15 Weirdo Habits of U.S. Presidents
It takes a certain kind of personality to think, “You know who should be in charge of the free world? Me.” As a result, it’s very rare that some normal, boring dude ends up in the Oval Office for anything but a photo op, and some of our presidents have taken their eccentricities to impressive, occasionally greasy heights.
John Quincy Adams’s Skinny Dipping
Adams liked to start every day at five in the morning, whereupon he walked two miles to the Potomac River, took off all his clothes, and jumped in. It was so well known around Washington that the first woman to interview a president got her scoop by stealing his clothes and refusing to give them back.
Andrew Jackson’s Cockfights
Jackson was a big fan of cockfighting and held fights frequently at his Tennessee estate and even a few times in the White House, or so it was rumored. These days, of course, the cockfights are more metaphorical.
Martin Van Buren’s Loaded Tie-Breakers
As vice president, Van Buren always brought an extremely visible pair of loaded pistols into the senate assemblies over which he presided, “claiming it was a precaution against the frequent outbursts of violence.” Apparently, the senate was way more exciting back then.
Van Buren’s Charcoal Water
Perhaps because he was perpetually prepared to rain down bullets on his legislative branch, Van Buren tended to get tummy aches. Since Alka Seltzer hadn’t been invented yet, he treated them with a mixture of water, soot, and charcoal.
Zachary Taylor’s Spitting Talents
Taylor treated chewing tobacco as a sport, priding himself on his ability to hit a target across great distances without so much as a drop of errant spatter. This almost certainly caused his opponents to tremble before him, though probably not for the reason he thought.
Ulysses S. Grant Went to Great Lengths to Avoid Blood
Speaking of charcoal, if you were disgusted by Trump’s well-done steak, you’d hate to share a table with Ulysses S. Grant. The former general became so averse to the sight of blood that he refused to eat meat unless it was charred to a crisp.
Teddy Roosevelt’s Great Heights
Teddy Roosevelt had a number of extracurricular activities -- hunting, sporting, general manning -- but the most unusual was probably his fondness for stilts. He liked to amble around the White House from great heights, because what are you gonna do? Tell Teddy Roosevelt he’s being weird?
Calvin Coolidge’s Electric Horse
After Coolidge was sworn in, the Secret Service made him give up horseback riding, which gave him such a pout that a doctor friend rigged up a replacement. Coolidge rode his electric horse in the White House three times a day, insisting it was somehow good for the liver.
Coolidge’s Vaseline Scalp Massages
Coolidge had some strange ideas about health in general. He also had petroleum jelly rubbed on his head every morning while he ate breakfast for vague but definitely dubious reasons.
Apparently, Herbert Hoover sucked at tennis, leading his doctor to invent a game that “required less skill” but “was faster and more vigorous and therefore gave more exercise in a short time.” “Hooverball” was a combination of tennis, volleyball, and medicine ball that Hoover’s friends had to play with him every morning except Sunday, when they were given the day off from looking weird.
Johnson Didn’t Care Who Heard (or Saw) Him Pee
Lyndon B. Johnson was notoriously unprivate about his private parts, but that extended to their function as well. He thought nothing of taking interviews in the bathroom and was known to pee in a parking lot when nature (but not decency) called.
Nixon’s Horrifying Diet
The president has access to pretty much any kind of food they want, so Nixon’s diet was the best hint we had to his psychopathic nature. He ate cottage cheese with ketchup for breakfast every morning, cucumber mousse for lunch, and relatively normal dinners that were ruined with desserts of baked grapefruit.
Reagan Used Astrology to Make Decisions
As America’s most Californian president, Ronald Reagan was naturally into astrology, to the point that he consulted his personal astrologer before scheduling important events. The media was not any less weirded out by this in the ‘80s, forcing him to deny that astrology played any role in his policy decisions.
Clinton’s McDonald’s Jogs
If there’s anything Clinton was known for, it was being an old dog -- who can’t learn new tricks, of course. After he was elected, he refused to give up his impressively balanced routine of jogging to McDonald’s, which was a nightmare for Secret Service agents. Have you ever tried to do your job on the literal run?
Biden Eats Like a Baby
Much has been made of his love of ice cream and not enough of his snack packs. Apparently, Biden’s “must-have food staples” are ketchup, peanut butter, and jelly, and he takes a lunch box to meetings, usually containing “a protein bar, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a travel-size orange Gatorade.” Thankfully, we’re not currently in any wars, because it’s impossible to be intimidated by a man drinking a Capri Sun.
Top image: Michael Evans/Wikimedia Commons