“Lyndon Johnson was indeed …. a being of Shakespearean dimensions—a hulking, bush-country colossus, gargantuan of ego and energy, of self-delusions and glooms and paranoias, crass cruelties and rampant vulgarities, but gargantuan also in his benevolent ambitions.” So begins Marshall Frady’s review of Robert Caro’s 2002 political biography, Master Of The Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson. The review then proceeds to describe Johnson’s uncouth behavior, which somehow always seemed to involve his Johnson:
He early became fabled for a Rabelaisian earthiness, urinating in the parking lot of the House Office Building as the urge took him; if a colleague came into a Capitol bathroom as he was finishing at the urinal there, he would sometimes swing around still holding his member, which he liked to call “Jumbo,” hooting once, “Have you ever seen anything as big as this?,” and shaking it in almost a brandishing manner as he began discoursing about some pending legislation. At the same time, he would oblige aides to take dictation standing in the door of his office bathroom while he went about emptying his bowels, as if in some alpha-male ritual assertion of his primacy. Even on the floors of the House and Senate, he would extravagantly rummage away at his groin, sometimes reaching his hand through a pocket and leaning with half-lifted leg for more thorough access.
Above, we have a recording of another colorful episode from the Johnson era. On August 9, 1964, the president called the Haggar clothing company to order some custom-made pants. It was seemingly an innocuous call, a call you couldn’t imagine a president making today. But it suddenly took a bizarre turn when LBJ asked for more room in the crotch, in the area “where the nuts hang.” That, before letting out a short, unapologetic belch. It’s classic Johnson.
Listen to the famous call play out above, and find a transcript of the exchange here.