April 29, 1991 --
From the moment that Kitty Kelley's Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography
hit the bookstores,
it has been under attack. Could the figure Kelley portrays really be the
First Lady -- petty,
greedy, compassionless, a social climber and manipulator?
The debate raging around
the Reagans is a morass of contradictory charges and countercharges,
few capable of being
resolved. The following pages offer voices from both sides -- Kelley and
sources, and Reagan
loyalists and defenders. Readers may, as they must ultimately, judge for
EX-STARLETS & ALLEGATIONS
Kelley's book contains
startling claims about Ronald Reagan's past; we visited three of her sources
"HE WAS A SWINGER IN THOSE DAYS"
KELLEY CLAIMS: After
the breakup of his marriage to Wyman and before he met Nancy, Reagan
had an affair with
starlet Jacqueline Park, later the mistress of Warner Bros. studio boss
Park told Kelley that
when the two began dating, Reagan "couldn't perform sexually. I think he
still suffering withdrawal
pains from [former wife] Jane Wyman." Throughout their liaison, Park said,
"He never took me
out in public, never gave me a present and never ever paid for a cab for
to Park, she became pregnant; Reagan denied that
the child was his
and ended the affair.
JACQUELINE PARK SAYS:
Kelley quoted her fairly accurately. "When I told him I was pregnant,
he said he didn't
want to have anything to do with me anymore. He just ran
out on me. He was a
swinger in those
days. He went out with this girl and that girl. But the moment he married
became a Republican,
he was reformed, and there's nothing more boring than a reformed swinger."
WALTERS: "THE BATTLE OF THE COUCH"
KELLEY CLAIMS: Reagan
met starlet Selene Walters in a Hollywood nightclub in
the early 1950s.
"Although I was on a date," she quotes Walters as saying,
"Ronnie kept whispering
in my ear, 'I'd like to call you. How can I get in touch with you?'
"Hoping that Reagan,
then president of the Screen Actors Guild, could boost her career,
Walters gave him
her address and was surprised when he came calling at 3 A.M.
"He pushed his
way inside and said he just had to see me. He forced me on the couch
. . . and said,
'Let's just get to know each other.' It was the most pitched battle I've
ever had, and suddenly
in a matter of seconds I lost. . . . They call it date
rape today. . . ."
SELENE WALTERS SAYS:
Kelley's account of his late-night visit is essentially accurate, although
never forced his way
into her apartment. "I opened the door. Then it was the battle of the couch.
fighting him. I didn't
want him to make love to me. He's a very big man, and he just had his way.
rape? No, God, no, that's [Kelley's] phrase. I didn't have a chance
have a date with him." Walters says she bears Reagan no ill
will, and has even voted for him:
"I don't think
he meant to harm me."
DORIS LILLY: "HE
WAS VERY GENTLE, VERY SQUARE"
KELLEY CLAIMS: Writer
and columnist Doris Lilly (How to Marry a Millionaire) told the
that she and Reagan
"had a delightful little romance" for about a year in 1948. Lilly is quoted
"Intimately, he was
nothing memorable, but he was an appealing-looking guy who was very, very
I hate to say that
he was weak -- maybe a nicer word would be passive. . . . He loved to go
out and be
seen at all the nightclubs
in those days, and he loved to drink, so we used to go out and get smashed."
LILLY SAYS: "I never used the words 'get smashed.' I don't talk that way.
Those were the days when everybody
He was never drunk. He never did anything in the extreme. He was a very
gentle, very square, very hayseed
of a man." Lilly (with Reagan, left, at the Stork Club in Manhattan in
1949) adds, "And I never said we had an
relationship. I don't talk about sex. That's not my generation."
LUNCH WITH SINATRA:
WAS LOVE ON THE MENU?
KELLEY CLAIMS: Nancy
and Sinatra began having an affair when her husband was Governor
of California and
"continued for years." As First Lady, Kelley writes, Nancy entertained
Sinatra at the
White House, which
he entered "in the back way," for three- or four-hour "private 'luncheons'
" in the
family quarters. When
Nancy was with him, Kelley quotes a staffer as saying, "She was not to
disturbed. For anything.
And that included a call from the President himself."
SHEILA TATE, NANCY'S
FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, SAYS: "The instance I know [was] a very
innocent lunch, without
any quotations around it. There was a meeting with the whole senior staff
and Sinatra and Nancy.
Then they did have lunch, but by 1:30 or 2:00 he was in the Oval Office.''
Tate says that all
guests were always escorted to the residence elevator. "[Kelley] loosely
being brought 'in
the back.' And it was not unusual for calls to be held during a meeting
or when a
guest was visiting.
It was out of common courtesy."
JOE CANZERI, FORMER
PRESIDENTIAL ASSISTANT: "I'm not saying that they might not have
been alone together.
But if [Kelley says] they were jumping up and down on top of one another,
that would be a lie.
There are too many people upstairs at the White House. There's the Secret
Service right outside
AN EVENING OF REEFER
MADNESS WITH JACK BENNY
KELLEY CLAIMS: While
Reagan was Governor, he and Nancy attended a dinner party at the
home of society pals
Alfred and Betsy Bloomingdale at which marijuana was smoked. After Betsy's
peach ice-cream dessert,
Kelley's source reports, Alfred brought out a joint and passed it among
the guests, who included
the Jack Bennys and the George Burnses. The source, Bloomingdale aide
Sheldon Davis, claims
he heard Alfred talk about the incident at the office later: "Within five
they all started giggling
but claimed they didn't feel a thing and said they couldn't see what the
big deal was."
SAYS: "That never took place. Have you got a mental picture of me
to George Burns and Jack Benny and the Reagans? George Burns puffing away
at the table and without
his cigar? I looked at that and said, 'It's ridiculous.' That's my answer
that and the rest
of the book."
OF PATTI, ABORTION
AND TEDDY BEARS
KELLEY CLAIMS: Nancy's
daughter, Patti Davis, "had abortions," according to the daughter of one
of Nancy's close friends.
Kelley writes that Nancy "once rushed [Patti] off" for "surgery on a
botched-up job." As
for stepson Michael, Kelley alleges that Nancy made a birthday present
son Cameron of a teddy
bear that had been recycled from the White House gift closet -- the same
toy Cameron had lost
there a few months earlier.
PATTI DAVIS SAYS: "I've
never been pregnant, and I've never had an abortion. If I had had one,
I would have written
an article on it for MS. magazine, because I'm pro-choice." But I don't
Kitty Kelley for that
because she must have gotten the story from one of my mother's friends.
They have nothing
else to do but sit around at the Bistro [a Beverly Hills restaurant and
MICHAEL REAGAN SAYS:
"The stories about me come right out of my book
[On the Outside
Looking In,1988]." The teddy bear tale, he says, is essentially true,
parents "had no idea
that Cameron had already seen that bear, or where it came from. And it
with a card and inside
the card was a check. The check isn't mentioned in Kelley's book.
[As told] it implies
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