Ain’t no party like a political party!
A Dumbo author has written a book detailing the partying habits of United States presidents, which he will launch at neighborhood bookstore PowerHouse Arena on Feb. 10. “Party Like a President: True Tales of Inebriation, Lechery, and Mischief From the Oval Office” is an illustrated collection of 44 essays on presidential excess — but it isn’t all coke and interns, he said.
“Some of them drank, some of them took pills, some had a lot of sex,” said Brian Abrams. “For the most part it’s a look at presidential vices, but for those that didn’t indulge, I use the opportunity to talk about why they didn’t.”
Do not ask Abrams to name the hardest-partying president. Groaning audibly when forced to pick a front-runner, he explained that the habits of presidents first can be broken down into general categories — think lechery, drunkenness, pill-popping — and then require historical context.
For instance, Ulysses S. Grant reportedly vomited into his horse’s mane during battle, but a critical view of his drunkenness should be tempered by the fact that doctors had prescribed him liquor for his chronic headaches, Abrams said. And in other periods the culture at large was just downright boring.
“There was nothing particularly interesting about Bush Senior, in part because the drinking culture sucked back then,” he said.
(The first Bush famously vomited on a group of Japanese dignitaries, but he may have had the flu.)
But when pressed, Abrams nominated a few favorites. The honorable mention for drunkest president goes to Grover Cleveland — based mostly on his size and the assumption that he would have had to drink more than his competitors — but Abrams singled out Lyndon B. Johnson for style. Johnson was known to cruise around his ranch with a styrofoam cup full of booze, and he would turn press conferences in the hill country of Texas into whisky-soaked barbecues, Abrams said.
“He would just chug Cutty Sark while showing people around, and when he stuck his cup out the window his men would know to come give him a refill,” he said. “Bush tried to cast himself as this rancher, but LBJ really did come from a poor, authentic, Texas family.”
Originally from Texas himself, Abrams moved to New York in 2007 to write for Heeb, a satirical magazine aimed at a youthful Jewish audience. Broadly speaking he is a humor writer, he said, but his work is squarely in the realm of journalism. In the process of penning “Party Like a President,” he spent two years immersed in biographies, pouring over historical documents, and interviewing historians and museum curators.
Not content to use words alone to drag the Office of the President through the mud of history, Abrams also teamed up with illustrator John Mathias to pepper the book with cartoons, drawings, and visual cues to give the reader a vivid portrait of our nation’s presidential debauchery. They also included cocktail recipes inspired by the different presidents and their vices.
Brian Abrams and John Mathias launch “Party Like a President” at PowerHouse Arena [37 Main St. between Water and Front streets in Dumbo, (718) 666–3049, www.powerhousearena.com]. Feb. 10 at 7 pm. Free.