Ronald Prescott Reagan, the 22-year-old ballet dancer son of President-elect Ronald Wilson Reagan, was secretly married yesterday in a civil ceremony in a judge's chambers in Manhattan.
Neither the president-elect nor Nancy Reagan attended the ceremony. The bride wore red cowboy boots, a black sweater and black slacks. The groom wore a red sweatshirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes.
He and his bride, Doria Palmieri, decided to wed, according to the bride, "a week, a week and a half ago" after having lived together for more than a year.
The newlyweds, both from Los Angeles, have known each other four years. They will honeymoon in Bermuda, Reagan said, when the ballet company with which he dances -- the Joffrey II ballet ensemble -- visits there to give several performances. The trip is to begin Jan. 12 and will last about a week, with the performances scheduled to run Jan. 14-17.
Reagan, who made his official debut with Joffrey II on Oct. 10 in Brooklyn, will next perform in public on Dec. 12, having recently recovered from back spasms. He will appear in Harlem at the Aaron Davis Center for the Performing Arts at the City College of the City University of New York.He is scheduled to dance in four ballets, including a new work called "Ladies in Lingerie."
Dancer Reagan telephoned his parents early yesterday morning and told his father he had just been married. The president-elect, according to young Reagan, offered congratulations. "He was very happy," the dancer said. Reagan did not talk to his mother, he said, because "she was still asleep and I had to go in and rehearse." The bride said, "I spoke to my parents, and they were very happy."
Nancy Reagan, who was stopped by reporters as she was leaving her Pacific Palisades, Calif., home for a dental appointment, said her son called just before the wedding, so that it was not a complete surprise. "I'm very happy," she said. "I hope they'll be very happy."
The president-elect, making his only public appearance of the day to pose for photographers with two live turkeys outside his home, was asked by reporters whether he was surprised to learn of the marriage.
"Happily so," he replied.
Nancy Reagan said she and her husband were not disappointed they did not attend. "That's the way he [her son] wanted it," she said, smiling. "His father and I had a small wedding. The main thing is that Ron is happy." She said she was not bothered by the age difference between her son and his new wife.
The wedding was witnessed by Secret Service agent Lane McNitt of McLean, Va., and a friend of the groom, Calvin Williford, of Pinol, Calif. State Supreme Court Justice Lester Evans waived the usually required 24-hour wait between issuance of the license and the marriage ceremony, a source said.
The newlyweds will not attend Thanksgiving dinner this week at the Santa Barbara ranch, Nancy Reagan added, saying that she and the president-elect will see them at Christmas, "certainly before the inauguration."
Palmieri, who is 29 years old, of medium height, slender and pretty, was ecstatic and a little embarrassed at the media attention afforded her during a brief, raucous press conference last night.
"I'm happy to be Ron's wife," she said. Repeatedly asked to show her wedding ring to photographers, she said, "I feel so silly doing this." The ring was a wide band of gold; she wore no engagement ring.
Reagan was animated, constantly smiling and laughing while hugging his wife during the press conference.
The new Mrs. Reagan said she "eventually" wants to have children, but "really not for a while. It's a financial thing more than anything -- I love children, but I want to be able to support them."
Reagan's earnings are currently limited -- rehearsal pay for Joffrey II dancers is $90 a week; compensation during the weeks the company offers public performances is believed to be less than $300. Reagan recently said he is receiving financial support from his father, since his monthly expenses just for rent and food, are at least $800.
Speaking of his potential income as a ballet dancer, Reagan recently said, "I've never been very money-oriented, which is probably very fortunate because I don't stand to make a lot if I keep dancing. It doesn't make much difference to me one way or the other. It's unfortunate, though, that dancers are paid so little. I mean, sure, you have your [Alexander] Godunov who gets $10,000 a performance and Misha [Baryshnikov] and a few others, but by and large dancers are grossly underpaid."
Asked about the limited income potential in the dance world, Reagan said, "It didn't affect my decision to take up dancing. It bothers me a little now. I mean, it's nice to be able to go out to a nice restaurant, and see a show, but that's secondary to doing what you want to do, doing what you feel you have to do."
Reagan's bride, formerly employed in a boutique in Manhattan, is now working as a researcher for a publishing house, she said yesterday.
Since the Joffrey II is a touring company, when Palmieri was asked if her husband's being away from home -- an apartment in Greenwich Village -- would be a major problem for her, she said, "It sure is, and I'm going to go along as much as I can" when the company is on tour.
Since the marriage was apparently a secret even from members of Reagan's family -- sources with knowledge of the specifics said no Reagan family members were in attendance at the marriage ceremony -- the dancer was asked if he had eloped. "We've been living together for a year, so how do you elope?" he responded.
He said there had been no pressure from his family for him to marry but that he and his bride simply felt the time for marriage had arrived.
Joffrey II director Sally Brayley Bliss learned of the couple's decision on Sunday and expected them to marry yesterday between Reagan's rehearsals. But yesterday morning, "he came up to me and said 'It's all over with, it's done,'" Bliss said. She stated she was very happy for the couple but was still in a "state of shock" from the media onslaught after news of the marriage leaked out.
Reagan will take one day off from the Joffrey tour schedule -- Jan. 20 -- in order to attend his father's inauguration.
Joffrey II dancer Karen Kromholtz, who had previously met Palmieri because "she dropped in after rehearsals," said of the couple, "She is lovely, it's wonderful, and we all wish him the best." Julie Janus, a company member who has been partnered by Reagan during performances said, "He's great, and she's a sweetheart."
Reagan says his love of ballet crept up on him. "I think I was sort of slowly seduced," he said recently. "I saw books and pictures. I'd seen a film of Nureyev and Fonteyn doing 'Romeo and Juliet' when I was younger, and that sort of stuck in my mind and I remembered that.
"I'd done nothing at all until I went to Yale. I took a couple of modern dance classes there, a couple of ballet classes . . . Then I called my folks" and said Yale no, ballet yes. He had never seen a professional ballet performance until after he decided to become a dancer.
During that telephone conversation, Reagan related, his father reacted to the son's decision by offering to call family friend Gene Kelly, the famous dancer-actor, "and asked him which studios he'd recommend.
"I said sure, that's fine, it'd be a help." The elder Reagan called Kelly, who suggested the Stanley Holden School. Young Reagan accepted the suggestion and studied with Holden for 2 1/2 years. "I auditioned for the American Ballet Theatre school and I wasn't accepted. I auditioned for the Pennsylvania Ballet [apprentice] program, and I wasn't accepted," he said. Reagan then auditioned for the Joffrey Ballet's school and was accepted; officials there said they did not know they had chosen the son of the now president-elect.
Reagan said he approached his parents and "asked if they would help me out [financially]. So I get some money from them every month -- which helps, a lot."
For the future, Reagan says that if his career bogs down "maybe I'd just catch a banana boat for parts unknown." He adds, "I don't have any great desire to be a star in the celebrity sense. What I'd really like is just to be respected by dancers and people who know dance. It's not terribly important for me to be recognized on the street. I'd just like to be seen as a good dancer."