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How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies, and Their Lovers Changed the Coure of American History

by Larry Flynt & David Eisenbach

Pub Date: April 26th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-230-10503-4
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Of prurient politicians and pulsating presidents.

Having earned renown as a pornographer and as a champion of First Amendment rights, Flynt moves onto slightly more scholarly turf by recruiting professor Eisenbach (American History/Columbia Univ.) to the cause of studying all the naughty stuff about our leaders. The result is something of a set of salacious index cards, not really connecting to anything except passing the test—presumably, that test being the reader’s ability to titillate an audience at the next cocktail party with juicy details about Dolley Madison’s derriere and Eleanor Roosevelt’s fondness for Sapphic threesomes. What’s that, you say? Well, Dolley was known in her time for bestowing kisses and much, much more on the powerful men of her day, calming down just a little after marrying future president and well-known drag James Madison. But, but, a reader familiar with those fine denizens of Montpelier and the Executive Mansion will object, that’s not true. Right, admit the authors: “Although the tales of Dolley’s rampant promiscuity are not true, the story of how they got started provides insight into how this one woman rocked the political world of the young Republic.” And so most of this book is a collection of saucy gossip guaranteed to thrill an impressionable eighth-grader. The authors’ general strategy is to present this gossip as fact—for how could one sell dirty stories about Lincoln, Eleanor, and even J. Edgar otherwise—and only then to backpedal to what everyone knows, which is that Bill Clinton was a horndog, James Buchanan a walker on the wild side, J. Edgar a walker in women’s pumps, etc.

Meh. If you’re not up on the sex life of, say, Millard Fillmore, then you might learn a thing or two here. Otherwise, this book mostly titters and snickers at the back of the class.