The tradition of celebrities appearing with U.S. presidents in photos is a long one.
Although presidential office confers instant fame upon whoever holds it, hobnobbing with celebrities both great and small in front of the camera does wonders for a president’s image and can make even the most questionable government programs and initiatives appear credible, if not wildly popular. Likewise, such a photo can place a gold seal of approval on a celebrity’s otherwise uncertain integrity. Thus, every administration guarantees its virtual parade of celebrities marching through the White House.
Here are our favorite celebrity-president photos:
1. Thriller! Reagans Meet the King of Pop
Long before Michael Jackson became a controversial figure, he came to the White House and met President Ronald Reagan – himself an Oscar-winning actor in the days of old Hollywood – and Nancy Reagan on May 14, 1984. Officially, Jackson was there to receive an award from the president on the south lawn of the White House for Jackson’s contribution to the government’s drunk driving awareness program.
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2. Two of the 'Greatest': Reagan and Muhammad Ali
As a former celebrity actor, the supremely charismatic Ronald Reagan was a master at appearing before the camera. Here we see boxing legend and activist Muhammad Ali visiting the White House on Jan. 24, 1983. The Gipper mentioned the occasion in his diary: "Visit from Muhammad Ali, 'gave me an autographed Muslim Prayer Book.'"
3. Bubba and the Boss: Clinton and Springsteen
President Bill Clinton and singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen spoke and sang onstage at a campaign event for President Obama at Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio, just outside Cleveland, on Oct. 18, 2012. The duo pulled 3,000 people into the school’s gymnasium, and 700 more spilled over into an adjacent overflow area. Clinton appeared first, joking that “I’m qualified [to be Springsteen’s opening act] because I was born in the USA.”
4. Among Stars: Truman Greets Hollywood Elite
On Oct. 16, 1944, Sen. Harry S. Truman, then just a Democratic vice-presidential candidate, was about to make a campaign speech at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium. He is seen here being greeted by actors Edward G. Robinson, left, and Gene Kelly, center.
Gene Kelly was a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party. The interest of his first wife, Betsy Blair, in Marxism later spurred an investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee and she was blacklisted, but her career was revived with her acclaimed performance in "Marty" (1955).
Edward G. Robinson was an early Hollywood activist, a fervent anti-fascist who opposed the rise of Hitler and had joined dozens of organizations, including the vociferous Hollywood Anti-Nazi League (HANL). Robinson even managed to star in Hollywood’s first anti-Nazi film, "Confessions of a Nazi Spy." His association with anti-fascist groups came back to haunt him, however: In 1950, 1952 and 1954 he was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and was threatened with blacklisting. His own name was cleared but for years afterward he received fewer and smaller Hollywood movie roles.
5. The Duke's Support: Ford Meets John Wayne
Seen here in the last days of the 1976 presidential campaign (Oct. 24, 1976), President Ford and actor John Wayne move through a crowd estimated at 23,000 at Fountain Valley, Calif., in conservative Orange County, southeast of Los Angeles. The 1976 campaign was unsuccessful for Ford, who was up against self-proclaimed "Washington outsider" Jimmy Carter.
A fervent patriot and no stranger to politics, “Duke” Wayne for a quarter-century was ranked at or near the top in box-office appeal. Wayne gave a widely covered speech at the 1968 Republican National Convention. A devoted conservative, Wayne had liberal Democrat friends too. “I was raised Republican,” he said, “but when a good Jeffersonian Democrat does a good job, I'll say so.”
6. Brotherly Love: LBJ, Dick Van Dyke Get Together
President Lyndon Johnson, right, displays the 1963 Big Brother of the Year award presented to him in a White House ceremony with Dick Van Dyke, left, television and movie actor, and Charles Berwind, center, of Philadelphia, President of the Big Brothers of America, March 25, 1964. At the time Dick Van Dyke was famous as the lead in “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” one of the most renowned sitcoms in television history. Five months later he would appear in Walt Disney’s big-screen musical, “Mary Poppins.”
7. Left the Building? Nixon Pals With Elvis Presley
This handout file photo shows President Richard Nixon, left, meeting with Elvis Presley on Dec. 21, 1970, in Washington. The meeting between two of the most improbable cultural icons of the 1970s lasted all of 30 minutes, but it has fascinated the nation for years.
8. Beatle Mania: Ford Hangs With George Harrison
U.S. President Gerald Ford smiles as he talks with George Harrison, former member of The Beatles, at the White House, Washington, Dec. 13, 1974. Jack Ford, 22, the president's son, second from right, invited Harrison to the White House for lunch. At right is musician Ravi Shankar.
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9. Rock Stars: At His Height, Obama Joins Bono
Political activist and entertainer Bono, left, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., right, applaud President Bush, not shown, at the National Prayer Breakfast, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006, in Washington.
10. Pop Royalty: George H.W. Bush Greets Jacko
President George H.W Bush welcomes singer Michael Jackson, who was named "Entertainer of the Decade" by the Friends of the Children's Museum in Washington to the White House Thursday, April 20, 1990. Standing behind are daughter-in-law Margaret Bush, wife of Marvin, not present, and first lady Barbara Bush.
11. Boy With Hope: Clinton Goofs With a Legend
President Clinton shares a laugh with comedian Bob Hope during ceremonies to honor the recipients of the National Medal of the Arts at the White House Thursday, Oct. 5, 1995. Hope was among 13 artists to be honored that year.
12. More Chowder? FDR, Hepburn Dine
Ignoring her friend Spencer Tracy's maxim that actors should stay out of politics ("Remember who shot Lincoln"), Kate Hepburn has lunch with Franklin D. Roosevelt at Val-Kil Cottage at the Hyde Park Estate, Sept. 22, 1940. Standing behind the two is Elliott Roosevelt, FDR's son, who is offering second helpings of fish chowder. Hepburn was there with a group of writers, actors and musicians working on a national radio show to promote the New Deal.
13. Table for Two Icons: JFK and Sinatra
Frank Sinatra, one of the greatest and most popular performers of the 20th century, was a passionate Democrat for nearly half of his life. He then became a registered Republican from the mid-1960s after being snubbed by the Kennedy family. Here we see Ol’ Blue Eyes in happier times with JFK, at the Inaugural Ball in Washington, Jan. 20, 1961.
14. Powerful Pair: George W. and Charlton Heston
Among the countless awards he received during his lifetime, Charlton Heston, left, here accepts the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony with President George W. Bush in the East Room of the White House, July 23, 2003. Heston was honored for his lifetime of achievement as an actor and citizen.
15. Happy Birthday: JFK, RFK Pal With Marilyn
A party at the home of movie executive Arthur Krim in New York is the scene of one of the most famous photo opportunities in history. Actress Marilyn Monroe stands between Robert Kennedy, left, and President John F. Kennedy on May 19, 1962. Krim’s party followed a democratic fundraiser at Madison Square Garden honoring John F. Kennedy’s birthday where Monroe famously — and seductively — sang "Happy Birthday."
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