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Monday, 1 December 2014
But a new book, "Nancy Reagan, the Unauthorized Biography," by Kitty Kelley, could forever shatter that myth and add allegations of scandalous sexual behavior to the folklore of the Reagan era. Beyond the adoring gaze, Ms. Kelley asserts, Nancy Reagan, or "Mrs. President," as her staffers called her, ruled the White House with a Gucci-clad fist.
When President Ronald Reagan was given his agenda for his first meeting in Geneva with Mikhail S. Gorbachev, Ms. Kelley recounts, he asked his aides, "Have you shown this to Nancy?"
"No, sir," they replied.
"Well, get back to me after she's passed on it," he told them. A Different Morality?
The new biography also offers sensational claims that the Reagans practiced a morality very different from what they preached. The book was printed under extraordinary secrecy by the publisher, Simon & Schuster. The New York Times obtained an early copy of the book, which will appear in stores across the country tomorrow.
Ms. Kelley has developed a reputation as a giant killer for her sensational books about the rich and famous. She wrote that Jacqueline Kennedy had shock treatments; that President John F. Kennedy's retarded sister, Rosemary, had a lobotomy, and that Frank Sinatra's mother was a New Jersey abortionist.
Although Mr. Sinatra early on threatened Ms. Kelley with lawsuits, Bantam Books was able to publish her book on him without a real legal challenge.
Ms. Kelley says the book on Nancy Reagan is based on 1,002 interviews with estranged family members, alienated former staff members and Reagan friends and loyalists.
Mrs. Reagan has decided to keep a low profile, so as not to give the book more publicity. Friends who have talked to her over the weekend said she seemed unconcerned by the storm.
Sheila Tate, Mrs. Reagan's former press secretary in the White House, said yesterday that "no friend of Nancy Reagan's is going to read that scummy book." A Symbol in History For a Vacuous Era?
Ms. Kelley asserts that Mrs. Reagan will go down in history as the cold and glittering icon for a morally vacuous era. The author says the former First Lady reinvented herself with a tissue of fabrications about her background, age and family, just as her free-spirited mother did before her; that she had her nose fixed and her eyes lifted; that both the Reagans had extramarital affairs, and that Mrs. Reagan had a long-term affair with Frank Sinatra.
Ms. Kelley also writes that the Reagans once smoked marijuana provided by Alfred S. Bloomingdale, the department store heir and founder of Diners' Club, at a dinner party in the late 1960's, when Mr. Reagan was Governor of California. She says the former President loved anti-gay and racist humor, even jokes about AIDS, and that Nancy consulted not one but two astrologers to help pull her husband out of the slump caused by the "malevolent movements of Uranus and Saturn," better known as the Iran-contra scandal.
In Washington, the salacious details of the new book have been the subject of intense speculation at dinner parties for months. Reagan confidants have whispered their fears that the biography will puncture what remains of the Reagan myth in a manner that will prove devastating for the former President and his wife.
The Reagans themselves have professed a lack of interest in the book, saying they will not read it.
The biography is not the first unflattering portrait of the Reagans. In his memoir, "For the Record," Donald Regan, the former White House chief of staff, drew a similar portrait of a First Lady dominating her passive husband and a White House schedule determined by astrology. The Reagans' daughter, Patti Davis, portrayed her parents in a bad light in her autobiographical novel, "Home Front."
The new book is unlikely to help the Reagans in their effort to improve an image that was tarnished when Mr. Reagan accepted a $2 million speaking tour in Japan after leaving the White House, and Nancy Reagan abandoned her support of Phoenix House, a drug-rehabilitation program for teen-agers.
The 48-year-old Ms. Kelley, who worked on the book for four years, writes that the White House staff desperately tried to soft-pedal Mrs. Reagan's vanities, her love of clothes and jewels and celebrities and royalty and power plays, and portray her as a compassionate Lady Bountiful of the ilk of Eleanor Roosevelt, the book relates.
But, in Ms. Kelley's scalding portrait, Mrs. Reagan comes across as an unfortunate combination of a free-spending Mary Todd Lincoln and a power-crazed Edith Wilson. Portrait of a Family As It Falls Apart
The picture of an American political family falling apart, over and over and over, of a President and First Lady who proselytized about family values but often went for long stretches feuding with or ignoring family members, is both poignant and withering.
The first chapter begins with a copy of Nancy Reagan's birth certificate. "Two entries on Nancy Reagan's birth certificate are accurate -- her sex and her color," Ms. Kelley writes. "Almost evey other item has been invented."
Mrs. Reagan was born Anne Frances Robbins, the daughter of Edith Luckett, an actress, and Kenneth Robbins, a life insurange agent, who lived in a poor section of Flushing, Queens. Though she was actually born at Sloane Hospital in New York City on July 6, 1921, she changed the date to 1923 when she grew up, the book says.
Ms. Kelley writes that, in her memoirs, Mrs. Reagan called her father "a Princeton graduate from a well-to-do family."
"In fact, he did not attend Princeton, or any college," Ms. Kelley writes. "His family, from Pittsfield, Mass., was not well-to-do. But even after disowning him, Nancy clung to those pretentions."
Ms. Kelley writes that Mrs. Reagan's mother, unlike the prim Nancy, was a gregarious woman. She always lied about her age and birthplace and tried to make a career touring in stage plays with Spencer Tracy, Walter Houston and Zasu Pitts. She loved "whizzers," her term for gritty bathroom jokes.
Ms. Kelley asserts that Mrs. Reagan's "repressed" or "rearranged" the details of her youth. In truth, the book says, she was a "plump little girl" who gorged on sweets and was sad and lonely because her mother parked her with her aunt and uncle in Bethesda, Md., for five years while she pursued her stage career.
When Nancy's mother divorced Mr. Robbins and married a Chicago surgeon named Loyal Davis, she collected Nancy and set about getting the family into high society. Nancy eventually abandoned her own father and paternal grandmother, skipping their funerals, and grew close to the stern stepfather who finally acceded to her pleas that he adopt her, according to the biography. 'The Adoring Gaze' Acquired in College
In college, the author said, Nancy Davis was still chubby. But she developed other traits, such as "the adoring gaze," the extraordinary grooming, the frugality and the preference for the company of men over women.
When she got to Hollywood, the way was paved for her by Spencer Tracy, a friend of her mother's, and Benny Thau, the top casting man at M-G-M who was Nancy Davis's boyfriend, Ms. Kelley writes.
Her movie career never got off the ground, because she did not have star quality, according to a number of directors who worked with her, and she focused on wooing Ronald Reagan.
"The 41-one-year-old actor never asked because at the time he was deeply in love with an actress named Christine Larson who, despite her Wisconsin roots, looked very much like one of those big beautiful Rose Bowl queens that he so favored," Ms. Kelley writes. "It was Christine Larson, not Nancy Davis, who received Ronald Reagan's proposal of mariage in 1951, a proposal accompanied by a diamond wristwatch as an engagement present."
Miss Larson kept the watch but refused the proposal.
Ronald Reagan married Nancy Davis soon after she told him she was pregnant. Mrs. Reagan obliquely acknowledges the out-of-wedlock pregnancy in her memoir, "My Turn," published in 1989 by Random House.
Ms. Kelley writes that Mr. Reagan continued to see Miss Larson for the first year of his marriage. "In tears, he told her that he felt his life was ruined" because Nancy had "tricked" him into marriage, the book says. Mr. Reagan was with Miss Larson when his daughter Patti was born, Ms. Kelley says.
Mr. Reagan gave up Miss Larson when he came to visit one day and "a French actor opened the door wearing only a bath towel," Ms. Kelley writes. Marriage Nurtured By Shared Interests
Ronald and Nancy Reagan drew closer, drawn together by such mutual interests as astrology, Republican politics and Mr. Reagan's political career.
The author writes that, for the rest of the marriage, Mr. Reagan "was not known to play around." One time when he did, however, was in 1968, when Mr. Reagan was in his late 50's. He met an 18-year-old girl named Patricia Taylor at a party, the book says.
Ms. Taylor told Ms. Kelley that she had had a fight with her boyfriend, and that Mr. Reagan found her by the pool and "wanted to comfort me."
"One thing led to another," she said. "He led me back in the house through a doorway that led up to a loft bedroom, and we laid down to make love. He was very gentle and passionate. He was no prude. I didn't realize he was the Governor then. Being 18, I guess I was more interested in myself, you know? But he was great. Just great."
The book goes on to say that when Mr. Reagan was Governor of California, Mrs. Reagan began to develop the fierce protective instincts she would use in the White House. When her husband failed to get an agreement ending a strike by racetrack employees, Ms. Kelley writes, Mrs. Reagan called Alfred Bloomingdale and suggested that he go to his acquaintance Sidney Korshak, a Los Angeles labor lawyer who had long been accused of having ties to the Mafia. Mr. Bloomingdale sent an aide to Mr. Korshak, and the strike was soon settled.
Sheldon Davis, Mr. Bloomingdale's former executive assistant, recalled that his boss said that he brought out a marijuana cigarette at a small dinner party he and his wife gave for the Reagans, Jack Benny and George Burns and their wives. The Governor and his wife tried it, giggled and said "they couldn't see what the big deal was," according to the book.
When Mr. Reagan won the Republican Presidential nomination, Mrs. Reagan argued against taking George Bush as a running mate, saying he was "a bit whiny," the book relates.
Although Mr. Reagan always claimed he did not dye his hair, Ms. Kelley writes that Mrs. Reagan's hairdresser, Julius, "also dyed the President's gray roots, which he had been doing secretly since 1968."
Ms. Kelley says the affair with Mr. Sinatra began when Mr. Reagan was Governor and "continued for years." Mr. Sinatra, she adds, was an invaluable fund raiser for Mr. Reagan when Mr. Reagan was Governor.
She does not say explicity how long the affair lasted or whether it continued during the Reagan Presidency, but she suggests that the romance continued in the White House. Ms. Kelley writes that Mr. Sinatra often came for private lunches at the White House and entered through the back way.
"We always knew better than to ever interrupt those private 'luncheons,' " said a member of Mrs. Reagan's White House staff. "The family quarters were off limits to everyone during that time. You could feel the air charge when he was around her. She played the music low, all his songs, of course, which she played in her bedroom day and night. . . . She would usually arrange those 'lunches' when the President was out of town, and they'd last from about 12:30 to 3:30 or 4 P.M. . . We were under strict instructions not to disturb. No matter what. When the First Lady was with Frank Sinatra, she was not to be disturbed. For anything. And that included a call from the President himself."
Not known for her generosity, Nancy's gift-giving took bizarre, even eccentric turns, according to her friends, relatives, and employees. They were well aware that their presents usually came from the discarded heap of free samples and rejects accumulated by the Reagans over the years.
"She's got this closet in the White House, and none of us are ever allowed to see it," said Maureen Reagan. "She squirrels things away in the closet. Later things come out of it. When my husband moved . . ., she said, 'Does he need a coffee maker?'
"Rummage, rummage, rummage. We heard this sound, and all of a sudden, out comes a coffee maker."
Maureen's wedding present of 36 pewter swizzle sticks topped by tiny elephants came from the closet, which housed all the elephant presents pushed on the Reagans by enthusiastic Republicans over the years. . . .
"One Christmas," said one of the First Lady's secretaries, "Barbara Bush sent a sprayed white vine wreath to Mrs. Reagan at the White House, and she immediately put someone else's name on it, told me to gift-wrap it and send it off to one of her friends in California."
No one was spared from Nancy Reagan's recycling -- neither her children nor her closest friends. She gave Julius, her hairdresser, an $800 jacket from Mr. Guy in Beverly Hills that had been sent to Ronald Reagan. She didn't like it, and neither did Julius. He returned it for a store credit. . . .
Even the First Lady's grandson wound up with a gift from the Reagans that they hadn't bought. When Cameron, the son of Michael Reagan, visited the White House during the inauguration in January, the toddler was clutching his teddy bear. Several months later, back home in California, Cameron received a package, gift-wrapped, on his third birthday. The card read: "Happy Birthday to our grandson. Love Grandma and Grandpa." The gift: Cameron's own lost teddy bear.
"I guess Dad and Nancy saw the bear at the White House and didn't know it had already been given to Cameron. So they had it wrapped and sent to him as a birthday gift," said Michael Reagan.
From "Nancy Reagan, the Unauthorized Biography."
Photos: Kitty Kelley, who writes that Nancy Reagan ruled the White House with a Gucci-clad fist. (Paul Conklin, 1982); the book that may shatter the myth that First Ladies have no power and add allegations of scandalous sexual behavior to the Reagan era folklore. (pg. 26)
SINATRA SEEKS LIST OF PAPERS PRINTING 'DOONESBURY' COMIC
Lawyers representing Frank Sinatra have demanded a list of the names of newspapers that published a ''Doonesbury'' cartoon strip satirizing Mr. Sinatra from the distributor of the comic so they can seek retractions.
The strip, by Garry Trudeau, was published June 13. It contained an exchange between Mr. Sinatra, who was out of the picture, and a casino blackjack dealer. Mr. Sinatra's dialogue threatens to have the dealer dismissed if she shuffles the cards before dealing.
The strip, using parentheses, had Mr. Sinatra saying, ''Get me your (obscene gerund) boss, you little (anatomically explicit epithet)!''
In December 1984, Mr. Sinatra and Dean Martin were involved in an incident in Atlantic City after which a New Jersey casino commissioner, Joel Jacobson, said in hearings that they had intimidated a dealer into dealing from her hand, which is illegal in New Jersey, rather than from a plastic box.
According to the comic's distributor, Universal Press Syndicate, Mr. Sinatra's lawyers said that the June 13 ''Doonesbury'' was ''false and violative of Mr. Sinatra's rights,'' and that they would take ''all appropriate steps.'' Mr. Sinatra has refused any further comment beyond the contents of the letter.
Susan Reynolds, Mr. Sinatra's spokesman, said that neither Mr. Sinatra nor his lawyers would comment on what ''appropriate steps'' might be taken or on any other aspect of the situation. Mr. Trudeau was also unavailable for comment.
Lee Salem, editorial director of the syndicate, said that the syndicate denied that the cartoon violated Mr. Sinatra's rights and that the syndicate had refused to provide a list of the 835 papers subscribing to ''Doonesbury.'' ''I can understand why he's upset by being lampooned, but we look at this as fair satire,'' Mr. Salem said.
According to Floyd Abrams, a lawyer specializing in First Amendment issues, Mr. Sinatra would have little chance to win a libel suit because of broad protection for expression of opinion. ''Garry Trudeau is entitled to no less expression of his views than is George Will,'' Mr. Abrams said, referring to the conservative political columnist.
Mr. Sinatra was the subject of six ''Doonesbury'' installments from June 10-15 that raised hackles, which Mr. Trudeau's cartoons have been doing since national distribution began in 1970.
Two of the strips included reproductions of what Universal says are photographs of Mr. Sinatra with people including Aniello Dellacroce, who was charged and acquitted in the killing of an associate of the late Carlo Gambino, who had a reputation as kingpin of organized crime in New York. The strip did not mention the acquittal.
On the day the first cartoon appeared, Mr. Sinatra issued a statement saying Mr. Trudeau's work was created ''without regard to fairness or decency.''
According to Mr. Salem, 30 newspapers did not print part or all of that series, and two papers canceled the strip altogether.
But Mr. Salem said that the Sinatra series had not proved so controversial as a series in 1976 that showed two unmarried characters in bed together.
Several newspapers did not publish a strip this spring that included a tangle of male and female students in a Florida motel room. More recently, Universal declined to distribute a series satirizing the antiabortion film ''The Silent Scream.'' The strips were published by The New Republic.
Sunday, 28 September 2014
Sunday, 21 September 2014
Man Charged with Clinton Assassination AttemptBy Toni Locy
The Washington Post
Francisco Martin Duran, the Colorado man who allegedly opened fire on the White House last month, was charged Thursday with attempting to assassinate President Clinton after several friends and co-workers told investigators that he had said he wanted to kill the president.
Even though those people have now come forward with the information, U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr. had harsh words for them Thursday during a news conference announcing Duran's indictment by a federal grand jury.
Calling their failure to report the threats before Duran came to Washington "very disturbing" and "unacceptable," Holder said, "When any American citizen has solid information that a person" intends to harm the president or any other public official, that citizen has "a civic and moral duty to come forward with that information before that tragedy occurs."
He said the incident could have had a disastrous outcome if it were not for the heroism of two tourists who tackled Duran as he allegedly attempted to reload a Chinese-made 7.62mm semiautomatic rifle. "We are truly in their debt," Holder said.
Duran, through his lawyer, assistant public defender Leigh Kenny, pleaded not guilty to the 11-count indictment.
Prosecutors Thursday filed a motion requesting that defense attorneys divulge whether they intend to use an insanity defense to the charges. Kenny has until Monday to respond. She could refuse and fight the request, which the prosecutors made because they want to know as soon as possible for strategic reasons whether Duran will claim he was insane at the time of the Oct. 29 shooting.
The addition of the attempted-assassination charge came after days of debate in the Justice Department and Holder's office over whether the evidence was strong enough to charge Duran with that offense. Conviction carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Duran, 26, a hotel upholsterer from Colorado Springs, allegedly fired at least 29 rounds at the White House, striking the building many times. Clinton, who had just returned from a trip to the Middle East, was not in sight but in the family quarters of the mansion watching a football game on television. No one was injured, although Pennsylvania Avenue was packed with tourists at the time.
To support the attempted-assassination charge, the prosecution is relying on the statements made to the FBI by several friends and co-workers of Duran who say he told them before he came to Washington that he intended to kill Clinton.
The evidence against Duran also includes numerous items seized from his truck, found parked near the White House after the shooting. In it, authorities found several hundred more rounds of ammunition, another weapon, poison-gas antidotes and numerous documents and letters allegedly written by Duran.
And investigators have a dramatic videotape of the shooting, made by a tourist, that shows Duran firing the rifle he had under his trench coat and attempting to reload as he was being tackled and subdued.
But another lawyer for Duran, chief public defender A.J. Kramer, revealed Thursday for the first time that one of the letters found in the truck makes no mention of Clinton by name or of any intention to harm him in any way. Lawyers for The Washington Post, The New York Times, and NBC argued Thursday for the public release of that letter.
Legally, prosecutors must prove two elements to win a conviction on an attempted-assassination charge. First, they must show that the defendant "specifically intended to kill" the president. That element can be proven with the statements of his co-workers and friends about his intentions, as well as any of his alleged writings.
Secondly, prosecutors must show he took "a substantial step" to carry out that intention. That could include buying a gun and firing it at the White House where he knew the president was, and driving to Washington with a truck loaded with supplies to carry out a specific plan.
Duran also is charged with four counts of assaulting a federal officer - the four Secret Service agents who tried to approach him across the White House lawn as he fired.
Because Duran served prison time when he was in the Army for aggravated assault with a vehicle, he is charged with two counts of illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The remaining charges are use of an assault weapon during a crime of violence, destruction of U.S. property and interstate transportation of a firearm with intent to commit a felony.
By Toni Locy
TOURIST TELLS HOW SHOOTER WAS TACKLED
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 23, 1995
When Harry Rakosky saw a man in a trench coat shooting at the White House in October, he crouched behind a cement barrier on Pennsylvania Avenue NW and waited until the man paused to reload a semiautomatic rifle.
"I thought that would be a good point to do something," Rakosky, 34, testified yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington. "I told my feet to move, and I went and tackled him."
Rakosky, who works for a security company in San Antonio, said he pinned the man, holding him close so he could not grab another weapon or use the one he was carrying. After Secret Service officers arrived to help, Rakosky said he simply stood up, checked to see whether he had been injured and tucked his shirt back in his pants.
But a videotape, played in slow motion in the court, showed that Rakosky's rendition of the Oct. 29 shooting was understated. In it, the gunman, identified as Francisco Martin Duran, appeared to be fumbling with an ammunition clip, trying to reload the gun. As Rakosky ran toward him and leaped, Duran pointed the weapon at Rakosky's chest and abdomen.
Under questioning by prosecutor Brenda Johnson, Rakosky said he doesn't remember feeling the gun hit him, although he said he had a mark on his stomach from it. "I probably landed on it," he said.
If Rakosky had not tackled Duran, Secret Service Officer Carl Persons would have shot the gunman in the back, the officer testified at Duran's trial.
Duran, 26, a hotel upholsterer from Colorado, is charged with trying to assassinate President Clinton and with various firearms and assault offenses. His attorneys, A.J. Kramer and Leigh A. Kenny, have acknowledged that Duran opened fire on the White House. But they argue that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and was not aiming at the president but at the building as a political symbol.
But four witnesses -- including two middle school students from Indiana who were sightseeing at the time of the shooting -- raised the possibility that Duran might have thought, as they did, that Clinton was on the White House lawn.
Robert DeCamp, 14, testified that when he saw a group of men in dark business suits standing on the lawn, he pointed out one of them to a friend and said he looked like Clinton.
DeCamp said the shooting started immediately after he pointed at the men on the lawn. He said he turned toward the gunfire and saw a man dressed in a trench coat and holding a rifle standing about 13 feet away. Brent Owens, DeCamp's friend, testified that the gunman appeared to be aiming the gun at the men on the lawn.
In other testimony, the prosecutors continued to trace Duran's activities just before the shooting. Only days before, witnesses testified, Duran answered a personal advertisement, went on a date and tried to persuade another woman he met in a hotel hot tub to go out with him.
Helen Malone, of Ashburn, Va., said Duran answered her personal ad -- "witch seeking magician" -- in The Washington Post in mid-October. After they spoke by telephone, Malone and Duran met at the Tysons Corner I mall, saw the movie "Pulp Fiction" and went to dinner at Magic Pan restaurant.
Malone told the jury in U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey's courtroom that, during their date, Duran was polite and acted normally. Under questioning by Kenny, Malone said that at one point Duran told her that he was going to become Jesus Christ.