cover image CELEBRITY-IN-CHIEF: How Show Business Took Over the White House

CELEBRITY-IN-CHIEF: How Show Business Took Over the White House

Alan Schroeder, . . Westview, $26 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-8133-4137-8

Modern American politics is slavishly dependent upon image, argues Schroeder, professor at Northeastern University's School of Journalism, and no branch more so than the executive. It's a state of affairs ripe for intermingling with the image-driven worlds of Hollywood and popular culture, he says. Schroeder exhaustively details his point, from descriptions of the awkward and stumbling early 20th-century attempts at cooperation between the political and entertainment worlds (he cites Woodrow Wilson and FDR for being particularly ill at ease with their celebrity associates), to what he casts as the equally stumbling and awkward early 21st-century efforts at cooperation characterized by the second Bush presidency (for Schroeder, George W. Bush displays discomfort before the camera). In between are a multitude of accounts of celebrities campaign stumping for politicians and politicians' wooing starlets, accompanied by insightful analyses of the ways in which Schroeder sees Hollywood and Washington both benefiting and courting disrepute with their "made for each other" dance of image and message. While veering at times into the tangential and picayune, Schroeder collects the most telling anecdotes from a century's worth of cultural cross-pollination. If Nixon had had a book like this one to consult before his disastrous televised debate with JFK in 1960, history might have taken a different shape. Photos. Agent, Maria Massie. (Mar.)