One of the fringe benefits of a woefully long, wearisome political campaign is that the diligent members of the media have plenty of time to really dig into the candidates’ past. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, for instance, has appeared in not one but two romantic comedies, both of them featuring genuinely famous actors and actresses, i.e., people who actually make their living in show business. In the wake of Sanders’ strong performance at the Iowa caucus on Monday, National writer Chad Merda has delved into the cranky Democratic candidate’s meet-cute-laden past. Back in the fall of 1988, for instance, while Michael Dukakis was being soundly thrashed in the general election by George H.W. Bush, Sanders was cameoing in Robert Greenwald’s Sweet Hearts Dance, starring Susan Sarandon, Don Johnson, and Jeff Daniels. Here, he appears unbilled as essentially himself (his character is even called “Bernie”), distributing candy to children on Halloween. While some may interpret this as evidence of Sanders’ socialist, spread-the-wealth agenda, the scene in question is both brief and innocent.
More intriguing is Sanders’ 1999 appearance as (no kidding) “Rabbi Manny Shevitz” in Martin Guigui’s My X-Girlfriend’s Wedding Reception, a film whose intriguing cast includes Dom DeLuise, Mo Gaffney, Vitamin C, and 1980s pop princess Debbie Gibson. That’s a fairly impressive lineup of stars, considering the movie’s incredibly low $500,000 budget. The politician’s role here is a real keeper. Tasked with giving a speech at the titular wedding reception, Sanders instead goes off on a tirade about baseball.
Nowadays, there is no pride. You don’t know who owns what team. You don’t know who’s playing for what. Today, they’re here one day, and they’re gone the next. It’s a terrible thing. I remember when the Dodgers played the Yankees, and you bought a ticket. That ticket was good for ten years. Now we go to the stadium, and you look out on the field, and you see the Red Sox. You see the Orioles. You see the Cleveland Indians. You see everything. But you don’t see the Yankees versus the Red Sox. Okay, I’m getting a little off the track here.
And then, just when he promises to steer the speech back to the subject at hand, he spews some additional vitriol about free agency. Watching the clip, you get the sense that Sanders is not so much playing a role as he is using this moment to vent a lifetime of genuine frustration as a baseball fan.