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Jeff Daniels and Kyle MacLachlan lobby on Capitol Hill for arts funding, fail to creep us out

Seems like a nice guy: Kyle MacLachlan, right, making his celebvocate debut in Washington, chats with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter during a congressional hearing Tuesday. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Our visiting celebvocates usually come in the same old flavors: warm, empathetic, super-earnest. So it was refreshing Tuesday when Capitol Hill was finally visited by a couple of creeps.

Or rather, a pair of top-drawer actors, Kyle MacLachlan and Jeff Daniels, who made their names by playing creeps. Terrible husbands, at least. Daniels, 55, sometimes branches out to play egocentric blowhards who are also terrible husbands ("The Squid and the Whale"), while MacLachlan, 51 (a terrible husband on both "Sex and the City" and "Desperate Housewives"), has a quality that, even when he played a good guy like FBI agent Dale Cooper in "Twin Peaks," kind of makes your skin crawl.

Their cause on the Hill: To push for increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts at a time when public and private support for the arts is declining nationwide. Before the obligatory trip to a congressional hearing, both turned up as cheerleaders for hundreds of unfamous arts advocates at a Cannon Building breakfast, where organizers Americans for the Arts presented an award to Nancy Pelosi.

MacLachlan -- in what he told us later was his D.C. lobbying debut and first-ever cause -- was looking more Cary Grant-ish than usual, in those dark-rimmed glasses that guys wear to look like Cary Grant.

"This is new for me," he told the room. "I'd call myself apolitical at best."
But then he played it like a perfect politician, name-checking all the towns that gave him his start in theater: Millbrook, Pa.; Logan, Utah; Flat Rock, N.C. -- as different clusters in the room whooped in recognition.

Still deciding how we feel about the goatee: Jeff Daniels testifying before the Appropriations Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on Tuesday. (Kris Connor/Getty Images)

Daniels, nearly unrecognizable in a goatee, praised the "courage" of organizers for bringing "as your advocate on Capitol Hill one of the co-stars of 'Dumb & Dumber.'" But seriously: He talked up the economic benefit that his Purple Rose Theatre Company, which he founded in 1991, has brought to his home town of Chelsea, Mich. "Those are real paychecks for real jobs for real people."

In all, very earnest. Is that what they're really like? Or is that acting? MacLachlan in particular seemed downright avuncular. As the David Lynch icon was being hustled off to his committee appointment, he paused to pose for a photo with high school students, and nobody's skin crawled at all.

By The Reliable Source  |  April 14, 2010; 1:04 AM ET
Categories:  Celebvocate  
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Yeah, Twin Peaks good, but Kyle MacLachlan is too funny in Christopher Guest's "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind."

Posted by: dadada | April 14, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse


I totally got him mixed up with Michael Hitchcock.

... Never mind.

Posted by: dadada | April 14, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget Jeff Daniels played Lt. Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in "Gettysburg". He wasn't an egotistical blowhard guy who was a bad husband. Chamberlain was extremely modest and a devoted husband to his wife Fannie. All the soldiers who served under him and with him adored him, and he won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg.

Posted by: BruinGirl2001 | April 14, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, BruinGirl . . . I logged on to mention Jeff Daniels' portrayal of Joshua Chamberlain in "Gettysburg"; he reprised it in the prequel "Gods and Generals" in which Mira Sorvino played Chamberlain's wife, Fanny. Daniels was quite good as Chamberlain and it's the antithesis of most roles he had played, though not all.

Chamberlain was one interesting fellow. He was not only the hero of the Union victory on Little Round Top on the 2nd day at Gettysburg, but was severely wounded at Petersburg a year later and almost died.
He went on to serve as Governor of Maine for four terms and ended his career as president of Bowdoin College in Maine, where he had been a classics professor prior to the Civil War.

Posted by: talitha1 | April 14, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Very cool that these guys did this, and thanks for telling us about it. However, I have to object to calling Kyle MacLachlan's portrayal of Agent Dale Cooper on "Twin Peaks" "creepy." He was very likable, sweet, and quirky, but not creepy. Plus, women loved him. Not sure what show you were watching!

Posted by: kcleghorn | April 15, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

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