Eight Great Moments in Man-Hugging

Bring it in. There you go. Doesn't that feel better?

by Alex Heigl

Everybody's talking about Florida pizza shop owner Scott Van Duzer, and it's not just because his garlic knots are just... beyond. It's because when President Obama stopped in to Van Duzer's pizza place, Van Duzer was so happy to see him, he bear-hugged the President and lifted him bodily off the floor.

Which of course got us thinking about how it's only been relatively recently that man-hugs have come into vogue. A few generations ago, the biggest show of affection you were societally encouraged to share with another man was a firm handshake, the briefest of nods, or a stiff punch to the jaw.

It sometimes seems like the universe is going to hell in a handbasket, but we're encouraged by this clear sign of progress towards more open affection. So we're re-capping some of the greatest moments in man-hugging. Let's hug it out. 


1. Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth

Lou Gehrig's July 4, 1939 "luckiest man on earth" speech is often called "the Gettysburg Address of baseball," and one man who apparently agreed with that sentiment was Babe Ruth, who came up and embraced Gehrig after his speech. The hug had multiple layers: the pair had been embroiled in a minor feud over Gehrig's unwillingness to join Ruth in a joint holdout against the Yankees, and the embrace was a sign that Ruth wanted the world to know that he and Gehrig were on good terms again. Gehrig's beam at being held by a man he idolized is a beautiful thing; more beautiful is that two archetypes of American masculinity at a particularly conservative point in U.S. history could hug it out with impunity.


2. Sammy Davis, Jr. and Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon appointed Sammy Davis, Jr. to his National Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity in 1971. At the Republican National Convention the following year, Davis hugged Nixon, and it was the rare hug that cost both parties. Davis got heat from members of the black press who accused him of "selling out," and Nixon... well, let's just say that if you were a fan of Nixon's in 1972, you probably weren't too wild about him being seen getting hugged by a black dude. 


3. Elton John and Eminem

2001 was a bumpy year for Eminem. Despite having a bestselling album out, he was constantly under pressure from women's groups, gay-rights groups, and family groups, for being something of a misogynistic, homophobic, violent shithead. (In his art.) So seeing him take the stage with Elton John for a performance of his song "Stan" was startling, and seeing them hug afterwards even more so. It didn't rehabilitate Em's image entirely, but it helped. John, for his part, came under attack from GLAAD, who posted his home address on their web site and suggested that disgruntled activists write to him and express their disappointment.


4. Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro

Two of the most iconic political figures of the twentieth century came together in 2001 during the U.N. Racism Conference when Fidel Castro visited Nelson Mandela at his office in Johannesburg. Mandela had previously referred to Castro as a "brother in arms" after Castro lent his support to Mandela's African National Congress. The 2001 hug had deep roots: when Mandela was touring the U.S. in 1990, Miami was one of few cities that didn't issue him an official welcome, because he'd refused to denounce Castro. 


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