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10 Unexpected Duties Performed by the Secret Service

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Being a Secret Service agent isn't as action-packed as they make it seem in the movies. It's a lot of observation and surveillance, sure, but the President and his family have the power to ask their protection staff to do just about anything—including serving as a urinal. Yup... these 10 menial tasks are a long shot from car chases and running down would-be assassins.

1. Lost & Found

Calvin Coolidge made eight of his secret service people search for a lost boot once. It happened to be just as they were headed out the door to successor Herbert Hoover's inauguration; it nearly made them all late.

2. Workout Buddy

This wasn't the first odd request from Silent Cal. His chief form of exercise was riding an electric horse he kept in the White House; he often requested that his Secret Service agents join him in his workout.

3. Interior Designer

JFK allegedly made his secret service squad visit a gallery in D.C. to have pictures of himself framed—pictures of himself in unusual sexual positions with various women. The owner of the gallery came forward in the book The Dark Side of Camelot.

4. Scapegoat

Gerald Ford blamed his farts on his secret service people, conspicuously saying things like, "Jesus, was that you? Show some class!"

5. Bouncer

Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously kept his disability under wraps, always striving to downplay his physical ailments. As a result, his Secret Service agents found themselves serving as paparazzi bruisers—when they spotted photographers snapping pictures of FDR in a position they knew he wouldn't appreciate (being carried by other Secret Servicemen, for example), they confiscated the cameras or made sure they were knocked to the ground and "accidentally" destroyed.

6. Wingman

Presidents who used their Secret Service detail to keep their wives at bay when their mistresses were in town included FDR, LBJ, and JFK. Lest you think it's something about those initialed Presidents, we can probably assume Bill Clinton did the same thing.

7. Urinal

Lyndon B. Johnson once asked a Secret Serviceman to shield him while he peed outside, but that's not the strange part—LBJ apparently purposely peed on the agent's trouser leg. When the agent mentioned how gross that was, LBJ was unapologetic, apparently saying, "I know. That's my prerogative."

8. Gardener

We don't know for sure what "keep the landscape from interfering with security" means, but when this $12,000-a-year charge showed up on Nixon's service detail, the press jumped on it, alleging that taxpayer money was being used to make sure that Nixon's tulips were being watered regularly. Hmm.

9. Babysitter

Aiding and abetting underage drinkers surely isn't on the Secret Service job description, but that's exactly what they did in 2001 when the Bush twins, Barbara and Jenna used fake IDs to go out on the town in Austin, Texas, and order margaritas when they were just 19. Aware of what was happening, the Secret Service whisked the girls away before they could be arrested. However, they were later cited for the offense.

10. Bellhop

Jimmy Carter liked to ask his Secret Service detail to carry bags for him. They complained that being loaded down with his luggage seriously hindered their ability to quickly react if Carter should need unexpected help; the president eventually relented.

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Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo
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History
The Funky History of George Washington's Fake Teeth
Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo
Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo

George Washington may have the most famous teeth—or lack thereof—in American history. But counter to what you may have heard about the Founding Father's ill-fitting dentures, they weren't made of wood. In fact, he had several sets of dentures throughout his life, none of which were originally trees. And some of them are still around. The historic Mount Vernon estate holds the only complete set of dentures that has survived the centuries, and the museum features a video that walks through old George's dental history.

Likely due to genetics, poor diet, and dental disease, Washington began losing his original teeth when he was still a young man. By the time he became president in 1789, he only had one left in his mouth. The dentures he purchased to replace his teeth were the most scientifically advanced of the time, but in the late 18th century, that didn't mean much.

They didn't fit well, which caused him pain, and made it difficult to eat and talk. The dentures also changed the way Washington looked. They disfigured his face, causing his lips to noticeably stick out. But that doesn't mean Washington wasn't grateful for them. When he finally lost his last surviving tooth, he sent it to his dentist, John Greenwood, who had made him dentures of hippo ivory, gold, and brass that accommodated the remaining tooth while it still lived. (The lower denture of that particular pair is now held at the New York Academy of Medicine.)

A set of historic dentures
George Washington's Mount Vernon

These days, no one would want to wear dentures like the ones currently held at Mount Vernon (above). They're made of materials that would definitely leave a bad taste in your mouth. The base that fit the fake teeth into the jaw was made of lead. The top teeth were sourced from horses or donkeys, and the bottom were from cows and—wait for it—people.

These teeth actually deteriorated themselves, revealing the wire that held them together. The dentures open and shut thanks to metal springs, but because they were controlled by springs, if he wanted to keep his mouth shut, Washington had to permanently clench his jaw. You can get a better idea of how the contraption worked in the video from Mount Vernon below.

Washington's Dentures from Mount Vernon on Vimeo.

There are plenty of lessons we can learn from the life of George Washington, but perhaps the most salient is this: You should definitely, definitely floss.

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Pop Culture
11 Famous Men Who Used to Be Cheerleaders
Darren McCollester/Newsmakers/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Darren McCollester/Newsmakers/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When cheerleading was “born” on November 2, 1898, it looked a lot different than it does today. There were no tiny outfits, no wild stunts and—surprise!—no women. University of Minnesota student Johnny Campbell rallied a football crowd with the ad-libbed cheer, "Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-So-Tah!” and unwittingly became the father of cheerleading. (The school, by the way, still uses Campbell’s original cheer to this day.)

Soon after Campbell’s performance, the University of Minnesota organized a six-man “yell squad” and other colleges followed suit. Women didn’t really enter the picture until 1923. Although male cheerleaders are the minority today, there was a time when they were the vast—and loud—majority. Here are 11 famous examples of them.

1. GEORGE W. BUSH

Future president George W. Bush wasn't just a cheerleader at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts in the 1960s: he was head cheerleader. And he’s in good company ...

2. AARON SPELLING

Aaron Spelling may have made his name behind the scenes as one of television's most prolific—and successful—producers, but he was front and center when he was head cheerleader at Southern Methodist University.

3. JIMMY STEWART


Getty Images

Iconic actor Jimmy Stewart was also head cheerleader during his tenure at Princeton.

4. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

When he was no longer able to play football at West Point, Eisenhower decided to continue supporting his team by cheerleading instead.

5. FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

FDR cheered for Harvard football in 1904, notably rallying the crowd for a particularly heated game against Brown.

6. SAMUEL L. JACKSON

Samuel L. Jackson lent his legendary voice to the squad at Riverside High in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

7. STEVE MARTIN


NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

Steve Martin tried to write cheers for the squad he was on, but has said “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs” didn’t go over too well.

8. TRENT LOTT

Former Mississippi senator Trent Lott was a cheerleader at Ole Miss.

9. RONALD REAGAN


Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Ronald Reagan cheered on his basketball team at Eureka College in Illinois.

10. AND 11. KIRK DOUGLAS AND MICHAEL DOUGLAS

Before he was an actor, Kirk Douglas honed his performance skills as a cheerleader at Amsterdam High School in Amsterdam, New York. As with acting, Kirk's son Michael also followed in his dad's footsteps in cheerleading; he was on the squad at Choate.

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