Editor's note: KSL.com does a weekly feature on artists in the community. If you have a painter, sculptor, musician or creative genius in mind, feel free to email your submission to email@example.com. Please include a contact email for the artist, if available.SALT LAKE CITY — President Rock? A Utahn hopes to convince celebrity Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to throw his hat into the presidential ring.
Utah resident Leo Dirr’s grassroots “Rock the White House” campaign aims at encouraging the actor and former pro wrestler to run for president in 2020.
“My goal is to encourage The Rock to run for president. My desire is to show The Rock that the country needs him and believes in him,” Dirr said.
Buzz around Johnson running for president went viral in May while he was the host of Saturday Night Live for the fifth time. Johnson announced his candidacy in a satirical skit. He also introduced Tom Hanks as running mate. He added fuel to the fire in a May GQ article when asked about seriously running for president, he replied, “I think it’s a real possibility.”
For Dirr, those media appearances and interviews resonated with him in a way that hadn’t happened before with other potential political candidates.
“Whenever I saw that news item that said he really might run for president, I never felt that strongly about any candidate. It’s weird because he wasn’t an official candidate, (but) I had this feeling like I absolutely want this to happen,” Dirr said.
This conviction led Dirr to start and launch the “Rock the White House” campaign to encourage The Rock to run for president and also to counter what he feels is national apathy toward the political process.
“I’m going to be pretty honest ... I think this goes for a lot of people, a lot of us are pretty apathetic, we feel disenfranchised with respect to the political process, and it’s for that reason, we don't feel like there are a lot of politicians, a lot of people that are running for office that we can really trust and believe in,” he said.
Dirr believes that The Rock is the leader to change that sentiment.
“What I see in him, is a good, decent, kind human being who I believe cares about other people, who would give an earnest effort to put the interests of the people and the country ahead of his own interests and special interests,” Dirr said.
As far as The Rock’s leadership style on the domestic and international stage, Dirr is confident the country would be in good hands.
“I see him as someone who can be a strong leader without being a bully. I see him as more of a diplomat than a tyrant,” Dirr said.
As part of his “Rock the White House” campaign, Dirr commissioned Utah-based contemporary artist Dawn Taylor to create a unique 24x30-inch acrylic painting that features celebrities, Dwayne Johson, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Fallon and Betty White as the faces on Mount Rushmore.
“I wanted sort of a fun, interesting way to capture this idea, this concept that we the people want The Rock to run for president,” Dirr said.
Given today’s fast-paced culture, the painting made sense for Dirr.
“People are visual, especially people on the internet — they’re bored, everything has to be fast, just quick visual representation of an idea that could catch people’s attention and draw people’s interest into the broader idea,” he said.
The connection to include Tom Hanks is clear from the Saturday Night Live skit. Fallon made the monument as Chief of Staff because of what Dirr described as a “very positive interview with The Rock,” which gave Dirr the “sense that those two were friends, so I threw him in there.”
While The Rock is the campaign’s focal point, for Dirr, “the most important part of painting is Betty White.” Dirr acknowledged that some people might question why White is featured on the painting as the Secretary of Booyah.
“For me, Betty White is what ties the whole thing together, because in my mind the common thread between those four individuals is they are all kind, decent human beings first and foremost, and Betty White is the poster girl for kindness and decency,” Dirr said.
Taylor said she was intrigued when Dirr contacted her to help bring his concept to life.
“I thought it was pretty interesting, I think the idea putting comedians on Mount Rushmore … I don’t mean for it to be sacrilegious towards our country. But those people who are now on Mount Rushmore didn’t think our country would be where it is today,” Taylor said.
As Taylor was painting the piece, she felt it also provided social commentary.
“For me, when I was painting the painting, my view of it was political satire. Politics … they’re exactly what comedians strive for … an awful, heartbreaking, gut- wrenching thing, and all you can do is laugh at it,” Taylor said.
Another key and fundamental component of Dirr’s campaign is his T-shirt project. Dirr hopes to crowdfund donations to print and distribute 10,000 T-shirts to hand out on the Las Vegas strip to promote his "Rock the White House" campaign.
“I’m trying to think of any way I can to continue to promote this idea, to build excitement around it, to allow people to remember, engage with it, support it if they wish,” Dirr said. “To me, that would just be a simple, powerful way to connect with a lot of people in a very short amount of time, to give 10,000 Rock The White House T-shirts. You would touch a lot more than 10,000 people.”
Whether The Rock officially runs or not remains to be seen, but for Dirr, it absolutely is the right choice.
“I really believe in this guy. We need him at this time in our nation to lead the nation,” he said.