And the winner of Oval Hotness 2014 is…

Well, we’ve DONE IT AGAIN, LOVERS. It’s been seven lovely weeks since we opened the 2014 Oval Hotness tournament, and we’re finally here at the end of it. FORTY-TWO former (and, you know, current) Presidents have been sent home to weep into their pocket squares. If anyone came into this year’s tournament thinking it would be a repeat of 2012, they were proven wrong from the jump. The Elimination Round gave Martin Van Buren, Lyndon Johnson, and William Henry Harrison their first chance ever to compete in the tournament. We had our first ever Sudden Death Tie-Breaker round after the Thexthy Thirty-Two closed because NO ONE COULD CHOOSE between George Washington and Andrew Jackson. Poor John F. Kennedy still didn’t make it into any of the final rounds after getting booted out in the Sweet Sixteen. 2012’s runner-up Barack Obama didn’t make it past the Elite Eight. And your 2012 champ Teddy Roosevelt, who was a SHOO-IN for a victory lap, got TAKEN DOWN in the Final Four. You guys showed out! OH 2014 has truly been one for the books!

But it’s time. IT’S TIME TO MEET HIM. IT’S TIME TO MEET YOUR CHAMPION. Are you ready? Are you?! I don’t think you are. I mean, maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. EITHER WAY, THE TIME IS NOW. Your 2014 Oval Hotness champion is….

ULYSSES S. GRANT

Grant the Champ

Uly baby stole our hearts from the get-go and proved to be COMPLETELY UNSTOPPABLE. I mean, he took out Woodrow Wilson and I wasn’t even that mad about it! According to the championship round polls, Ulysses secured the 2014 crown with 65% of your votes — a comfortable lead ahead of his boo Abe. LOOK AT HIM! BASK IN HIS GLORY! WAVE AT JOHNNY DEPP ON HIS SHOULDER! WEEP OPENLY IN THE STREETS! SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS! ULYSSES S. GRANT IS YOUR CHAMPION!

From all of us to all of you: THANK YOU. Thank you thank you thank you THANK YOU for being wonderful, for making Oval Hotness what it is, and for being as excited about Presidents, First Ladies, and general history tomfoolery as we all are. YOU ARE ALL DIAMONDS!

The Oval Hotness 2014 CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND

It’s here! IT’S HERE! We’ve gone through six weeks and forty-one Presidents to get to this moment, but IT’S FINALLY HERE. The FINAL ROUND of Oval Hotness 2014 is upon us! We have TWO PRESIDENTS LEFT in the running and you beautiful love nuggets have an entire week to peruse the carefully crafted capslock sentences below and choose YOUR PICK to don the illustrious Glittery Tiara of Winners and Glory and Sparkliness. That name might be a little unwieldy, but that’s neither here nor there. Are you ready to meet your finalists? GIDDY UP.

“God gave us Lincoln and Liberty. Let us fight for both.” — Ulysses S. Grant

“Grant is my man. And I stand by him to the end of the War!” — Abraham Lincoln

With the way the seeding and bracketing system works in Oval Hotness (and I can talk your ear off about it, trust me), we’ve had a lot of interesting matches throughout our tournaments. This year alone, we saw the Adams family go head to head in the very first round. We saw the Kennedy Sandwich with Dwight Eisenhower taking on Lyndon Johnson. We saw two legendary war heroes (G-Wash and Jacko) face off in a race so tight it needed an extra tiebreaker round (an Oval Hotness first). The 2014 tournament has been all about taking what we came to expect from our 2012 dance with the POTii and completely changing everything. For the first time ever in the championship round, we have two contenders from the same time period. Two contenders that knew each other. Two contenders that were very, very fond of one another. Hell, I’m half a shot of whiskey from crying onto my keyboard about their linked souls and forbidden love story. We’ve got two gentlemen with truly lovely facial hair in the running to be your next Oval Hotness champion: HIRAM ULYSSES “S.” GRANT aka ULY aka HUG, the runaway favorite versus ABRAHAM LINCOLN aka ABE aka ABEY-BABY aka BABE-RAHAM LINCOLN.

So what brought these boys together is, unfortunately, the giant event that also tore the U.S. apart — the Civil War. As we’ve learned about dear Uly, he attended West Point (where “Hiram Ulysses” became “Ulysses S.”), fought in the Mexican-American War, married the lovely Julia, developed a bit of a drinking problem, moved home to Illinois and opened a FINE LEATHER GOODS shop. He re-joined the army in 1861 after the Battle of Fort Sumter kicked off the war.

Abey-Baby, meanwhile, was elected President in 1860 with zero electoral votes from the South — it was solely the north and the west that got him in the White House. Unsurprisingly, War broke out about a month after his inauguration. What I didn’t know, however, is that Mister Sixteen over here was the first POTUS to really add Commander-in-Chief to the list of Presidential responsibilities. His immediate executive control of the war plans were unprecedented at the time. Among countless other wartime duties, Lincoln ran through Generals like it was nobody’s business — every time a head General fucked up and lost, they were fired. From 1861 to 1864 Abe shuffled through McLellan to Halleck back to McLellan to Burnside to Hooker to (finally) GRANT.

In the years since he rejoined the Army, Uly flew up the ranks. He’d left as a captain; by June of 1861 he was a Colonel, then Brigadier General. He made a name for himself at the battles of Fort Henry and Donelson (including “Unconditional Surrender Grant,” which is BAD ASS), met and became total bros with General William Tecumseh Sherman (Ol’ Scorched Earth Sherlypoo) at the Battle of Shiloh (the BLOODIEST BATTLE OF THE ENTIRE WAR), and REALLY got everyone’s attention with his campaign and SEVEN-WEEK siege of the Confederate stronghold in Vicksburg, Mississippi. This win earned the Union the use of the entire Mississippi River AND earned Grant a promotion to Lieutenant General, a position NO OTHER person had held since GEORGE WASHINGTON.

Even better? WE HAVE ABE’S NOMINATING LETTER. LOOK. LOOK AT IT.

LOOK AT THAT PENMANSHIP. LOOK AT THAT STATIONARY. LOOK AT HOW MOST OF THE YEAR IS FILLED IN AND HE JUST HAS TO FILL OUT THE MONTH AND THE LAST DIGIT OF THE YEAR. If any of this same stationary was still around by the time Uly was in the White House, do you think he felt pressure use up all the ones with “186_” before the end of the decade? Would it have been some poor 1860s intern’s job to cross out the 6 from Uly’s stationary? THESE ARE QUESTIONS I NEED ANSWERS TO.

Even better than this nominating letter, we have another letter from Abe to Uly regarding the (positive) outcome of the Battle of Vicksburg. I can’t find a high quality picture, so here’s a fuzzy image:

And HERE is the text (bold is mine):

My dear General,

I do not remember that you and I ever met personally. I write this now as a grateful acknowledgment for the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further. When you first reached the vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do, what you finally did — march the troops across the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and thus go below; and I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I, that the Yazoo Pass expedition, and the like, could succeed. When you got below, and took Port-Gibson, Grand Gulf, and vicinity, I thought you should go down the river and join Gen. Banks; and when you turned Northward East of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong.

Yours very truly, A. Lincoln

OKAY LOOK, THAT’S A STAND-UP MOVE RIGHT THERE. He didn’t HAVE to do that! He didn’t have to send a handwritten letter that said, “AY BRO, SORRY I DOUBTED YOU. WE COOL?” But he DID and it’s ADORABLE and I LOVE THESE TWO DUMMIES A LOT.

Now, this has run terribly long, but I’m going to leave you with two things. I’LL EVEN PUT THEM IN A LIST:

  1. When Lincoln visited General Grant’s headquarters in City Point, Virginia, Ulysses let him ride his beloved horse Cincinnati around camp.
  2. At Abe’s funeral, Ulysses stood alone and WEPT OPENLY.

I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING. NOW PICK A PRESIDENT ALREADY!!!!!!

Polls for the Championship Round are open until TUESDAY, APRIL 22nd at 11:59 CST. A whole week! Hide your wife, hide your kids! Wait, don’t! DO SOMETHING! VOTE!

Final Four Results and CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND ANNOUNCEMENT!

It’s here, guys! It’s FINALLY HERE! Five weeks in the making, and we’re down to our FINAL TWO presidents ready to duke it out for YOUR LOVE. It’s the CHAMPIONSHIP, Y’ALL! Are you ready to meet your two contenders? LET’S DO THIS.

(3) ULYSSES S. GRANT vs. (2) ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Well, WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT! We’re heading into this year’s final round with two contenders that have never made it this far before. For all his blustering, 2012 champ Teddy Roosevelt was TAKEN DOWN in the Final Four by this year’s runaway favorite (Hiram) Ulysses Grant aka HUG aka ~*~*~ULY~*~*~. Uly baby moonwalks into the championship round with 62% of your votes. On the other side of the bracket, our boy Abe WHOOPED Bill Clinton, sending him back to Hilldog in tears. Abe got 71% of your votes without even breaking a sweat.

The 2014 championship round is the BATTLE OF THE BEARDS. Prepare your minds! Prepare your bodies!

Polls for the final round open Monday, April 14th.

FINAL FOUR: Capitol Hill & Georgetown

HEY HEY LOOK! It’s the SECOND MATCH of our Oval Hotness 2014 Final Four, all open and ready for you to READ and VOTE. One of the two fellas below is going to make it to the CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND, and it’s up to you sexy people to decide that. NEITHER has ever made it this far in the tournament before, so this is already pretty goddamn monumental. DUST OFF YOUR SIT-DOWNS (what?) and READ SOME SWEET STUFF ABOUT ABEY-BABY AND BILLY CLINTUCKET. Ahoy!

(2) ABRAHAM LINCOLN vs. (2) BILL CLINTON

Team Abe:

Listen guys, I’m going to level with you here. I’ve had a lot of wine since I got home. Like, a lot. So the following pearls of wisdom from Drunk History (WATCH IT, IT IS AMAZEBALLS) seem apt: “Oh my god, this guy is a lanky, gawky, awkward, ape-legged, ape-armed man. This guy is weird. This guy is like an ape. He’s got ape arms. He’s got, like, ape, awkward arms. This guy is an ape awkward guy.” HILARIOUS! And it might all be true. But also? Look at this studmuffin.

The cheekbones (anyone who knows me knows I love cheekbones). The smirk (likewise). The … vaguely dead-eyed stare. Look, he went through a lot, ok?

My boo Abe lost his mama when he was 9. I might want to cuddle him a lot. I think we would’ve been friends. We could’ve talked about the books we read. I would’ve loaned him more books. We could’ve discussed our dislike for hard labor. I could’ve admired his arms as he learned how to swing an ax like a champ.

Possibly I want to have married Abraham Lincoln. It’s fine. This, too, shall pass. I’ll settle for the dream job of swabbing out his ears.

The religious views of young Abe’s family included no alcohol (boo!), no dancing (BOO!), and no slavery (YAY!); which goes a long way toward explaining what came later. But slavery wasn’t the only thing at issue for Lincoln in the war:

“Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the Nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.”

So before you vote for Baberaham Lincoln (because you’re voting for Lincoln, right? RIGHT?!), let’s lighten the mood a bit. Feast your eyes upon these images I cannot begin to explain.

Team Bill:

Did y’all know that earlier this year there was a rumor started by Tom Sizemore that Bill Clinton had been having a year-long affair with Elizabeth Hurley? And he, Tom Sizemore (do you even know who that is without googling?) somehow claimed to also know that Bill Clinton had demanded that Ms. Hurley give over her phone number, saying, “Give it to me. You dumb mother******, I’m the Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America. The buck stops here. Give me the damn number.”

Turns out that did not happen! Not a shock, since Bill is a super nice charming guy who likes women in a way that has maybe gotten a little out of control before, but not THAT douchey. Looking at you, Tom Sizemore. Can you imagine this kid saying that?

Non. Not wee Billy. Bill is a cat lover.

A doting father.

A ferghin VEGAN.

Also someone comfortable enough with himself to pose for this photograph:

Never ceases to crack me up. By which I mean I’m a little teary-eyed, honestly. So sweet!

He even tolerates these guys, even though they gotta stand on the wall at the Oval Hotness Prom:

Did you guys just get shivers???

Clinton’s presidency also brought into practice centrist Third Way political philosophy, along with his BFF, British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Buddhists or big nerds such as myself might recognize “third way” as a term from, well, Buddhism - meaning the world is full of hot and cold, high and low, right and left - but the way to achieve peace and happiness is with warm, ground-level, centered policy. The middle path is best! Do you like how I explained that without actually having to explain what he did? That’s how I got through college, peeps. That and my vague interest in Buddhism.

Anyway, compromising as that sounds, it was actually super liberal and got people like my grandfather all fired up about government interference and such (Bill Clinton voice: “I’ll interfere with HER” hehehe, sexy, sexy, government interference). Actually come to parenthesize it, pretty sure he was mostly disliked by social conservatives for getting friendly with the interns. But who cares??? It’s the 2010s and everyone is in an open relationship with their interns now, anyway! In fact, his approval ratings actually went UP after that somehow.

Bill Clinton had the most successful tenure in my and most OH staffer’s lifetimes (he is the first president I remember and his re-election the first election I remember!), considering foreign policy and economics, all owing at least in part to his policies and I like to think… his gravitas.

He basically killed it!

All Round Five polls are open until 11:59pm CST on FRIDAY, APRIL 11th. Vote! VOTE YOUR LITTLE HEARTS OUT!

FINAL FOUR: Dupont Circle & National Mall

IT’S HERE. IT’S FINALLY HERE. The OVAL HOTNESS 2014 FINAL FOUR is finally upon us! And this first match, y’all … Frankly, I’m terrified. We’ve got Teddy facing the one other Prez who can really knock him off his bedazzled pedestal. ONE of the two gentlemen below is going to the CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND. It’s time to vote! We’ve got a different writer vouching for each contender, so READ UP and stretch your voting muscles. ONWARD, HO!

(1) THEODORE ROOSEVELT vs. (3) ULYSSES S. GRANT

Team Teddy:

Guys, no lie: I was sort of dreading this week’s writing. Not because I had lost interest in our competitors. QUITE THE OPPOSITE! I was struggling with a new angle to take on our dear Teddy. Teddy and I have been together this whole tournament. I’ve learned so much about him that I’ve developed some pretty intense feelings about him, not unlike fellow OH Writers Kristin (with Woodrow) and Alicia (with Uly). I feel like Teddy and I are super close. Sure, he’s been dead for almost 100 years and had two wives and multiple kids and there was never any chance for me BUT I STILL HOLD ON! I WILL GO DOWN WITH THIS SHIP!! LIKE DIDO!!!!!!! Y’all remember Dido? Anyway. So I struggled with this week. And then I remembered that my roommate had taken an American Presidency course last semester, so I commandeered her textbooks FOR RESEARCH. And I have some delightful little tiddly-bits for you, dear readers.

Apparently, our Teddy was “a human whirlwind.” Trust me, it says so IN A TEXTBOOK. Teddy was excitable and LOUD and DID NOT live up to his “speak softly and carry a big stick” motto. Friends recalled him carrying a big stick (ehehehehehe) (no, literally – he swung clubs around like a mad man), but they didn’t remember him walking softly or even slowly. He MARCHED. He marched around like a child who knew everyone was watching him, and he absolutely reveled in the attention. One of his sons (the book doesn’t tell me who said it, but I HOPE IT WAS KERMIT) said, “Father must be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.” Teddy commanded literally every room he was in and demanded to be the center of attention.

A British diplomat, getting ready to introduce Teddy to a friend, said, “You must remember that the President is about six.” William Howard Taft, who at the time was TR’s Secretary of State but would go on to become our 27th POTUS, once congratulated Ol’ Teddy on his 46th birthday by saying, on behalf of THE CABINET, “You have made a very good start in life, and your friends have great hopes for you when you grow up.” WHEN YOU GROW UP. Guys, we once had a giant man-child as our President. What a time to be alive!!!

Now, let’s pause for a minute to bask in THIS PHOTO:

LOOK AT HOW HAPPY HE IS TO BE ON A HORSE IN FRONT OF A TRAIN. The two other guys in the picture are on horses, but NEITHER OF THEM LOOKS AS HAPPY AS TEDDY. Maybe because TR also has a sweet bowler hat on? Who knows. The caption, however, makes it even better:

"If any other president enjoyed being president as much as Teddy Roosevelt did, none displayed this pleasure so openly. When Iron Age Magazine, a trade journal, reported that he was constantly drunk, Roosevelt sued for libel and won. In fact, he drank very little. He certainly did not need alcohol to shed his inhibitions."

I honestly feel like Ol’ TR would fit right in at OH headquarters. I mean, yes, OH HQ is located literally ALL OVER THE COUNTRY because everyone on the staff is fairly spread out. So I guess I mean that more in the sense of “Teddy would fit in well with this circle of friends” because we, too, rarely need alcohol to lower our inhibitions. So, guys, let’s make a pact to raise TR from the dead and hang out with him. Or maybe we can invent time travel. Time travel is probably more realistic, right? Less chance of us inciting the zombie apocalypse? Cool? Cool.

Team Uly:

FIRST. Standing ovation for the writing that has brought the well-deserving Ulysses Grant this far in the tourney and made a Uly out of him. Alicia, I salute you, I kiss you, and I am ridiculously invested in the continued success of our Uly in the Sky With Diamonds. (Also I ship you and Grant’s tomb.)

Y’all, I have read legit biographies on this one – like whole books, the paper-filled kind, back when I was a teen (in the dim dark days without Kindles). And I have been a Grant girl pretty much since I learned he was a talented man afflicted with addiction and terrible business sense. (I definitely have a type.) As covered previously, Uly was given the middle initial S at West Point and he accepted it with a shrug (if even that) and went about his life as USG. BUT. Did you know, Ulysses was actually his middle name – his honest-to-birth-cert FIRST NAME was … (Barney Stinson says wait for it) … HIRAM.

Let it sink in. Yes, we could have had a president HIRAM. Hiram Grant? Sounds like the opposite of a Trump firing order. (Get it? HIRE ‘EM, GRANT! God, I should stretch first if I’m going to reach like this.) Ulysses S. Grant sounds way the très cooler, so on that score West Point totally did him and all of us a solid.

But let it sink in further. (That’s what she said?) Hiram Ulysses Grant.

Guys. GUYS. HIS REAL INITIALS SPELLED HUG.

*dies* *revives*

*sees a picture of young HUG*

SOMEONE BRING SOME SMELLING SALTS. Let’s try a dose of art, shall we?

Since you have, I hope, committed the previous OH prose about Uly to memory, you will recall that our Bearded Dreamboat of Love (copyright pending) preferred painting to soldier studies at the old WP. Which led yours truly on a Google search for PAINTINGS BY ULYSSES GRANT. Hell yes, I probably did search in caps lock.

The paintings are real. They are a thing. GO HERE AND LOOK AT THEM.

There’s one he kept for a long time then eventually gave to a military/card-playing buddy. I can just imagine the scene. I’m sure he was all like, “Hey brah, want this painting I made?” and the dude was like, “Ch’ya!” And then they took another puff of their cigars and Uly was like, “Righteous.”

And if you think that sounds sweet, there’s also a painting he gave to his HIGH SCHOOL SWEETHEART. I mean, what the literal hell, universe. Sensitive boy with excellent hair and gray-eyes-in-the-OH-canon (blue eyes IRL) is all artsy in high school and gives his gf one of his paintings? So basically what you’re telling me is that Uly was a football uniform and a Texas adolescence away from being Matty Saracen?

COUGH.

Look, he was so hot even he needed to feel himself up:

I mean, DAYUUM, son.

Also, listen guys: what in the what-what IS this photograph?

Is this a photo-shoot for their debut psychedelic folk album? Or is this actually just how the Grant fam used to chillax for real? Julia all Queen Elizabeth profilin’ in the doorway, third son Jesse ROOT (his middle name was totally ROOT, I WILL NEVER STOP YELLING THAT) leaning all casual-sauce in an outfit that DOES. NOT. QUIT. Meanwhile, is Uly on a GD mahogany throne?! I BELIEVE WE HAVE OUR ANSWER.

Could I tell you more about his presidency? Absolutely. Could I show you more photos? DON’T … TEMPT ME, FRODO. But all I want to tell you now is that when Grant died, a poet named Eugene Field wrote a poem for Grant’s daughter, Nellie, that was basically all about how her father didn’t care about war or death because he loved his daughter so much so even poets saw the softer side of Sears I mean Grant and ARE YOU CRYING NO GOOD ME NEITHER LET’S ROCK OURSELVES GENTLY AND GO ON.

Actually, I can’t. This man. Our webmistress/~*Woodrow*~ fan and I decided recently that there should be knickers with Grant’s face emblazoned on them. And what should these undies be called?

GRANTIES.

*mic drop*

HUG the vote, guys! ULY IS FOR LOVERS!!!

All Round Five polls are open until 11:59pm CST on FRIDAY, APRIL 11th. Vote! Tell your friends! Tell your neighbors!

Round Four Results and FINAL FOUR match-ups

Wow, is it really the Final Four already? Have we really sent 39 Presidential Hotness Hopefuls packing in just under a month? Guys, this is BONKERS. The votes for each round are closer and closer, and at this point it’s really anybody’s game. WATCH THE THRONE, TEDDY. THREE OTHER BLOODTHIRSTY BROS ARE COMING FOR YOUR SPARKLY TIARA! Are you ready to meet your Final Four? Let’s do this.

(1) THEODORE ROOSEVELT vs. (3) ULYSSES S. GRANT

Our 2012 champ Teddy RoRo is STILL IN THE GAME, but it’s definitely been much more of a fight than I’m sure he’s comfortable with. George the O.G., who’d been putting up a hell of a fight since he caused the first ever OH tie-breaker poll, was finally taken out by our Teddy. Darling Theodore emerged victorious with 58% of your votes, electric sliding right into the Final Four. He’s got one hell of an opponent, though! Because ULYSSES S. GRANT is a force to be reckoned with this year! Ulysses TOOK OUT MY DARLING ~*~WOODROW~*~. AND I’M NOT EVEN THAT UPSET ABOUT IT! I mean, sure, I’m upset, but it doesn’t warrant the verbal abuse I threw at you guys in 2012 after his RIDICULOUS elimination in the Sweet Sixteen. Woodrow, you came so much farther this year! Even though he’s the winner in my heart, you voters gave Uly baby 64% of your votes. This one’s gonna get explosive, guys! Will Ulysses stomp on Teddy’s dreams of another victory? WE’RE ABOUT TO FIND OUT.


(2) ABRAHAM LINCOLN vs. (2) BILL CLINTON

And the other match? DANG, GUYS. This is the most surprising upset of the year! In 2012, Barack made it ALL THE WAY to the championship round, only just barely losing to Teddy. This year? Honest Abe TOOK HIM OUT. You, dear voters, gave Abe 55% of your votes, pushing him into the Finals, and sending Barack back to Michelle. Try not to be too envious of Michelle’s 2013 Championship crown, B-Rock. Slick Willy, meanwhile, finally sent General Eisenhower packing, earning 59% of your votes. Bill, you salty dog! Can you stand up against Abe?

ROUND FIVE polls open MONDAY, APRIL 7TH. Stay tuned, chickens! Shit’s about to go loco!

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