Reagan 94: 'She Misses Him'

J$P Instant Transcript! Bob Colacello, author of Ronnie & Nancy, on Fox & Friends.

From Fox & Friends Weekend, February 6 2005:

JULIAN PHILIPS [FOX NEWS]: I've got to tell you, during the funeral of Ronald Reagan, one of the most emotional things I ever saw, before they put the casket in, where Nancy Reagan was laying hands on the casket. When you think about that, and all the things, the wonderful things you can think about Ronald Reagan--of course, if he were alive it would have been his 94th birthday today.

MIKE JERRICK [FOX NEWS]: Wow. Here to help us remember the former President's legacy is Bob Colacello, a correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine, and the author of Ronnie & Nancy: Their Path to the White House 1911-1980. What a great book. Congratulations

BOB COLACELLO [AUTHOR]: Thank you very much.

JERRICK: I guess as Julian mentioned there, how is Nancy, have you heard? I know you stay in touch with her.

COLACELLO: Well yeah, I speak to her fairly often. She's OK. I think as you said, that moment just summed up her love for this man, which was physical, emotional political, everything a great marriage could be. But she's OK. She would never say, it was a relief because it was 10 years of taking care of him. But you can see that in her putting on weight, she's not shuffling the way she shuffled at the funeral. But I'm sure on a day like today, it's very bittersweet. She misses him.

JULIET HUDDY [FOX NEWS]: Is she getting out now, is she starting to socialize?

COLACELLO: Yes, she gets out more often. She and Merv Griffin go to some things together. She was very very careful, when he was ill, not to go to anything where she'd be photographed. Or we'd invite her to the Vanity Fair Oscar party every year, and she said to me, I can't come to something like that with my husband home in bed. She really didn't leave Los Angeles for the last five years, except to go to like the christening of the USS Ronald Reagan in Virginia.

HUDDY: Is she political? Does she--

COLACELLO: Oh yes, she follows politics. She's become very friendly with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, because Maria's father is in the early stages of Alzheimer's, so that's one connection they have.

JERRICK: Her stem cell research.

COLACELLO: She's quietly trying to nudge the administration to support her position on stem cell research, but she's very taken by President Bush and Laura Bush. They visited her in California. She's a real Republican, but as a former First Lady anybody interesting who comes out to LA wants to have lunch with her, whether it's Rudolph Giuliani--she's put him on the board of the Reagan Foundation. So she's involved, but Nancy Reagan's always been a more quiet, behind-the-scenes person. She's the opposite of Hillary, let's say.

PHILLIPS: Yeah I guess. But we were talking about this path to the White House for the Reagans; she was behind the scenes. But I guess she was more or less like a filter for Ronald Reagan, because she was everything, she was kind of an antithesis to what he was. He liked to talk to everybody, she didn't.


PHILLIPS: So she kind of filtered, I guess.

COLACELLO: He liked everybody, she had to be judgmental therefore. He was the Big Picture guy, she was the detail person. Barry Diller who's one of her friends--as I said a lot of friends--he said to me, Ronnie worried about nothing, so Nancy had to worry about everything. And she was very good about making sure that he was surrounded by good people. She had tremendous social skills, because she grew up with a mother who was a former actress, who had friends like Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn and Walter Huston and Lillian Gish. And a stepfather who was a very serious, major neurosurgeon in the days when brain surgery was an experimental art, really. And in their house, I mean, Nancy, they'd have at the dinner table would be the mayor of Chicago, doctors, actors. She really knew how to get along with people.

HUDDY: Yeah, what a life.

JERRICK: I know your Dad passed away what, five days before President Reagan did.

COLACELLO: Yes, that's true.

JERRICK: And your parents were married 58 years.

COLACELLO: That's right.

JERRICK: So you know about love stories. That's what people mention, when they mention Ronnie and Nancy Reagan, the love story comes up first, and then the politics.

COLACELLO: Right, right.

JERRICK: What was the key?

COLACELLO: Well I think, they just--it was like one and one make 22. They just filled each others gaps, emotionally and in a practical sense. Also Ronald Reagan had been through a very difficult first marriage. It took him three years to make up his mind to marry Nancy. He wanted to make sure it would going to last this time. And she had never been married before; she was 31. So both of them went into it with, we're going to make this work. She said they'd argue, but they had a pact: they'd never go to bed angry. One thing about my father's death, it was five days before President Reagan, and Nancy Reagan took the time to call me and offer her condolences while her husband could have gone any minute.

JERRICK: Isn't that something?


COLACELLO: That's the kind of friend she is. You see, she keeps up the friendships. Ronald Reagan was out there glad-handing everybody but was really a loner in many ways.

HUDDY: Interesting. All right, the book is called Ronnie & Nancy: Their Path to the White House 1911-1980. Bob Colacello, thank you.

JERRICK: Look at that picture of Nancy! When was that? She's gorgeous.

COLACELLO: 1971, 50 years old, he was 60, in Acapulco, they were at a party in Acapulco. It's never been used before; it was taken [unintelligible] country, but they didn't use it.

JERRICK: Some of the best parts in this book, though--their life. Just going to a restaurant over to Le Cirque, everybody would get up and applaud.

PHILLIPS: And whether you agreed with their politics or not, I think two words for them: heart and soul. You can't have one without the other.

COLACELLO: And like the Kennedys, they really projected a wonderfully glamorous image of the Presidency. I think Ronald Reagan made people proud to be American when he represented the country, and Nancy always looked great. They really believed that it was important to look great. That was part of serving the country, representing the country.

HUDDY: Thanks Bob for joining us today.

posted: Sun - February 6, 2005 at 12:00 PM       j$p  send