DUMBO writer’s book focuses on presidents’ carousing and drinking
The presidency is the most powerful, dignified office in the nation and, arguably, the world. But the men who have inhabited it? In some ways, that’s another story.
From the mobbed, drunken inauguration of Andrew Jackson to the love letters of Warren G. Harding to his mistress, to the martini-fueled fumbles of Gerald Ford, “Party Like a President: True Tales of Inebriation, Lechery, and Mischief from the Oval Office,” by Brian Abrams (Workman; February 2015), exposes a White House under the influence.
Humor writer Abrams, who resides in DUMBO, takes readers on an irreverent — and well-researched — tour through the hard-partying antics of America’s leaders: illicit affairs, drunken escapades, secret pill habits and more. John Mathias, whose work has appeared in The Washington Post and The New York Times, has illustrated the book with portraits, infographics and comic strips throughout.
There’s George Washington, who plowed through three to four glasses of Madeira wine during lunch. Ulysses S. Grant had a reputation for riding drunk into battle — and once vomited all over his horse. FDR threw toga parties but was notoriously bad at mixing cocktails. During the early Cold War era, Harry Truman threw back an ounce of Old-Granddad each morning “to get the engine going.”
Who could forget the infamous (and unknown during his presidency) sexcapades of JFK? Gerald Ford enjoyed a drink or two on virtually every Air Force One flight and once, while enjoying martinis with the press corps in Vail, stuck his foot in a wheel of brie — and never noticed. And after George H. W. Bush vomited at a televised state dinner in Japan, “Bushusuru,” meaning “to do the Bush thing,” became part of the Japanese nightlife lexicon.
Don’t forget the first ladies! If there was someone who could rival the presidents’ partying ways, it was Dolley Madison, the vivacious entertainer who made the White House a social hotspot.
And because no book about drinking would be complete without cocktail recipes, each presidential profile is accompanied by a drink inspired by the president. They include concoctions like persimmon beer, mint juleps, meringue-and-Roman punch and many more.
Entertaining and brash, “Party Like a President” reminds us that the great men in the Oval Office are just like us: flawed and in need of a stiff drink after a long day.
Abrams is the author of “AND NOW … An Oral History of ‘Late Night with David Letterman,’ 1982-1993.”
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