With the pending departures of Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Congress is losing all too many of its colorful characters. That’s why the Loop is taking the defeat of Rep. Dennis Kucinich so hard (though we’re hoping he’ll run again, in a district far, far away). A vegan ventriloquist whose policy positions included legalizing drugs and lowering the drinking age, the Ohio Democrat was never afraid to boldly go where few legislators had gone before.
Here are six reasons we’ll miss the kooky Kucinich:
— Aliens! Kucinich apparently had a close encounter with a UFO while staying at the home of his close pal, actress Shirley McLaine. The actress recounted the experience in a 2007 book: “The smell of roses drew him out to my balcony where, when he looked up, he saw a gigantic triangular craft, silent, and observing him. It hovered, soundless, for 10 minutes or so, and sped away with a speed he couldn’t comprehend. He said he felt a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind.”
— Dummies! Kucinich’s talents include the dying art form of ventriloquism. He’s performed his act in public on several occasions, including a memorable appearance on “The Daily Show” in which his “dummy” sang a rendition of “God Bless America.”
— Elizabeth. How many congressional spouses sport a tongue ring and appear on a low-rent version of “Dancing With the Stars?” Like her husband, Kucinich’s third wife, Elizabeth, isn’t the conventional sort. The tall (reportedly six feet) willowy redhead is a fixture at her husband’s side—despite the differences in their height and age (she’s 31 years his junior).
— Department of Peace. As part of his presidential platform, Kucinich proposed a Cabinet-level agency devoted to peace, love and understanding (and what’s so funny about that?)
— Shirley McLaine. The flame-tressed actress is one of Kucinich’s dearest friends and earliest political supporters. She’s also a believer in reincarnation (she claims she was Charlemagne’s lover in a previous life) and the sister of retired lothario Warren Beatty. But she’s not Kucinich’s only celebrity pal—actor Sean Penn and country star Willie Nelson are supporters, too.
— Impeachment. Kucinich introduced impeachment articles against former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Cheney for their roles in the Iraq war. Though he never got support from the leaders of his party, a handful of colleagues joined him in support of the Cheney proceedings.