For as long as I can remember about such things, the number-one dreamboat movie star for me has been Christian Bale. I’ve loved him since Empire of the Sun—this should worry you if you’ve seen the film, but let me explain. Christian Bale is exactly three days younger than I am, (I just looked him up and found that out. I knew he was about my age, but how cool is that?) so when that movie came out in 1987, he was a little boy, and I was a little girl, just the right age to go gaga for him. When we were teenagers, I swooned over Swing Kids. At 20, I knew just what the Little Women were so excited about. Then there was American Psycho (starring an Englishman, oddly), The Machinist, and the disturbingly bad Reign of Fire, but even that wasn’t enough to crush my ardor. And now I have the cowboy version of Christian in 3:10 to Yuma, and of course, Batman, Batman, Batman… Sigh!

Kal Penn speaking to get out the vote on Auraria Campus, Denver, Colorado

And yet, I have to admit that Christian Bale is now my second biggest movie star crush. Christian has looks, and he’s certainly got talent, but I’ve now heard Kal Penn speaking for himself, seen him in action in the real world, and I’ve even had the chance to see him in person. (See my crummy cell phone snapshot, left. I couldn’t find my camera that day. My apologies.) I loved the Harold and Kumar movies, and House, M.D. He’s certainly cute, and the boy can act, but I didn’t truly fall for Kal Penn until I saw him out in the real world, gushing in his own words about the integrity and brilliance of Barack Obama. He’s clearly an idealist, (Kal, I mean. Well, Barack, too.) but he states his case with intelligence and conviction that makes his enthusiasm contageous. He’s cute, he’s smart, he’s passionate… How could a girl resist?

My crush began when I saw this interview on The Late Show with Craig Ferguson on September 5:

Yes, Kal, you can take me into a little room and do things, too… Ahem. Where was I? Ah, yes. Smart, enthusiastic, idealistic. What a guy! What I found most touching is that this bona-fide movie star, prime-time TV regular, and cult hero (for Harold and Kumar) said that he was volunteering to wear an orange vest and usher people around because he felt that this “could really make a difference.” In an industry and at a level of success that encourages self-centeredness and self-congratulation, Kal Penn has spent most of 2008 working like crazy for a cause that he truly believes (or so he’s convinced me) will make the world a better place for everyone.

Last Saturday, I got to see Kal Penn in person, along with Eva Longoria (of Desperate Housewives) and Adam Rodriguez (of CSI Miami), speaking at my old stomping grounds on Auraria Campus in downtown Denver. (Auraria Campus is home to three schools: Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State College of Denver, and my alma mater, the University of Colorado at Denver.) He gave a speech similar to the one in the video below, which is from Cleveland, on his pre-primary campus tour. Of course, since I saw him two days before the deadline for Coloradoans to register to vote, he was pushing us specifically for that, but most of the examples and analogies were the same. (The specifics of Obama’s plan for college financial aid weren’t in Saturday’s speech, either. I wonder if Obama’s plan has changed. I’ll have to go check on that.)

I was quite impressed with Kal’s intellect, passion, and speaking skill. (For context, I’m a Toastmaster and a former high-school debater, and I gave the sermon at my church when I was 16 years old. It takes a bit to impress me.)

And finally, check out this interview with Kal on the primary campaign trail in January:

Yum! Look at that hope, that beautiful enthusiasm! As one of the YouTube commenters said, “And it doesn’t hurt that he’s cute.” Not at all, though actually, I can’t remember how cute I thought he was on the big screen, when I knew nothing of him as a person. But now that I can see his excitement, his speaking skill, and that big, big brain, well… I’m sorry, Christian. We’ll always have high school, and college, and all of my twenties, but there’s a new guy making my heart go pit-a-pat. Sigh…

And Kal, in the unlikely event that you’d see this: Yes, I’ve registered to vote. Yes, I’ve told others to register, too. Yes, I, a registered Independent like you, am volunteering for Barack, too. Thanks for everything you’re doing. All joking aside, you have my respect, and my heartfelt thanks.