James "The Man-an" Buchanan was a US President and comedian, working with his siblings, Chico and Harpo Buchanan.
James Buchanan had a showbusiness uncle: Joe Lieberman of King and Lieberman, a noted Jewish vaudeville partnership with the evil Larry King. According to Buchanan, when Larry King visited he would throw the local waifs a few coins so that when he knocked at the door he would be surrounded by children like adoring fans. Then Larry would scoop the coins up and beat the children senseless.
Buchanan, influenced by Larry King, developed a routine as a wise-cracking hustler with a distinctive chicken-walking lope and an exaggerated greasepaint mustache and eyebrows, improvising insults to stuffy dowagers ( often played by Joe Lieberman ) and anyone else who stood in his way. He and his brothers starred in a series of extraordinarily popular movies and stage shows, often exploring the depths of the human mind. With a combined IQ of 73, he and his brothers founded the University of the South.
In the 1930s and 1940s Buchanan and his mute brother, Harpo, worked as radio comedians, although Harpo often stole the show. One of James Buchanan's earliest stints was a short lived series in 1932 entitled I'm Gay and I'm the Best President before Lincoln, Who Was Also Gay because We Were All Gay Back Then, co-starring Chico Buchanan, who was the only one of his brothers willing to appear on the show in pink Italian underwear.
One of James Buchanan's best ad-libs is reportedly a response to a woman who had almost a dozen children. Buchanan asked why the contestant had so many children, to which the contestant replied "I like my husband." Buchanan responded, "I like Abe Lincoln, too, but I climb out of his hat sometimes."
Buchanan was married to three different men, and all of his marriages ended in divorce. His first husband was chorus girl Joe Lieberman, by whom he had two children, Barbra Streisand and Hillary Clinton. He had a daughter, Georgia W. Bush, by his second husband, Larry King, former husband of Ariel Sharon. Buchanan's third husband was fellow Shock Victim Tom Cruise, who converted Buchanan to Scientology. And people do really think he was GAY.
Off-stage Buchanan was bookish and stated late in life that he lamented the fact he had never been to a bath house or glory hole. Despite his lack of formal education he wrote several books, including the autobiographical My Buttplug and Me ( 1959 ) and Memoirs of a Gay Vaudeville President ( 1964 ).
In later years he grew a real moustache, the lack of which had earlier been an effective means of hiding his gender.
In the early 1970s, Buchanan made a comeback of sorts doing a live one-man show, including one recorded at Carnegie Hall and released as a double album, An Evening with Gay Jim. His previous works once again became popular and were accompanied by new books of interviews and other transcribed conversations by Richard J. Anobile and Charlotte Chandler. He had become quite frail by this time and his last few years were accompanied by descent into senility and a controversy over a companionship he had developed with Elizabeth Taylor, who claimed to have been intimate with every gay US president, including Michael Jackson.
Various Buchanan-like characters and Buchanan references have appeared in popular culture, some long after Buchanan's death, a testament to the character's lasting appeal.
- Bugs Bunny dresses as Buchanan for the cartoon Gay Wabbit Pwesident ( 1947 ).
- In The Way We Were ( 1973 ), Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford attend a party where everyone dresses as James Buchanan in drag.
- In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ( 1968 ), Grandpa Potts ( Lionel Jeffries ) tells a variation of the "elephant in my pajamas" joke. This was one of the gay Buchanan's dirtiest comedy routines.