A Gossip Party in Print Confessions of a Bored Nancy Reagan Biography Reader

Article excerpt

PERHAPS I am the only person alive who found Kitty Kelley's book on Nancy Reagan difficult reading, simply because it was so boring.

Maybe I had read enough reviews to have already known about the so-called "good stuff" - the titillating passages that apparently left many readers breathlessly wondering: Did she or didn't she?

Have you ever sat in the room where everyone is talking disapprovingly about someone? After a while you wish you had never come to this gossip party. Yet in a way you are afraid to leave - lest you become the next victim of the ridicule.

That's how I feel about the Kelley book. It's a gossip party in print.

Much of it may be true. Nancy Reagan may be the unattractive person Ms. Kelley portrays. But I covered the Reagan White House closely for years and never observed this side of Mrs. Reagan.

Oh, I heard about the way she used her influence to get beautiful gowns for nothing. And I was on the stage of the annual journalists' Gridiron show when she kidded herself about this - and helped her image no end - by dressing up in old togs and singing "Second Hand Clothes" to the tune of "Second Hand Rose."

Doubtless one reason Mrs. Reagan took on the war against drugs was to improve her image.

But ever since Eleanor Roosevelt stopped just playing second fiddle to her husband and worked valiantly for blacks, first ladies have been expected to have some kind of a cause.

The beautifying of Washington was Lady Bird Johnson's project, and I thank her every time I walk through Lafayette Park and enjoy the flowers she had planted there.

Barbara Bush is a strong advocate for literacy.

Mrs. Reagan's "Just Say No to Drugs" is regarded by many of her critics, including Kelley, as superficial, reflecting a less-than-genuine interest in getting the job done. Yet Mrs. Reagan lent her name and her voice to the fight against drugs; that, of itself, was not a little thing.

I may be sounding like a defender of Mrs. Reagan. Not so. It's just that I tend to stand up for someone who is getting unmercifully kicked around - and I'm sure there are lots of others like me. …


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