It was 25 years ago this month that Congress, and the country, braced for the swearing-in of a new Congress that featured not one, but two television stars of the late 1970s and ’80s: Cooter from “The Dukes of Hazzard” and Gopher from “The Love Boat.”
Rep. Fred Grandy, R-Iowa, who played ship’s purser, “Gopher” Smith, on the Pacific Princess from 1977 to 1986, was elected to the People’s House in 1986 and was about to start his second term. Rep. Ben Jones, D-Ga., who played Cooter, mechanic savant good ol’ boy and pal to the Duke Boys from 1979 to 1985, fell short in his first bid for Congress, in 1986. The second time, in 1988, was the charm for Jones, who served two terms before losing his primary bid in 1992 to Rep. Don Johnson.
From the Jan. 15, 1989, edition of Roll Call’s HOH: “Deja Video. With Rep. Ben ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ Jones (D-Ga.) joining Rep. Fred ‘Loveboat’ Grandy (R-Iowa) in Congress, the Hill could have its own sitcom. The last time Jones performed in Washington, he played in ‘Desire Under the Elms’ at the Kennedy Center in 1974. ‘The night Richard Nixon resigned,’ he says, ‘they stopped the show between the first and second acts and broadcast his speech over the sound system. That got the biggest applause of the evening.’”
Grandy ran for governor in 1994, but lost in the primary. He went on to head Goodwill Industries, had a career in radio as a talk show host and has dabbled again in acting.
Jones made another run for Congress in Virginia in 2002, but fell short. He runs Cooter’s Place, a Dukes shrine and gift shop that has locations in Nashville and Gatlinburg, Tenn. In 2008, his memoir, “Redneck Boy in the Promised Land: The Confessions of ‘Crazy Cooter,’” was released.