Oscar-winning actress and progressive activist Susan Sarandon listens to a question Wednesday at Homestead Coffee and Bakery during a visit to Jefferson in support of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “I’m so thrilled and terrified about this election,” she said. ANDREW McGINN | JEFFERSON HERALDMegan Vaughan, of Jefferson, managed to get Sarandon’s autograph Wednesday on her vinyl copy of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” soundtrack. ANDREW McGINN | JEFFERSON HERALDOscar winner Susan Sarandon stops for a photo Wednesday with (from left) Homestead Coffee and Bakery’s Ora Stevens, Nhan Nguyen and David Petersen after campaigning for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. ANDREW McGINN | JEFFERSON HERALD

Sanders taps star power

Oscar winner Sarandon visits Jefferson


At 74, is Bernie Sanders too old to be elected president?

Susan Sarandon put it into perspective Wednesday during a stop on behalf of the Democratic presidential candidate at Homestead Coffee and Bakery that drew upwards of 150 to see, hear and seek autographs from an Oscar winner.

“In my business,” she explained, “when you were 40, you were done.”

Sarandon is now 69 and remains no less an A-lister than when she co-starred in “Bull Durham,” a movie she made, coincidentally, when she was 41.

“Age is a really evil concept,” she said. “It’s a great thing to get past that.”

Sarandon, a well-known progressive activist, was the latest this week in an invading army of celebrity surrogates in Iowa for presidential candidates leading up to Monday’s caucuses.

Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, has seen his support surge among Iowa Democrats in the month of January. A new poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University showed Sanders holding onto his lead in Iowa with 49 percent support to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 45 percent.

Clinton, for her part, sent actress Jamie Lee Curtis out onto the campaign trail earlier in the week, visiting Carroll on Sunday.

Frankly, pitting one of the original horror movie scream queens (Curtis) against Janet from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (Sarandon) clearly shows how eager the two camps are to lock up the cult-movie fan vote.

Sarandon — who won an Oscar for her 1995 role as death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean in “Dead Man Walking” — believes Iowa on Monday could again upset the status quo like the state did in 2008, when Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses from under Clinton.

“You guys are so cool,” she said. “You didn’t listen to what anyone was saying. You were the state that proudly got him going.”

“Iowa,” she added later, “did the right thing before.”
The 2016 election, however, might be the last time a grassroots candidate like Sanders could have a viable shot at the White House in the post-Citizens United era, according to Sarandon.

In other words, corporations and special interests are driving our democracy off a cliff — and as one half of Thelma and Louise, Sarandon knows a thing or two about driving off cliffs.

This election is the last time, Sarandon said, “that there ever will be a candidate who can get to this point who isn’t owned.”

Sarandon spoke of her opposition to Clinton, citing the then-senator’s vote in favor of the Iraq War, in particular.

“It was not cool to question the war,” she said.

She also said Clinton has been slow to come around on issues such as gay rights and the minimum wage — issues Sanders has long supported. (He also voted against the war in Iraq.)

“As a woman,” Sarandon said, “I find it incredibly patronizing to assume I’m going to vote for a woman.”

Sarandon complained about the national media’s lack of coverage of Sanders, other than being Hillary Clinton’s opponent.

“The first thing anybody says is, ‘He could never get elected,’ ” Sarandon said.

“Nobody can give you a reason why he can’t get elected,” she added.

The democratic socialism he touts, she said, is lifted straight from FDR.

In a Q&A after her remarks, Sarandon, a New Yorker, was asked her thoughts on Donald Trump, the Big Apple billionaire and Republican front-runner.

“In the beginning, Trump was funny,” Sarandon said, adding that he’s since “normalized” hatred.

“He’s running out of material when he brings Sarah Palin in,” Sarandon said to laughs, adding, “He reminds me of your drunk uncle at a wedding.”

Patti Edwardson, of Churdan, who co-stars in a Sanders TV commercial with partner and Greene County farmer George Naylor, said she admires Sarandon’s activism.

“She has the stature to bring people out,” Edwardson noted.

Jamie Kelley, 35, and wife Ronda came to the event Wednesday from Boone as first and foremost Sanders supporters.

“And we brought our Blu-ray of ‘Bull Durham’ for her to sign,” Jamie Kelley, an independent voter, said beforehand.

Ronda Kelley, a native of Canada who works as a librarian and waitress in Boone, is hoping to become a U.S. citizen by Election Day.

She likes Sanders’ single-payer, Canadian-style health care plan.

“I’ve never had to pay for anything,” Ronda Kelley said of health care back home in Ontario.

It’s safe to assume that more than a few people in attendance Wednesday were on hand just for the rare sight of a movie star in Jefferson.

Sarandon’s visit could very well go down in local history, much like when Donna Reed came to town in 1942 to sell war bonds. At that time, the Denison native was relatively new to Hollywood, too.

Nhan Nguyen, co-owner of Homestead Coffee and Bakery, was admittedly skeptical at first that someone of Sarandon’s stature would be coming to Jefferson.

“I thought it was a hoax,” he confessed.

All morning Wednesday, he said, the phone rang at Homestead from people wondering the same thing.

“I remember watching her in ‘Thelma & Louise’  and ‘Rocky Horror.’ She’s just awesome,” Nguyen raved.

“I get celebrity-struck,” he added. “I want my selfie with her.”

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