What you didn't know about the White House and the truly weird people who have lived there...
Painting the White House is a novel. None of the crazy stuff described in the book actually happened. But this page is devoted to the crazy stuff that actually did happen in the White House. So is fiction really stranger than truth?
Swimming Nude in the Potomac
President John Quincy Adams enjoyed swimming nude in the Potomac River. One time, a female news reporter followed him to the river and demanded an interview, sitting on his clothes until he agreed. Years later, President Lyndon Johnson was known to skinny-dip in the mansion's indoor swimming pool.
President Abraham Lincoln owned a dog named Fido. The dog suffered the same fate as Lincoln: he was assassinated (actually, stabbed to death by a drunk.) Lincoln also kept two pet goats in the White House, Nanny and Nanko. Nanny ran away, though, and was never found.
Before the Era of Robocalls...
The first telephone was installed in the White House during the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, who insisted on answering the phone himself. At the time, the telephone number for the White House was "1."
John Quincy Adams
Rutherford B. Hayes
He Married Yum-Yum
The only president married in the White House was Grover Cleveland, who wedded Frances Folsom in 1886. At the time, Cleveland was 49 and Folsom was 21. The US Marine Band, under the direction of John Philip Sousa, played at the reception. One of the songs the band played was "Oh, He's Going to Marry Yum-Yum" from The Mikado.
At Home With the Hardings
President Warren G. Harding kept a well-stocked bar of wines and liquors in the White House, even though Prohibition was very much in effect during his administration. (Talk about high crimes and misdemeanors!) Meanwhile, First Lady Florence Harding gave press interviews while in bed, often clad in a negligee as she spoke with reporters. Florence was also known to dispatch the White House chauffeur to pick up a clairvoyant for fortune-telling sessions in the Execuitive Mansion.
Asleep at the Wheel
William Howard Taft was the first president to own an automobile while in office. He enjoyed racing it along a paved road around the Tidal Basin, which soon earned the nickname "The Speedway." Taft, who weighed 340 pounds, was unable to fit into the White House bathtub. An oversized tub had to be installed for him. Meanwhile, he had a habit of falling asleep and snoring while working at his desk in the Oval Office.
William Howard Taft
Well, That's Not What the Raccoon Said...
Calvin Coolidge had a pet raccoon he named Rebecca. Coolidge could often be found on the White House grounds talking to his raccoon. He let the raccoon roam the White House halls during the day and had a small house built on the White House grounds for the animal to spend the night.
The Pink Lady
After moving into the White House Mamie Eisenhower had her bedroom redecorated in pink. She also wore pink pajamas and slept beneath pink sheets and blankets. When President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack and lived out the last months of his life in Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, Mamie moved into his hospital room. She had that room painted pink as well. She also had a pink telephone and pink toilet seat installed. As for the president, after suffering the heart attack his physicians held a press conference and announced that Eisenhower had successfully moved his bowels. The announcement deeply troubled the president.
Lights Out, Ladies
Lyndon Johnson economized by walking the halls of the White House late at night and turning off the lights. To turn off the lights in the women's restrooms, Johnson opened the doors and reached inside so he could flip off the switches but he never announced what he was doing. He would often turn off the lights on female staff members using the toilets.
Doobie on the Roof
Gerald Ford's children, Susan and Steve, entertained several pop stars in the White House during their father's 2 1/2 years as president. Among the stars who visited the White House during the Ford presidency were the Beach Boys, Peter Frampton, George Harrison, Billy Preston and Ravi Shankar. Later, during the Carter administration, Willie Nelson was rumored to have found his way to the roof of the White House, where he is alleged to have smoked a joint.
But They Didn't Have to Leave a Tip
When Jimmy Carter invited members of Congress to the White House for working breakfasts, he charged them $4.75 for their meals. Under previous administrations, members of Congress had eaten for free. Carter also economized by setting the White House thermostats at 65 degrees, Also, when Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter moved into the White House in 1977, they found the mansion containing 325 television sets and 22 FM radios. They got rid of most of them.
A Bit Tight in the Crotch
Ronald Reagan wanted to ride a horse in his first inaugural parade but was eventually talked out of the idea by the Secret Service. Still, a bit of thinking did go into the idea. The Secret Service developed a plan for the new president to wear a steel cowboy hat and bullet-proof underwear.
Make Sure She Washes Behind the Ears
George H.W. Bush occasionally took showers in the White House with his dog Millie.
George and Barbara Bush with Millie
Thinking About a Career Change?
Bill Clinton once encountered an air-conditioning repairman on the grounds of the White House and insisted on spending about a half-hour with the man as he worked on the White House ventilation system.
Too Cheap to Hire a Model?
George W. Bush took up painting when he left the White House. (Not house painting, the artistic stuff.) In 2013, some of his paintings surfaced on the Internet. Among those works of art were three nude self-portraits.
George W. Bush
Not a Fake Dump, a Real Dump
After Donald Trump moved into the White House the General Services Administration commenced a $3.4 million renovation of the mansion. Most of the money was spent on rebuilding the White House air-conditioning system. However, Trump also had a crystal chandelier and 60-inch flat-screen TV installed in his private dining room in the West Wing. Trump said he paid for the chandelier out of his own pocket. Also, soon after moving into the White House, Trump reportedly told his golf buddies, "That White House is a real dump."