Someone's got to have the distinction of being the heaviest president, and that honor goes to William Howard Taft. Taft varied in weight from 300 to more than 350 pounds (when he was depressed).
One day, William Howard Taft sat down in the presidential bathtub to soak off the stress of the day--and stayed there for longer than he had anticipated. He was stuck. It was an embarrassing thing to have happen, and as soon as he was rescued, he ordered an enormous personalized tub for himself. The J. L. Mott Iron Works made the tub to Taft's specifications and installed it in the White House. When it was being delivered, four White House staffers had their photograph taken--all four men fit comfortably inside the new tub.
"If you've seen one redwood tree, you've seen them all."
--President Ronald ReaganJohnny Rebel
John Tyler wasn't honored after his death on January 18, 1862, and no official word of his death was ever issued. Why? Because Tyler was considered a traitor in the North, even though he had been president of the United States.
On May 5, 1861, Tyler accepted a seat in the provisional congress of the Confederate States of America. A few months later he was elected to represent his congressional district in the permanent C.S.A. Congress. Tyler was truly a rebel and the only president to ever hold office in the Confederacy. When he died he even had a Confederate flag, not an American flag, draped over his casket. It wasn't until fifty years after the Civil War ended, in 1915, that the United States finally erected a memorial stone over his grave.
"I don't necessarily consider McDonald's junk food. You know, they have chicken sandwiches, they have salads . . ."
--Bill Clinton in 1993, defending his favorite fast-food chainA Story You Can Sink Your Teeth Into
The things we associate with George Washington are: He chopped down the cherry tree (which he didn't), he threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River (which he didn't; silver dollars weren't minted until four years before Washington's death--and besides, it would take a cannon to shoot a coin across the wide banks of the Potomac), and his dentures were made out of wood (which also isn't true).
Washington's dentures were, in fact, made out of hippopotamus ivory. A New York City dentist, John Greenwood, made President Washington several sets of dentures. Greenwood tried for years to save the last remaining tooth Washington had (the first bicuspid in his left lower jaw). In 1789, Greenwood made Washington's first set of dentures out of human teeth (not Washington's) fastened with gold rivets, with the remainder made of hippo ivory. Sadly, Greenwood had to extract the president's last remaining tooth in 1796; he had it encased in a gold locket and inscribed: "In New York 1790. Jn Greenwood made Pres Geo Washington a whole sett of teeth. The enclosed tooth is the last one which grew in his head."
Wow, some people will keep anything.Still Getting Lost in the Translation
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter visited Poland. Since he didn't speak the language, he brought along a translator. But, if one doesn't speak a foreign language, one is never sure what the interpreter is actually saying.
When Carter said to a gathering of officials and the press corps that he had "left the United States that day," his interpreter said he'd "abandoned" it. Carter made reference to the Poles' "desires for the future." His interpreter translated this as "lusts for the future." And, to top it all off, the interpreter explained to the confused but possibly aroused crowd: "The President says he is pleased to be here in Poland grasping your private parts."
If Carter had spoken to American voters that way he may have won a second term.Grant the Vegan
Although Ulysses S. Grant was known as a hard-drinking man's man and a fierce soldier, he became squeamish at the sight of animal blood. He rarely ate meat and when he did, it had to be cooked overdone. He couldn't even stand the thought of eating poultry. "I could never eat anything," he confessed, "that went on two legs." For breakfast, he usually ate a cucumber pickled in vinegar. The rest of the day he was usually pickled himself.
"Well, there doesn't seem to be anything else for an ex-president to do but go into the country and raise big pumpkins."
--Chester A. Arthur
At the time President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated the only money he had on his person was a five-dollar Confederate note.Take Me to Your Leader
Jimmy Carter is credited with a number of things: bringing together the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt; giving a heartfelt interview for Playboy; and being one of only two one-term presidents in recent history. (Bush was the other). He's also known for being the only president to have seen an unidentified flying object, or UFO.
About one year before he was elected governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter filed a detailed report of his sighting of a UFO over Leary, Georgia, on the evening of January 6, 1969. He was attending a meeting of the Lions Club and was standing outdoors with ten other members waiting for the meeting to begin. Around 7:30 p.m., Carter and the other men saw a distinctly outlined light in the sky. Carter said it appeared "bluish at first--then reddish--but not solid . . . It appeared as bright as the moon" and seemed to "move toward us from a distance, stop, move partially away, return, then depart."
He also wrote in the "sighting report" for the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City that he had observed the object for nearly twelve minutes, that it was completely silent and was approximately nine hundred yards away. "I'll never make fun of people who say they've seen unidentified objects in the sky," Carter said.
The truth is out there--and so are some of our presidents.
Excerpted from Presidential Indiscretions by Leland Gregory. Copyright © 1999 by Leland Gregory. Excerpted by permission of Dell, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.