You might be lucky enough to have gazed upon the famous photo of Elvis and Richard Nixon that looks more like a post from a Tumblr dedicated to Photoshopping unconnected historical figures than an official White House photo. The verifiable legitimacy of this snapshot hints at the peculiar anecdotes and strange Richard Nixon facts that often get obscured behind weightier fare like his escalation of the Vietnam War or the Saturday Night Massacre.
Nixon was the 37th President, in office between 1969-1974. He is most remembered for his resignation after the Watergate scandal, but take a dive into these true tidbits from Richard Nixon's biography, America’s own Tricky Dick - the only President to have ever quit - to learn about the Nixon that wasn't totally defined by the Watergate scandal.
Was there not a certain cadence to the phrase “I’m not a crook?” Not really, but give the free verse poetry of Richard Nixon a gander. He didn't exactly set out to become a poet. Jack S. Margolis lifted the verses from reflective, stream-of-consciousness moments in the Watergate Tapes. They were published in a paperback collection in 1974. The minimalist, song-like verse of this fan-favorite history villain is actually sensitive and poignant.
As you lose yourself in his meditations on mortality and the precariousness of emotional disclosure, you’d swear he wasn't the same guy who blurted out “[sure], Aristotle was a homo. We all know that. So was Socrates” in those same tapes. The collection was well received at the time, and, as recently as 2014, one Amazon reviewer called the poems “the essence of the man’s angst" and gave the collection five stars.
In the summer of 1938, there was a surplus of oranges in California, and one Richard Nixon saw this surplus as a potential business opportunity – he thought he just was the man to squeeze ‘em and freeze ‘em. As a result, the CitriFrost frozen orange juice company was born. There were, however, several missteps in the company’s execution of their product. For one, Nixon and his associates opted to freeze the juice itself, instead of the longer-lasting and flavor-preserving concentrate. They also transported the product in plastic bags that would easily bust.
But Nixon was not just the idea man behind this calamity of a business venture, he also spent hours cutting and squeezing oranges himself. It’s quite the image of a future President, desperately making orange juice in a hot California warehouse as he tries to squeeze momentum into his business. He failed. CitriFrost went bankrupt after 18 months, and Nixon called it quits, something he would never do again. Oh wait...
There are many ways to get the girl of your dreams. To win the heart of the fair Patricia Ryan, Nixon knew he would need to apply a certain level of strategic attrition (great practice for later political campaigns!). Nixon was a clever young buck, but his crooked nose and chubby Buddha cheeks were no match for the other men who also courted Pat (described locally as quite the "hot dish").
Nixon and Pat met as castmates in a local California production of Dark Shadows. Young Dick managed to drive Pat home after a few rehearsals, but then he proceeded to backtrack significantly when he was struck with a bad case of word vomit. The third night he drove her home he had the audacity to proclaim "[someday] I'm going to marry you," and Patricia laughed in response.
It's fun, however, to imagine the next two years of Nixon’s romantic pursuit playing out as a slapstick cinematic montage with the bumbling melodies of circus music playing. Shots include: Nixon talking to Pat every day after practice even when it’s clear she wants to go meet another fella; Nixon driving her to and from the dates with said other fellas; and Nixon tagging along on her ice skating outings. Quick cuts of Nixon falling many, many times and getting quite bloody – for he was afraid of ice skating and very bad at it – are interspersed throughout.
It must have gotten cute (?). Pat grew fond of dorky Dick and said yes when he proposed to her in the spring of 1940. By all accounts, their marriage was a happy one that played out until the rare “death do us part.”
Plenty of people experience sleeping trouble for any number of legitimate and illegitimate reasons. Nixon, however, often could not sleep because – at any given moment – American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians were indirectly dying by his hand. In his time as President, Nixon developed extreme insomnia, quelled by alcohol, which led to more insomnia, which led to a destructive cycle that sometimes resulted in his inability to attend to his job in times of crisis.
During a conflict known as the Yom Kippur War (Israel vs. Syria and Egypt), the US discovered that the Soviet Union was aiding Egypt with nuclear warheads. This was extremely hazardous because the rising tensions between the US and the Soviets could not explode in a worse place than the tumultuous Middle East. The global nuclear alert level needed to be raised to one rung below imminent nuclear war, but Nixon’s aides were unable to get him sober enough to be of any help. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had to take the lead, and, luckily, he was able to negotiate quickly enough – before the Soviets realized the USA was making decisions without their leader.