HOT DOGS IN THE COLD WAR (1945 - 1990):

HARRY S TRUMAN, FDR's successor, was spotted eating a hot dog and drinking a Coke when he was nominated to become FDR's Vice President as reported by Alistair Cooke.

DWIGHT DAVID EISENHOWER: WWII General Dwight D. Eisenhower (Ike) was our 34th President and his most notable contribution to Hot Dog History was when he remarked "Some people wanted champagne and caviar when they should have had beer and hot dogs."

It was also during the Eisenhower Presidency that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev made his famous trip to the United States where he promised to "bury us", pounded his shoe on the podium at the United Nations and had his first hot dog in Iowa in 1959. Khrushchev remarked, "We have beaten you to the moon" (a Soviet spacecraft had struck the moon one week before), "but you have beaten us in sausage making."

JOHN F KENNEDY, our 35th President, who, once, while Jackie served hot dogs to their guests on a yacht, the President teased "This is history in the making; 'The First Lady, with the elegance and dignity of The White House hostess she is, serving the humble hot dog to her distinguished guests at sea..."

There are also several reported instances of JFK using the Great American pleasures of baseball and hot dogs to distract himself from the tensions of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

A quote from an article of the time: "When the news broke, the President was getting ready to throw out the first baseball of the season and eat a hot dog. How American. How embarrassing. The space race was getting more complex, with men beginning to ride those dangerous rockets. But Kennedy relished the challenge and, indeed, the danger. So did America."

Then there's The JFK Memorial Hot Dog Eating Contest in Dealy Plaza in Dallas. According to founder Joey Parrish "The JFK Memorial Hotdog Eating Contest was founded after we met a street vendor at Dealey Plaza who could have easily been LBJ's twin. His name was Bill. Bill had a heart attack soon after and quit the business. Coincidence? Maybe we just got too close to LBJ's secret. Since then, we go to Dealey Plaza once a year to eat a hotdog in celebration of Mr. Kennedy, the once and future President". See Link 1 (below).

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, besides being the 36th President of the United States, was the Senate Majority Leader, Kennedy's Vice President and, after serving out his first full term as President after JFK's assassination, decided not to run for election for a second term, during the height of the Viet Nam war.

LBJ had several heart attacks and blamed his first one (while he was the Senate Majority Leader) on the hot dog he had had for lunch: "Lyndon began experiencing severe pain in his chest and midsection. He remembered thinking it was indigestion, perhaps the cantaloupe and hot dog he had wolfed down at lunch..." (Footnote 1)

And on his first trip to the Pedernales to brief LBJ, (Henry) Kissinger was given a tour that led him to believe the former President had him confused with West German Chancellor Kurt Kiesinger. "This was Commanche territory" LBJ told him. "You know, you Germans were great Indian fighters". Passing some picnic tables, LBJ pointed out he had them installed along the roadside instead of hot dog stands "because you Germans love picnics". (Footnote 2)

Then there's LBJ's Pedernales River Chili, which was tailored to President Johnson after his first heart attack. It is known as "Pedernales River chili" after the location of his Texas Hill Country ranch. LBJ preferred venison in his chili as did his doctor, because it is lean and fat-free and leaves out the traditional beef suet and adds tomatoes and onions. First Lady Lady Bird Johnson had it printed up on cards as a mail-out because of the many thousands of requests the White House received for the recipe.

Finally, is it my old, tired eyes or is that LBJ standing behind Khrushchev in that photo of the Soviet leader having his first hot dog in Des Moines?

RICHARD M NIXON was our 37th President and resigned under threat of impeachment from the Watergate scandal during his second term, which he had won by a landslide.

When staffer Egil Krogh told Virginia Knauer, adviser on consumer affairs, to feel free to speak out in favor of a lower fat limit in hot dogs, her comments caused a major stir with one of the Washington, D.C. papers running the headline: “Major Administration Shift on Weenie.” The president’s now-famous lines: “Stick to your guns, Virginia. I’m behind you 100 percent. I come from humble origins. Why, we were raised on hot dogs and hamburgers. We’ve got to look after the hot dog.”

GERALD FORD: Although our 38th President played college football and was known for his athletic abilities, a stumble here (boarding a plane), a faux pas there, means he'll very likely be remembered as comedian Chevy Chase's Commander in Klutz. One of his more memorable errors was when he tried a tamale in Texas and as he'd obviously never had one before, started to eat the corn husk it was wrapped in as well...

And daughter Susan Ford was the only Presidential daughter to have her prom in The White House but her 18th birthday party was her favorite, with a band from Vail, her home away from home, hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on the South Lawn, beer in plastic cups and they watched the 4th of July fireworks from the Truman balcony. (Footnote 3)

Then there's the memo from advisor Bob Mead to staffers Rumsfeld & Cheney (where have we heard those names before?) concerning radio and television coverage in the 1976 election, where they were advised to pass up on the normal campaign strategies of kissing babies and not to "stop and eat hot dogs on the street corner" believing such activities were beneath the man already occupying The Oval Office. Needless to say, Ford lost to the peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia...

JAMES EARL (Jimmy) CARTER was our 39th President as well as Governor of Georgia, a profitable peanut farmer and sold hot dogs and peanuts as a boy (no wonder I liked him well enough to vote for him). And First Lady Rosalynn Carter served hot dogs at a White House picnic in 1977.

President Reagan and Bill Milliken

RONALD REAGAN: Early in the Reagan years, one of his aides (Michael Deaver, if memory serves us) sniffed "There'll be no hot dogs served in The White House". Needless to say, we (The Hot Dog Hall Of Fame) took this remark personally and fired off a letter to Mr. Reagan, inviting him to stop by for a hot dog the next time he's in California. We also reminded the President of Rockefeller's Dictum. Several months went by and then we got a letter back from The White House saying '...the President regrets he'll be unable to attend...' We were pleasantly surprised (how many people get a letter from the highest office in the land?) but the real fun had only started. The very next day, USA Today carried a full color front page photo of Nancy and the Washington DC area Campfire Girls chowing down on hot dogs (below). And later, they actually served hot dogs in The White House, at least once...

GEORGE H W BUSH: "In 1972, Nixon summoned Bush from the U.N. to assume the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee. As the Watergate scandal engulfed Nixon, Bush worked hard to reduce the damage to the party. His efforts won him the friendship of Gerald Ford, who in 1974 named Bush chief of the U.S. liaison office in Peking. In that lonely outpost, Bush and his wife Barbara—their five children remained in the U.S. - have with their informal manner made friends among the Chinese. They take bicycle tours around the city, play tennis at the international tennis club, and give hamburger and hot-dog parties on the grounds of the American compound. When the message arrived from Gerald Ford asking him to take over the CIA, Bush was out bicycling". (Footnote 4)

The elder Bush was also noted for what he called his "hot dog fry". (Footnote 5)

And George H W Bush was one of the 3 presidents to have visited The Varsity Drive-In in Atlanta (the other 2 were Jimmy Carter & Bill Clinton).

Most recently, Mr. Bush attended a hot dog and hamburger lunch with France's new President, Nicolas Sarkozy (and the current President, his son George W Bush) at the Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON (AKA THE HOT DOG PRESIDENT) had a well known appetite for junk food (stopping by McDonald's during his morning jog, complete with Secret Service detail, etc) which surfaced early on in his Presidency. Unfortunately, we have no evidence of him actually having a hot dog during the early days although there are numerous pictures and reports of the President eating burgers, BBQ, donuts, etc. However, never passing up a chance to shamelessly promote ourselves, we (The Hot Dog Hall Of Fame), wrote him a letter inviting Mr. Clinton to stop by for a hot dog. Of course, he never took us up on our offer but the fun thing is the letter we got back from The White House. It was signed by the Clinton Appointments Secretary, William Webster IV, a possible distant relative of ours.

President Clinton at a BBQ stand

Then there's the song "The Hot Dog President" by Big Al Jano and The Blues Mafia, celebrating Mr. Clinton's other "hot dog", if you catch our drift. See Link 2 (below).

Finally, we recently discovered a photograph of Mr. Clinton chowing down at Iceland's most famous weenie stand (above).