Steve Guttenberg: What Bill Clinton saw in ‘Police Academy’

Published 3:53 PM EDT, Fri July 29, 2016

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Steve Guttenberg: Bill Clinton told DNC viewers how much he enjoyed watching "Police Academy" in difficult times

Art and entertainment is vital, and it can relieve stress at even presidential levels, actor says

Editor’s Note: Steve Guttenberg starred in the “Police Academy” films and appears in an upcoming movie with several of his cast mates called, “2Lava 2Lantula,” which premieres August 6 on the SyFy channel. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

CNN —  

This week, a former president at a national convention decided to share with about 30 million of his closest friends a story about his daughter, the importance of meaningful parenting and a movie series that kept him laughing, relaxing and enjoying the craft of being funny – funny and good-natured.

Bill Clinton didn’t choose the obvious great movies, “Ghostbusters,” “Star Wars,” “Stripes,” Blake Edwards’ films, or any Mel Brooks film like “Blazing Saddles.”

Steve Guttenberg
Courtesy of Judy Katz
Steve Guttenberg

As Chelsea mentioned in the speech introducing her mom, Hillary, on family movie night they watched “Pride and Prejudice,” and President Bill Clinton watched “Police Academy.”

Are you kidding? Nope. The movie works. Over a billion dollars worth of subscription revenues. “Police Academy” has fans who admit it, and a lot who don’t.

“Police Academy” had story, character, tone and talented people behind the scenes like Hugh Wilson and Paul Maslansky, with Alan Ladd Jr. and John Goldwyn and Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who mixed it all together and created a super franchise. “So of all the cheap gin joints, Bill you came here.”

Steve Guttenberg as Mahoney and G.W. Bailey as Captain Harris in conversation while Michael Winslow looks on in a scene from a "Police Academy" film.
Warner Bros./Getty Images
Steve Guttenberg as Mahoney and G.W. Bailey as Captain Harris in conversation while Michael Winslow looks on in a scene from a "Police Academy" film.

And the cast members, including Donovan Scott, Leslie Easterbrook, Michael Winslow, Scott Thompson, Lance Kinsey, have been kvelling over Bill’s disclosure. We are all thrilled that both Bill and Chelsea let the secret out. And the great thing is that it is the truth. These are the films he likes.

When I was filming “Home for the Holidays,” I had an opportunity to visit the White House and see Bill. One of the stories he told, was that he had had a challenging few days, and turned to the six-movie package of “Police Academy” with his daughter Chelsea. It was a distraction of the highest order.

Now, I’ve admired his special ability to be mindful, to be present. His attention is elevated. He is the top of the ladder, and authentic. It was thrilling to hear him say it, but the meaningful takeaway was the importance of rest, rejuvenation and recreation for all of us, in or out of the White House.

A president who had lots to be responsible for knew that watching comedy could provide relief and feed the imagination. And wouldn’t we like imagination in all the fine people who run the government?

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But the crux of this example is how important art is: How we have to value our artists, whether they specialize in painting, sculpture, poetry, song, dance or film.

Entertainment, effective entertainment is as important as commerce. It’s a needed relief from responsibility, where the imagination flies, where people can enjoy great art, whether in a museum, a hall or a theater. All of us need and thrive on fiction. Not reality, but fiction, to rest the mind.

And the walk from the dark of the theater, to the light of the day, gives us the grease to make one glide.