Love & Sex

Eight Great Moments in Man-Hugging

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

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. 

5. George W. Bush and John McCain

It's one of the defining images of the 2004 campaign: George W. Bush, that look of steely concentration and/or general befuddlement across his face, with Senator John McCain clinging to him like a small primate. "He has earned our admiration, and our love," said McCain, probably choking over the fact that Bush's campaign had viciously smeared him only four years prior in the 2000 GOP primary. Bush was probably wondering whether he could get chicken-fried steak at the hotel. The hug became a symbol of the awkwardly-staged events and strange bedfellows that characterize politics.


6. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez

Actually, it's hard to find a picture of these two when they're not hugging. The pair have a chummy camaraderie that's just adorable, except for when they're making jokes like this one: "Ahmadinejad and I are going into the […] basement now to set our sights on Washington and launch cannons and missiles," said Chavez in January, which is probably not the most sensitive thing to say while hugging a man whose country is probably actively hiding nuclear weaponry. Their brotherly chemistry is the most effective way to humanize a pair of leaders denounced as wackos: look how happy they are to be in each other's arms!

7. Chris Bosh and LeBron James

"It was just a relief, really," Chris Bosh said of his post-finals game hug with both LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. "This was a very big game. We had everything riding on this game, to be honest with you. Everybody wanted to win very badly. Just to come out on top, it's the best thing to do sometimes, get a little man hug and keep going." Charles Barkley, for one, was put off, commenting "This is getting sick. Stop it." The hugging incident didn't help Bosh's perceived "softness" coming as it did on the heels of his crying after a Finals defeat, which just proves that there are still a lot of people who haven't come around to realizing that men (even professional sports-playing men) have feelings, too. 

8. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton

Although Obama and Hillary Clinton have learned to work effectively, he and Bill didn't always have so much open affection for each other. After Hillary became Obama's Secretary of State, Obama made sure to note that he wouldn't be having any backseat driving from Bill — the two weren't even really seen that much together until last year. But this year, at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton brough Obama on stage and pulled him in for a full-on, eyes-closed, rapturous man-hug. Considering the subtext of Clinton's speech was that "wavering voters need not love Obama to understand that he’s a better choice than Romney," the pair's embrace spoke volumes.