The last time he was in Dixon, Ill., was on his 73rd birthday when he dedicated his boyhood home, which later was opened to the public. Today, six years and 140,000 visitors later, Ronald Reagan goes back to Dixon, this trip minus the trappings of the presidency but not the aura; 4,000 fans are expected to await him at an afternoon rally in the high school gym.
Certainly the timing is right. Reagan's memoir, "Ronald Reagan: An American Life," published by Simon & Schuster, will be in bookstores by Monday. And just as Nancy Reagan did a year ago when her memoir, "My Turn," was published, Reagan has ruled out a book tour. Instead, the Great Communicator will do his communicating via three taped television interviews, two of them on ABC with Barbara Walters of "20/20" and Charles Gibson of "Good Morning America," and the third on PBS with Reagan's longtime ideological soul mate William F. Buckley Jr.
In the first of two excerpts, Time magazine in its Nov. 5 issue quotes Reagan as saying, "A number of things that happened during my watch as president gave me great satisfaction, but I'm probably proudest about the economy."
At another point the former president recalls phoning his daughter Patti, away at school in Arizona, the night he won the California governor's race in 1966. When he told her he had been elected, he says, "she started to cry."
"She was only 14," Reagan writes, "but as a child of the 1960s she believed the anti-Establishment rhetoric that was popular among members of her generation, and she let me know that she didn't like having a member of the Establishment in the family."
Patti Davis, reached yesterday for comment, said she has not read her father's biography but that she did cry that night. She does not agree with her father's analysis of why she was upset, however. "It's trite to say it was the Establishment, though it was in part politics. I think I saw ahead of me a long road of conflict," she said. "I'm not clairvoyant, but I saw my life changing in a way I couldn't control.
"I remember I was standing at a pay phone, outside, and I remember so vividly staring out into the night, hearing all the night animals, wondering if I could disappear into the desert like a hermit. I remember all those things crossing my mind and that I had no choice, that the choice had not only been made for his life but for my life as well."
Davis said she wasn't the only student crying that night. So was a schoolmate, Nikki Williams, whose father, John R. Williams, also was elected governor -- of Arizona. (A Goldwater Republican, he remained in office until 1974, the year that Reagan left the statehouse.)
"She went to bed crying," Davis remembered, "but my hysteria, being the dramatic person I am, had me racing all around the campus."
Whether she's traveling light or traveling heavy, Barbara Bush says, one of the perks of living in the White House is "I don't have to pack anymore. I hang."
If President Bush's Hawaiian wardrobe was any clue, he may do a little of both. Over the weekend, in between campaign fund-raising, giving a speech and meeting with Pacific island leaders, Bush unveiled what almost certainly will become the standard for what every well-dressed president should tuck into his suitcase for a tropical outing -- just in case.
When Bush wasn't splashing around in swim trunks in the blue Pacific waters off the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel, he was changing into his golf togs for 18 holes at Hickam Air Force Base with national security adviser Brent Scowcroft; Adm. Huntington Hardisty, commander of U.S. Pacific operations; and longtime Washington friend Fred Zeder, head of Overseas Private Investment Corp.
But for a cruise on Zeder's catamaran Saturday night, Bush showed up in his pie`ce de re'sistance: a gaudy Hawaiian print shirt. And in case anybody had other ideas, he told reporters his outfits were "getting very good reviews."
Barbara Bush, back last night from the Hatfield-Lonsdale wars in Oregon, goes vote-hunting for Maurice Turner today in his bid for mayor of the District.
Yesterday in Portland, while Sen. Mark Hatfield was speaking, she and about 1,100 other Hatfield supporters watched security guards hustle two hecklers, who were shouting about gay rights, out of the Hilton Hotel ballroom. Police later charged both protesters with trespassing and one with disorderly conduct.
Mrs. Bush, a longtime friend of Hatfield and his wife, Antoinette, urged her audience at the $100-a-plate breakfast to hit the doorbells, stuff those envelopes and make that extra phone call to reelect their senator.
As ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hatfield has been instrumental in bringing millions of federal dollars to Oregon for such projects as the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Newport, Mrs. Bush said.
Democrat Harry Lonsdale, Hatfield's challenger, has been on the attack, accusing the Oregon incumbent of being a Washington insider beholden to special interests.
The anniversaries continue, this one Robert F. Kennedy's, who would have been 65 on Nov. 20.
Two years ago it was the 25th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, and on that occasion viewers of cable television's Home Box Office saw the poignant documentary "JFK in His Own Words," which some critics rated one of the best of its kind.
Now comes a sequel, "Robert F. Kennedy in His Own Words," also by Kunhardt Productions, to be aired on HBO on the anniversary of his birth. Some of his words are from the 26 hours worth of oral history he taped the year after JFK died. They cover the period from 1960 to 1963 and have never before been heard by the public, according to Peter Kunhardt, who received permission to use them from Kennedy's widow, Ethel.
"Sometimes it's as if Bobby is in the room, and sometimes the words are so garbled and imperfect that they could only be heard after they were digitally cleaned up," says Kunhardt, who spent 26 hours listening to every word. "What impressed me was the candor, and the voice which wasn't his public voice but quiet and thoughtful, often joking, often serious but unlike any I had heard before."
The difficult part of Kunhardt's search for words came in gleaning the ones Robert Kennedy spoke about himself; 95 percent of what he said was about Jack.
Ethel Kennedy agreed to provide Kunhardt access to her husband's oral tapes as well as the family's home movies after she saw the JFK film in 1988. For a while, no one could locate the movies. Then one day, Kunhardt says, the missing films were found -- where else but in two giant mildewed boxes in the pool house at Hickory Hill.
Another nostalgic look back at the Kennedys opens Nov. 18 at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore when the Max G. Lowenherz Collection of Kennedy Photographs goes on exhibit for the first time. The pictures of John and Jacqueline Kennedy show them in their first home at 3321 Dent Pl. in Georgetown a few months after their marriage. Proceeds from the gala opening will help match a $150,000 Ford Foundation grant to support minority students at the institute.