Author David Eisenbach on working with Larry Flynt and gay Presidential sex scandals
In their book, One Nation Under Sex, Larry Flynt and David Eisenbach are looking for high profile sex scandals that the history books might have missed. That might sound like a book filled with hearsay and smut, but the purpose isn't so much to bring down our nation's leaders, but to humanize them and see what impact their sex lives had on their decision making. What results is a surprisingly entwined version of history where a single affair can ignite an entire war. Both authors will be at the Tattered Cover LoDo tonight to lecture and answer questions. We caught up with David Eisenbach to ask a few of our own.
Westword: Can you start with talking about how you came to this project?
David Eisenbach: I had done a show for the History Channel about the sex lives of presidents called "The Beltway Unbuckled," and Mr. Flynt is a big History Channel fan -- so he sees the show and he gives me a call out of the blue and says, "I have a business proposition for you, when can you come to Los Angeles?"
So, you know, Larry Flynt calls -- he didn't elaborate on it -- I flew to L.A. on the next flight and he asked me if we wanted to write a book with him. It was one of those crazy things that life throws at you and you just have to say yes.
WW: In the introduction of the book, you talk about how you wanted to be careful with information you were releasing -- was it difficult to keep rumors out and were there a lot of them?
DE: Yeah, there is always the juicy story that kind of turns out to be from an unreliable source. There was a lot of stuff on George W. Bush that we decided not to go with. What we were very concerned about was making sure the book was as solid as can be so that people wouldn't look at it and dismiss it.
WW: I'm guessing you're not going to give me those George W. Bush details -- but what kind of flags made you decide not to run with a source?
DE: As you get closer to today's politics, the level of care has to be greater -- I mean legally too -- we had lawyers go through the book and take things out. It would put us on difficult ground if someone called us out and we felt like it would distract from the book. We wanted to write a serious history, not a political book.
WW: What was the most surprising or outrageous thing you came across?
DE: It was really delving into President James Buchanan and his personal life and romantic relationships with Senator William Rufus King. So, they have this 32 year long love affair and what shocked me was how well-known and accepted it was in Washington society. We found all these diary entries and letters from people in Washington talking about the two. Andrew Jackson called them "Odd fancy and King Miss Nancy." So it was like an open secret in Washington.
That was interesting in itself, but the kicker to the whole story was that President James Buchanan comes from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which was a heavily Abolitionist part of the country, and he gets under William Rufus King's wing. King indoctrinates him with affection toward the slave owners and Buchanan takes this notion that slaves are better off with their masters into his presidency, and throughout his political career he was openly sympathizing with slave owners. He ended up encouraging slave owners in the 1850s and 1860s, and when he leaves office he leaves President Lincoln with what is essentially half a country.
So we have this case where the sex life of a president ended up having a huge impact on history.
WW: That seems to be the running theme in the book -- that you're trying to connect the sex lives with their political decisions.
DE: That's it -- that's the key. There have been other books that have just had a laundry list of scandals, but our goal is to show that the personal is political and had a huge impact on the course of history.