The 15 Funniest Secret Service Code Names

jackethead, iStock / Getty Images Plus
jackethead, iStock / Getty Images Plus

The tradition of Secret Service code names goes back to at least the Truman administration, when the large protection detail was permanently established for the president, his family, the president elect, and the vice president (though the agency itself has been around for more than 150 years). Still, the names themselves have never really been kept a secret. The code names—relics from before the encryption of electronic communications—often play into some part of the personality of the protected individual. Below are some of the more entertaining monikers that have been chosen over the years.

1. Edith Wilson // "Grandma"

President Woodrow Wilson and his wife Edith with a secret service escort in 1917.Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Woodrow Wilson's second wife, Edith, was the first First Lady to receive Secret Service protection, but her code name had been around long before that legislation was passed in 1917. President Wilson had been widowed during his second year in office, and within months of his first wife's passing, he met and became enamored of Edith. Wilson's camp was concerned that the public wouldn't take well to his being in a new relationship so soon, and his protection took to referring to Edith by the decidedly unsexy code name "Grandma."

2. Meghan McCain // "Peter Sellers"

Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and his daughter Meghan McCain at a campaign rally in 2008.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

When her father, John McCain, was the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, he went by "Phoenix." Because, per Secret Service rules, immediate family members need code names that begin with the same first letter, Meghan wound up with "Peter Sellers." Hers was the only full name ever to be shared with another person. Her siblings chose cartoon characters: "Popeye" and "Pebbles."

3. Newt Gingrich // "T-Rex"

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The former Speaker of the House had a Secret Service detail when he was a presidential candidate in 2012 and chose his code name based on his love of dinosaurs. While he was in Congress, he famously had a replica T. rex skull on display in his office. 

4. Josh Bolten // "Fatboy"

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images for Meet the Press

George W. Bush's Chief of Staff had a fondness for riding Harleys, and he chose his name based on his favorite motorcycle model. "My Secret Service detail loved the code name," Bolten once said. "Even the female agents, who end up getting called Fatgirls."

5. Frank Sinatra // "Napoleon"

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though Sinatra hung around the Kennedy family a lot, it was President Nixon who requested he have a Secret Service name and occasional protection. It came in handy though: Ol' Blue Eyes was also a staple in the Reagan White House.

6. Happy Rockefeller // "Shooting Star"

Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and his wife, Happy Rockefeller, circa 1963.Harry Benson/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Gerald Ford's vice president, Nelson Rockefeller, had the perfectly normal sounding code name "Sandstorm." However, his wife Happy's had to be changed once agents noticed how problematic calling someone "Shooting Star" could be. Former Secret Service agent Joseph Petro wrote, "Within a few days someone realized [that] wasn't such a good name, because in a broken transmission all you might hear was the word 'shooting,' and that could inadvertently set off a chain reaction and an awful lot of problems." Mrs. Rockefeller's code name was quickly changed to "Stardust." 

7. Ronald Reagan // "Rawhide"

President Ronald Reagan speaking during a press conference in 1981.Gene Forte/Consolidated News/Getty Images

President Reagan's love of ranching, and maybe also his history as an actor in Westerns, resulted in his code name, "Rawhide." Once, when a member of his security detail, Larry Rowlett, was asked if he ever called the president "Rawhide" to his face, he replied, "Yes—he was always very congenial and just kind of one of the guys. You know, if somebody referred to him as that he'd get a chuckle out of it." First Lady Nancy was only ever called Mrs. Reagan.

8. Karenna Gore // "Smurfette"

PAUL J. RICHARDS // Getty

Al Gore's daughter was 19 when he became vice president, and she spent years thoroughly regretting the code name she chose. "Ever since four years ago, when I was put on the spot and told 'two syllables' and 'it has to start with an s,'" she wrote in a Slate essay in 1997, "I have been cringing in the back seat when identified as 'Smurfette.'"

9. Ron Nessen // "Clam Chowder"

Press Secretary Ron Nessen holds a daily briefing with the press corps at the White House, circa 1974.U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

By all accounts, Gerald Ford's press secretary had a great sense of humor (he even hosted Saturday Night Live once!). He also apparently had an affinity for clam chowder, a code name that is somehow made funnier because of its specificity.

10. Ted Kennedy // "Sunburn"

Ted Kennedy addresses the Democratic Convention in New York in 1980.Keystone/Getty Images

He was often referred to as the "Lion of the Senate," but during his presidential campaign for the 1980 election, the youngest of the Irish-Catholic Kennedy brood was code-named "Sunburn." Fittingly, his mother, Rose Kennedy, was called "Coppertone."

11. Ron Ziegler // "Whaleboat"

Getty Images

Ziegler was just 29 when he took the job as Richard Nixon's press secretary, and though the Secret Service called him "Whaleboat," the reporters he gave cagey answers to twice a day preferred to call him "Zig-Zag."

12. William French Smith // "Flivver"

President Reagan with Attorney General William French Smith making a statement in the Rose Garden in 1981.White House Photo Office, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

We're not really sure why Reagan's Attorney General from 1981-1985 was called "Flivver," but it's not a terribly flattering term—it's slang for a cheap car in poor condition.

13. Hillary Clinton // "Evergreen"

Darren McCollester/Newsmakers/Hulton Archive

Quite an appropriate name, given that it's in its third decade of use. Clinton received the name "Evergreen" when her husband, Bill, moved into the Oval Office in 1992. And though she has lifetime Secret Service protection as a former First Lady, she would have needed it anyway in her high-profile roles as secretary of state and presidential candidate.

14. Prince Charles // "Unicorn"

Prince Charles talking to President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy at a private dinner in the White House in 1981.Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Visiting dignitaries will sometimes receive code names, and Prince Charles got "Unicorn"—fitting, since it's a symbol the Brits use regularly.

15. Pope John Paul II // "Halo"

Pope John Paul II meets with President Jimmy Carter and his family in 1976.Keystone/Getty Images

Because, obviously.

This story was republished in 2019.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Someone Created an Amazing LEGO Portrait of Fleabag's "Hot Priest" Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott as the "Hot Priest" in Fleabag.
Andrew Scott as the "Hot Priest" in Fleabag.
Amazon Studios

It’s been almost a year and a half since fans first met the “Hot Priest”—a role created specifically for actor Andrew Scott—in season 2 of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s award-winning series Fleabag, and the character is still eliciting strong feelings and inspiring tributes of all kinds.

The latest creative tribute to the G&T-guzzling man of the cloth is a portrait assembled entirely from LEGO bricks—5340 of them, to be exact. It was made by Andy Bauch, a Los Angeles-based LEGO artist who has re-created everything from Mondrian paintings to self-portraits of Chuck Close. For this pop culture masterpiece, Bauch worked off a television still that shows Scott dressed in clerical black and illuminated by sunlight filtering through a church window.

Bauch used 10 shades of blue, green, and black to capture the nameless priest in all his godly glory. According to the video above, more than half of the 38-inch-by-28.5-inch artwork consists of square black bricks with four LEGO studs each. Overall, it took nearly 10,000 studs to complete the image. What we don’t know is how long it took to complete, though the artist did have two assistants to help him.

The portrait isn’t currently for sale, but anyone with a sizable LEGO collection and a fondness for tragicomic clergymen (or more specifically, for Andrew Scott portraying one) is welcome to try their hand at fashioning some Hot Priest wall art of their own. And if that project warrants re-watching Fleabag, so be it.