A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 14, 2009
“Politics is show business for ugly people”

"Politics is (like) show business” is a phrase that dates to at least 1954, when it appeared in the headline of political reporter Drew Pearson’s syndicated column. When former actor Ronald Reagan won the U.S. presidency in 1980, the comparison of politics to show business became common.

“Politics is show business for ugly people” dates to at least 1991, when Texas political consultant Bill Miller used the phrase. Political consultant Paul Begala and comedian Jay Leno also used the phrase “politics is show business for ugly people,” but after Bill Miller’s 1991 use. Variants of the phrase (with “Washington/politics” and “Hollywood/show business” substitutions) include “Washington (DC) is show business for ugly people,” “Washington is Hollywood for ugly people,” and “Politics is Hollywood for ugly people.”


The Texas Tribune
Bill Miller
Bill Miller is a political consultant and founding partner in HillCo Partners LLC, an Austin lobby firm formed in 1998. Miller’s partner is former state lawmaker Neal T. “Buddy” Jones.

He has represented both Republican and Democratic candidates, but after the Republican takeover of the state House in 2003, has largely been aligned with Republicans. Miller was appointed to state Rep. Tom Craddick’s transition team after it was apparent he would become House speaker in 2003.

Miller grew up in the environment of political campaigns. His mother, Mary Ellen Miller, worked in politics and was influential in the early use of modern-day phone banks. Miller teamed up with his mother professionally on numerous campaigns across the United States and for two winning national campaigns in Canada.

29 June 1903, Ottumwa (IA) Daily Courier, pg. 5, col. 5:
Politics is like the show business in its demand for new attractions.

8 June 1954, Blytheville (AR) Courier News, pg. 4, col. 7:
ONE OF THESE special-advice bulletins says that politics is like show business, in response to which we say that it’s becoming entirely too much like it for the good of the country.—Lexington Herald.

Google News Archive
1 September 1954, Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT), “Merry-Go-Round” by Drew Pearson, pg. A17, cols. 1-2:
Politics Is Show Business
At Its Height, Says Johnnie


Google Books
19 September 1988, New York magazine, “The National Interest” by Joe Klein, pg. 35:
Politics is show business. A cliche, (Pg. 36—ed.) right?

13 October 1991, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Politicians sometimes say the funniest things; Even when the news is slow, quotes keep it interesting” by Sam Attlesey:
There was political consultant Bill Miller’s definition: “Politics is show business for ugly people.”

20 December 1992, San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune, “A visit to a small mind...” by Tom Blair, pg. B1:
Dan Auld’s current favorite quote, from the Dec. issue of Vanity Fair: “Politics is show business for ugly people.”

Seattle (WA) Times
Tuesday, December 28, 1993
Best ‘93 Aphorism Mixes Kenny Rogers And Bible
By John Leo
(...)
Political writer Sidney Blumenthal offered us this one: “California politics is one long casting call,” which dovetails nicely with “Politics is show business for ugly people.” That was said by a Clinton campaign aide, Paul Begala.

30 June 1997, Washington (DC) Post, “Some Submit to Washington—And Win” by Al Kamen, pg. A17:
“Politics is Hollywood for ugly people.”—House aide Scott Milburn.

24 July 1997, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “‘Air Force One’ Comes in for a Landing” by Bill Higgins, pg. E5:
But with better-looking guests because—as the epigram goes—“Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.”
(Quoted by film director Wolfgang Petersen—ed.)

Google Books
Government and Politics in the Lone Star State: Theory and Practice
By L. Tucker Gibson and Clay Robison
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall
1999
Pg. 182:
Politics is show business for ugly people.
Bill Miller, Political Consultant

Google Books
Everybody Knows: Cynicism in America
By William Chaloupka
Minneapolis, MN: Univ. of Minnesota Press
1999
Pg. 86 (Why Americans Hate Politics):
It’s a spectator sport most of us don’t like to watch, or, as Jay Leno said, it’s “show business for ugly people.”

Google Books
The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order: 1964-1980
By Steven F. Hayward
New York, NY: Three Rivers Press
2001
Pg. 662:
“Politics is like show business,” Reagan remarked to Stu Spencer in 1966. “You have a hell of an opening, you coast for a while, you have a hell of a closing.”

Google Books
The Quotable Politician
By William B. Whitman
Guilford, CT: Lyons Press
2003
Pg. 3:
Politics is show business for ugly people.
PAUL BEGALA (1962- ), POLITICAL CONSULTANT FOR FORTY-SECOND US PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON

Google Books
Culture Warrior
By Bill O’Reilly
New York, NY: Broadway Books
2006
Pg. 57:
His (Comedian Jay Leno—ed.) famous line “Politics is show business for ugly people” is hardly partisan.

Dana Milbank - washingtonpost.com
Hollywood for Ugly People Meets . . . Hollywood
By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
We are making history this week. It is a momentous event, something we will tell our children’s children about.

Yes, it’s true: Oprah is in Washington. What, you thought this was about the inauguration?

There’s that, too, of course. Barack Obama becomes president today. But even if he achieves nothing over the next four years, he has already given this town something it prizes above most anything else: the affection of Hollywood. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Monday, December 14, 2009 • Permalink