Reagan into the game. Noting that one player used videotape to study technique, Scully asked if Reagan had ever used it. "No, I'm afraid I was a little before that," Reagan said. "Of course, in the picture business, we have a thing something like that, and that is, all through a picture you're making, you go into a projection room and see what you did the day before."

  • Dan Quayle: If you can't live down your most embarrassing moment, you might as well embrace it. That probably explains why Quayle, a year after he and George H.W. Bush were driven from office, agreed to take part in an ad for Lay's potato chips that aired during the 1994 Super Bowl. "Potatoes have become a big part of my life," Quayle, who famously misspelled the word while in office, said. "But this time I'm enjoying them."
  • George H.W. Bush: After being mocked throughout his presidency by "Saturday Night Live's" Dana Carvey, the former president turned the tables in October 1994, taking shots at Carvey -- who had left the cast the previous year and who was returning as a guest host -- in an opening segment bit taped in Houston. ''Do I have any hard feelings about that?" Bush said of Carvey's impersonation. "Yes, I do, and I'll have my revenge when the time is right. Not now. Wouldn't be prudent at this juncture. But revenge will be mine.''
  • Nancy Reagan: The former actress was apparently interested in returning to the big screen after she and her husband left the White House. As he was promoting his 1996 movie "Mother," Albert Brooks told the Chicago Tribune that Reagan was intrigued by the idea of playing the title role -- a spot that eventually went to Debbie Reynolds, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance. As the Tribune reported it:

"I went to see a few women, all of them very special," [Brooks] said. "Doris Day I spoke to, but she did not want to come out of retirement. Esther Williams I spoke to. And quite by accident, I actually mentioned as a joke one day to my agent, 'I wonder if Nancy Reagan wants to act.' And my agent's sister is her best friend."

Two hours later, Brooks said he got a call: "She wants to read the script."

"I went to her house, and we worked on some scenes together. But waaaay before I would ever have to make a decision on that . . . she said this is not the time. She said, 'I won't be able to do this, but God, am I gonna hate whoever you get to do this.'

"I don't know that Nancy Reagan would have been the person I would have cast," Brooks continued. "Even if I could have made Nancy Reagan do a great job, I don't know that you could have concentrated on the movie. I think it would have overwhelmed the movie."


Steve Kornacki

Steve Kornacki is an MSNBC host and political correspondent. Previously, he hosted “Up with Steve Kornacki” on Saturday and Sunday 8-10 a.m. ET and was a co-host on MSNBC’s ensemble show “The Cycle.” He has written for the New York Observer, covered Congress for Roll Call, and was the politics editor for Salon. His book, which focuses on the political history of the 1990s, is due out in 2017.

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