Just over a month ago, Alec Baldwin briefly became uncharacteristically giggly on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" when discussing Donald Trump's then still-alive presidential ambitions.
"Trump running for president is not a bad thing. Trump winning the presidency, that's a bad thing," the actor quipped before he and Fallon traded impersonations of the real estate mogul.
The bit, funny then, is more amusing now, albeit in a different way, given the outspoken liberal's flirtation this week with running for mayor of New York in 2013 (even if he apparently isn't registered to vote in the city).
His reported mayoral musings got us thinking about a dream – or perhaps nightmare – match-up: Baldwin vs. Trump for City Hall. Both clearly have strong (and presumably generally opposing) political beliefs. Neither is hurting for money, even if there are vast differences in fortunes. They share a knack for self-promotion, abundant self-confidence and perhaps the most important qualification of all: Both play a conservative corporate titan on a popular NBC show.
If that all sounds a tad silly (and maybe a little frightening), it's no more so than the increasingly blurred lines between news, politics and entertainment being used by some these days to build a potential electoral platform.
We still don't know whether Trump's GOP candidate dance was sincere or a stunt to boost ratings of "Celebrity Apprentice" – or both. In the end, he chose his TV show over his country.
Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska for two and a half years and former Reality TV star, is making news with her non-campaign presidential campaign, even as she remains on the Fox News pundit payroll. Her recent pizza summit with Trump in New York sparked an outsized media circus that left us wondering – are the duo TV stars, politicians or a bizarre new form of celebrity? (Perhaps the strangest aspect of the spectacle, though, was watching native-New Yorker Trump eat his slice with a knife and fork).
The intermingling of celebrity and politics, of course, is nothing new. What has changed is how quickly and seamlessly some folks bounce back-and-forth between the two until the distinction becomes fuzzy. Take Ronald Reagan – the hero of Baldwin's Jack Donaghy on "30 Rock," a mixed-bag for Trump (he called Reagan a "con man" in 1989 but more recently praised him as the president he most admires). Though Reagan was active in political causes while still an actor, his last entertainment gig came two years before he was elected governor of California.
Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, who announced his candidacy for that office a quarter-century later on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," took a near-total break from the movies when he became governor of The Golden State in 2003. Recent tawdry revelations in his post-gubernatorial life, of course, have made his film future hazy – but his political days appear over.
Schwarzenegger is probably grateful for New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, whose tabloid mess of a life is dominating both the news and entertainment cycles these days.
The Democrat’s self-inflicted downfall has likely punctured his plans to run for mayor – inflating Baldwin's trial balloon. Meanwhile, Trump, never a Weiner fan, posted a YouTube video this week calling the disgraced lawmaker a “psycho.”
Baldwin and Trump might have more in common than either thinks. Perhaps it's time for a Baldwin-Trump pizza summit, but only if they promise to leave the impressions – and the forks and knives – at home.
U.S. & World
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.