5 'Huh?' White House Facts History Class Never Mentioned
Although it might seem like we're living through the dumbest, wackiest presidency in U.S. history, it turns out that life in the hot seat of power has always been a mix of shenanigans, slapstick, and sitcom antics. Here are but a few times when things got crazy, stupid, or just crazy stupid.
"Dr. Feelgood" Gave JFK His Signature Pep
JFK is remembered as a master orator, a skilled diplomat, a war hero, a charismatic family man, and an absolute shagabond. Unbeknownst to most, however, he was also a walking medical textbook. He suffered from (among other things) high cholesterol, inflammation of the prostate, colitis, severe allergies, a wartime spinal injury that frequently left him reeling in spasmodic agony, and just for good measure, an ultra-painful adrenal disorder.
So how did JFK manage to not only hide these conditions from the general public, but also achieve everything he did in his relatively short time in office? Oh, that's easy. It was all the drugs. Enter Max Jacobson, aka "Dr Feelgood." Despite everything you're about to read, Jacobson was a legit doctor for many years. After fleeing Nazi Germany, however, he transitioned to spinning up drugshakes made from all manner of vitamins, painkillers, enzymes, and tranquilizers for the rich and famous, including Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis.
With these connections, it wasn't long before Jacobson and JFK found themselves in the same room. They got to talking, and eventually JFK opened up about his health and how his presidential campaign was slowly killing him. Jacobson responded by giving JFK one of his signature treatments, after which the man was born anew, feeling well enough to demolish Richard Nixon for the title.
After the election, JFK returned the favor by making Jacobson his pharma hookup. Whether he was at the White House or traveling overseas, Dr. Feelgood was there to help him feel ... good. Ohh, we get it. Not everyone was thrilled, however. After he refused to list the ingredients for his concoctions, the FBI "borrowed" an empty bottle in order to analyze the dregs, but the results were inconclusive. The Secret Service referred to Jacobson as the "bat wing and chicken blood doctor," while Hans Kraus (JFK's orthopedic surgeon) reportedly said, "No president with his finger on the red button has any business taking stuff."
JFK brushed off any and all criticism of his new friend drugs, to the point where it took some flat out blackmail from Kraus to get him unhooked from Jacobson. With help from White House Physician Admiral George Burkley, Kraus got JFK into intense physiotherapy in order to stimulate his back into healing naturally.
We hope you were all paying attention to the moral of this story, kids: Drugs might seem like a good idea when you're vulnerable, but that's only because they absolutely are, and you'll become so good at doing stuff that people will idolize you for decades. Wait ...
George H.W. Bush Warned White House Staff Not To Feed His Fat Dog
In February 1992, President George H.W. Bush issued a memo outing a member of his own family for living life a little too large at taxpayers expense. This individual, he said, was a lazy, no-good, refrigerator-hogging menace who wasn't pulling their weight -- and since it was now beginning to get a little embarrassing to be seen in their presence, decisive action was required to fix the problem. The individual in question? His dog, Ranger.
According to Bush, Ranger had put on so much weight since entering politics that he was now threatening to clog its revolving doggy door. So they placed him on a super strict "weight reduction program" and revoked his license to wander the corridors of power unabated. If Ranger wanted to go a-roving, said the memo, he would now require an escort to ensure he didn't try to guilt someone out of their lunch.
He did have free roam of Camp David, where staffers (which included the Marines) were instructed to snitch on anyone they caught feeding him. The memo didn't specify what the punishment for this infraction might be, but we get the feeling that it involved a parachute and orders to shove a grenade up Saddam Hussein's urethra.
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Henrietta Nesbitt's Cooking Was The Bane Of FDR's Presidency
The White House is second-to-none when it comes to fine dining. Cold fast food abounds, with congealing McChickens and rapidly expiring Whoppers as far as the eye can see. It wasn't always so good, however. At the height of the Great Depression, Eleanor Roosevelt wanted to use her platform as first lady to show the nation's housewives how they could do more with much, much less. To that end, she asked Henrietta Nesbitt, a baker from New York, to come aboard and create nutritious, delicious dishes for both the White House and the nation. There was only one slight problem: Her food sucked.
It wasn't that it was impossible to create good meals from low-cost ingredients; housewives all over the country had that down pat. It was that Eleanor and Henrietta were trying to make their menu the most fantastical thing to ever exist, which resulted in culinary abortions like spaghetti with boiled carrots, broiled kidney beans on toast, platters of bread and butter sandwiches, and oh so many dishes made from "Milkorno," a milk substitute made from dried skimmed milk and padded out with delicious, nutritious cornmeal.
The White House became so infamous for its awful cuisine that guests and visitors would pregame with food beforehand so they could get away with eating as little of the menu as possible. After spending an evening with FDR and Eleanor, Senator Hiram Johnson remarked in a letter that he'd been served "a very indifferent chowder, then some mutton served in slices already cut and which had become almost cold, with peas that were none too palatable, a salad of little substance and worse dressing, lemon pie, and coffee." In truth, however, the senator had dined on an entirely different menu of clam chowder, barbecued lamb, and chess tart. The kitchen had destroyed each item so badly that it was unrecognizable in taste, look, and smell.
As Lillian Rogers Parks, who worked as a maid under Nesbitt, remarked in her memoirs:
Much has been said about the bad food at the Roosevelt White House, and all of it is true ... Henrietta did not personally do the cooking, but she stood over the cooks, making sure that each dish was overcooked or undercooked or ruined one way or another.
Far from trying to improve, however, Nesbitt spent most her time involved in a passive-aggressive war against FDR himself. Whenever he would ask for a specific dish, she would nearly always serve him something else. When he requested chicken a la king for an inauguration dinner, she served chicken salad. When he requested that she not serve broccoli because he hated it, she refused to stop. When FDR fell ill and requested canned white asparagus, she lied and said she had none in her stores. After tiring of Nesbitt substituting his coffee with iced tea -- which is something only a monster would do -- FDR rebelled and arranged for a coffee machine installed on his own dime. Speaking of coffee ...
Related: The 5 Pettiest Abuses Of Power In Presidential History
Tom Hanks Is The Patron Saint Of The White House Press Corps
Quite understandably, the White House Press Corps drinks prodigious amounts of coffee. And the tab for this operational necessity wasn't being picked up by the government (because why would it be?) or the reporters' outlets (because there's no money in journalism these days). It's actually funded by ... Tom Hanks?
That's right, Hanks has been secretly bankrolling the White House Press Corps' coffee addiction since the George W. Bush administration. He noticed their "scaggy" coffee-making facilities while touring the joint in 2004, and subsequently sent them a brand-new espresso maker. It's since become a tradition that every six or seven years, Father Hanks sends the "poor slobs of the fourth estate" a top-of-the-line machine.
The device he sent them in 2017, for instance, was valued at $1,740. That might seem like an excessive amount to spend on a coffee machine, and you'd be right, but it's a price that Hanks is more than willing to pay. Especially given that in return, the media overlooks his famous addiction to and how he spends his nights .
Teddy Roosevelt Would Regularly Box People ... Until One Blinded Him
Teddy Roosevelt is basically Cracked's official meme, and despite what the company psychologist says, that's not because we lacked strong father figures growing up. It's because of his love of fisticuffs, how he shrugged off an assassin's bullet like it was a spit wad, his balls-to-the-wall-insane insistence (read: drunken lie) that he'd never been drunk, and his sheer everythingness.
There was no bigger believer in Teddy Roosevelt than Teddy Roosevelt himself. You don't do half the things he did with a defeatist attitude, after all. That said, there was that one time he got massively high on his own supply and wound up paying for it with his goddamn eye. See, Roosevelt loved boxing. So it was no big surprise when, after arriving in the White House, he ordered that the basement be converted into a dojo where he could train, fight, and oil himself to his heart's content. He fought everyone he could: random members of staff, government officials, foreign dignitaries, "husky young visitors," and when no one else was available, his wife.
His downfall, however, came when he arranged to tussle with Colonel Dan T. Meade, a visiting military aide. After several rounds of combat, Roosevelt attempted to KO Meade with a devastating left hook. Except he missed. Meade took the opening and counter-punched Roosevelt so hard in the face that he destroyed the vision in his left eye, leaving Roosevelt unable to continue boxing.
Roosevelt wasn't angry about the injury. He'd asked Meade for a tough fight, and he'd gotten one. In his memoirs, Roosevelt described how things could've been worse. If Meade had taken out his right eye, he would've been unable to continue shooting, and what would've been the point of living then? The episode also reminded Roosevelt that he was an older gent, and that, upon reflection, it was probably best that he gave up boxing. How did he fill his time from then on, you might wonder? He took up jiu-jitsu.
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