Bringing the party to the people

By KARA BASKIN  |  January 19, 2009

A similar incident is rumored to have occurred after ABRAHAM LINCOLN's second inauguration, but, of course, if you were married to an insane woman with 10 personalities, you'd probably binge drink, too. GROVER CLEVELAND, never known for self-control (he's best remembered for marrying the daughter of his law partner, who was nearly 30 years his junior), treated his ball guests to 150 gallons of lobster salad and 1300 quarts of ice cream. GEORGE WASHINGTON went slightly more low-key, topping off his inauguration with fireworks bankrolled by taxpayers.

Petty offenses
We like to think of our presidents as mature and humble statesmen, but truth is, they're just as catty as girls at a sorority mixer. En route to his inauguration in 1869, rumor has it that ULYSSES S. GRANT refused to ride in the same carriage as predecessor ANDREW JOHNSON. (Maybe he just wanted to hit the flask alone.) And sometimes the outgoing guy has given the cold shoulder to the new kid, as HERBERT HOOVER did to FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT while the two men rode together to the latter's 1933 moment in the sun.

while riding to his inauguration in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt, arguably our most loquacious leader, was given the cold shoulder by outgoing prez Herbert Hoover.

First ladies, too, have displayed less than diplomatic behavior. DWIGHT EISENHOWER's wife, Mamie, not known for mental stability (she was often seen wobbling in public, due to an "inner-ear problem," and she was addicted to the color pink), invited Jackie Kennedy to tour the White House shortly before her husband took office. Jackie had recently given birth and could hardly walk. Pregnancy be damned, Mamie allegedly marched Mrs. Kennedy through the entire mansion and instructed her staff to hide her wheelchair behind a door. Ever regal, Kennedy managed to endure the tour and later collapsed into her station wagon, either fatigued or shocked by Mamie's atrocious taste in home dûcor.

Party poopers
Some West Wingers are West Swingers. Remember Clinton wailing on the sax at one of his inaugural balls? Or Bush the Elder strumming an electric guitar alongside doppelgänger Dana Carvey? Other presidents, though, were about as exciting as back-seat sex with Ralph Nader.

FRANKLIN PIERCE altogether eschewed the idea of a ball because he was mourning the death of his son. Fair enough. But undead zombie CALVIN COOLIDGE opted out of inaugural balls in 1925 — just because he was so damn boring. WOODROW WILSON canceled all inaugural balls in 1913 because he thought the whole custom was too opulent. Oh Woody, live a little! WARREN G. HARDING also requested that the inaugural committee do away with the elaborate ball (and the parade as well) in 1921, hoping to set an example of thrift and simplicity. He then swindled people out of millions during the Teapot Dome Scandal.

Meanwhile, a fight broke out at one of Grant's 1869 balls when not enough food was served. At his next ball, in 1873, 100 canaries imported to sing at the event ended up freezing to death. They were buried next to William Henry Harrison.

A brawl also ruined the Whig-sponsored Grand Inaugural Ball of ZACHARY TAYLOR, due to crowds spilling over capacity in the makeshift wooden shelter erected for the party. A mob scene broke out when the soirûe ended, and then-congressman Lincoln lost his hat in the fracas. (He later helped organize two subsequent balls for Taylor.)

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