Five Other Rock-Star Presidents
One of the John McCain campaign's many unsuccessful tactics during the just-concluded race for the White House was to try to drive a wedge between Barack Obama and the nation's Joe the Plumbers - well before the actual Joe the Plumber joined Campaign 2008's plentiful supporting cast - by accusing him of being a "celebrity" and palling around with Paris Hilton. But while Obama bumping fists with the likes of Ludacris and Jay-Z may be new to the political arena, America's chief executives have a long, distinguished history of rock-star behavior. Enjoy Rocks Off's little off-color history lesson.
Andrew Jackson : Besides being the only 19th-century president to inspire a 20th-century No. 1 hit (Johnny Horton's "Battle of New Orleans," 1959), Old Hickory was one tough old bastard. Especially sensitive to slights against his wife Rachel's honor, Jackson - an early mentor of Sam Houston - fought several duels defending her, carrying around a slug near his heart for the rest of his life from one such encounter.
Regularly coughing up blood is pretty rock and roll, and according to Chris Wallace's 2005 book Character: Profiles in Presidential Courage, Jackson's body was riddled with so many souvenirs from his various duels "he rattled like a bag of marbles." Furthermore, when Jackson and Rachel (who died two weeks after he was elected president in 1828) married in 1791, her divorce from her first husband wasn't finalized yet.
Grover Cleveland: The 19th-century analogue to Bill Clinton, Cleveland was the only Democratic president to capture the White House between 1860 and 1912, serving nonconsecutive terms between 1885-'89 and 1893-'97. He also predicted Al Gore, winning the popular vote in the 1888 election as well. Carried out several hangings personally while sheriff of Erie County, N.Y.
Cleveland was elected president the first time despite his opponent's claim he fathered an illegitimate child while mayor of Buffalo - Cleveland did pay child support, though the actual father was never determined - and later married a 21-year-old while in office, officially making him the first Pimp President.
Teddy Roosevelt : First of all, Bull Moose is a pretty bitchin' name for a band, even today. But Teddy Roosevelt (who hated that nickname) also used to enjoy skinny-dipping in the Potomac River and once showed up to a White House with his arm in a sling due to an injury sustained in stick-fighting, one of the many martial-arts disciplines he mastered (just like Elvis).
On the stump in Milwaukee in 1912, plugged in the chest by an attempted assassin; refused to go to the hospital and delivered his 90-minute speech anyway. "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot," he told the crowd as blood oozed into his shirt. "But it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose."
Warren G. Harding: In his history of the 1920s Only Yesterday, late Harper's editor Frederick Lewis Allen called Harding's life "one of cheap sex episodes." The commander in chief used to bang his significantly younger mistress - who grew up idolizing him, pictures on the walls and everything - in a closet adjacent to the Oval Office, according to her 1927 book The President's Daughter.
The former newspaper publisher had quite the wandering eye: letters confirming his longtime affair with the wife of a friend in Marion, Ohio, surfaced in 1968 and are sealed under court order until 2023. Supposedly, when the Republican National Committee learned of the affair shortly before the 1920 election, they packed her and Harding's illegitimate child off to Japan with $50,000 in hush money.
Before he died in office in 1923 - under suspicious circumstances that led many to speculate, certainly not without reason, his wife had poisoned him (the book in her hand in the cartoon is Planning the Perfect Murder) - his administration was wracked by the Teapot Dome scandal, which included, among other things, the Interior Secretary convicted of bribery for giving oil leases (on public land) to his cronies, the first cabinet member ever sent to prison. The director of the Veterans Bureau went to jail for running an underground alcohol and drug distribution ring, and the whole affair culminated in several suicides.
Bill Clinton: Of course Bubba is on here. How could he not be? The Arsenio Hall appearance, Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" as his campaign song - though considering his turbulent marriage, "Go Your Own Way" might have been a better choice - the whole Paula Jones thing and of course The Cigar and The Stain. The Secret Service sure thought he was a rock star, assigning Clinton the code name "Elvis." - Chris Gray
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.