Singing Reagan's Praises for a New Cause

Sal Di Leo, a marketing man in Minneapolis, sent us an exclusive news release the other day, headlined: "Desperate to Build My Retreat for Nuns. Willing to Sell My Reagan Collection."

So begins the story of one man's adoration of Ronald Reagan and an all-but-forgotten song called "Come On America!" Di Leo is putting his pro-Gipper "fight song" and related memorabilia up for sale -- asking price: $1.5 million -- to build a lakefront lodge for nuns. "Ron and Nancy Reagan really liked the song a lot," he told us. "We'll set the bar as high as we can and see what happens."

In 1983, in what he describes as "probably one of the craziest decisions of my life," Di Leo spent $50,000 to write, produce and release the twangy ballad, sung by a member of John Fred and His Playboy Band, known for the novelty hit "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)." At the time, Di Leo says, he was a millionaire overly motivated by money, a boozer and a marijuana smoker. But a true believer in the president and his values: "I was proud of what he did. He was good for the country."

His song, written with friend Perry Sanders, supported the president's 1984 reelection campaign and was played at events Di Leo staged in 1986 in St. Paul, Chicago and Fort Worth when the administration was mired in allegations of illegality during the Iran-contra scandal. Di Leo says he called a news conference in Washington and faced down a sniping press corps while Oliver North was being grilled in hearings. No GOP supporters showed up. After that, he says, "I decided to stay away from politics forever."

But his song endures. "Come On America," it urges. "We can sink or we can swim / But with a godly man like him / we can do it." It won Di Leo a letter of gratitude from Reagan and was scored by the U.S. Marine Corps Band, though never played.

Raised by Franciscan nuns in an orphanage outside Chicago, the 50-year-old Di Leo says: "This is finally my way of giving back to a cause that matters most to me now. . . . I owe those nuns everything." His collection includes the master mix of the song, the first vinyl 45, posters, letters, newspaper clips and a signed copy of Di Leo's unpublished memoir, "Did I Ever Thank You, Sister?" Intrigued? Visit www.salsbook.com for more of the saga.

To listen to Sal Di Leo's "Come On America!" go to www.washingtonpost.com/style and click on "The Reliable Source."

College Republicans, Never Forgetting 9/11

* How to be popular on campus: Despite claims from both sides of the political fray that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks should never, ever be politicized, the College Republican National Committee hopes to build membership in the new school year by promoting 9/11 observances. "You can ensure your CR chapter starts the new year as the leading group at your school," the group's Web site states, "by becoming involved with Young America's Foundation's 9/11: Never Forget Project." Past participation with the nonprofit conservative organization has helped chapters "boost [their] standings" and get better speakers, such as conservative loyalists Bay Buchanan and Dinesh D'Souza.

Young America's Foundation suggests, among other things, holding a moment of prayer at home football games to mark the anniversary and will provide free posters, buttons and other materials. But it's in no way, shape or form political, Patrick Coyle, director of campus programs, assured us.

"We're using this in a way to get the members active," he said. "The reason why we started this program in the first place is that a lot of schools weren't doing anything for the anniversary."

This year, the foundation Web site says, its 9/11 speakers include Dave Bossie, a certified Bill Clinton antagonist who has written a book called "Intelligence Failure: How Clinton's National Security Policy Set the Stage for 9/11." A nonpolitical title if we've ever heard one.

For John Kerry, Stench Support

* Some left-wing voters who once backed Ralph Nader say they're reluctantly supporting John Kerry this year, even if, to their noses, the Democratic nominee stinks. Now comes Denver activist Jason Salzman with a gimmicky solution -- nose clips, of course! -- and a political action committee, RepentantNaderVoter.com. "We think there's a huge market for people who want to hold their nose and vote for Kerry," Salzman told The Post's Chris Richards. "Not just former Nader supporters, but former Bush supporters as well."

Peddling silver nose clips for $25 donations isn't Salzman's only area of expertise. He also authored a recent book with Ben and Jerry's ice cream guru Ben Cohen titled "50 Ways You Can Show George the Door in 2004." So what does supporting Kerry actually smell like? Salzman laughed. "Well, it smells better than Bush."

SQUIBS

* Calling John Kerry -- time's a wastin'! If you're really trying to win the election, maybe you'd better scoot on over to Martin's Tavern in Georgetown before you blow a "62-year presidential tradition," says owner Billy Martin Jr. Every president since Harry Truman has graced the 70-year-old watering hole before inhabiting the White House, the menu brags. (And four booths are named for the presidents who sat there: Truman, Kennedy, LBJ and Nixon.) But Martin, the fourth Billy Martin to run the restaurant, is worried that Kerry hasn't patronized the place yet. "Anything could happen on November 2nd," he says, "and that leaves a small window for Senator Kerry to visit us."

* And another restaurant campaign plug: 61 patrons at D.C.'s Teatro Goldoni have voted with their palates in a pizza poll since mid-July, choosing Democratic, Republican or "undecided/independent/other" pies. The tally: Undecideds lead with 24, the Dems claim 22 votes and Republicans 15.

* At least one Bush will not be attending the Republican National Convention next week. Dubya's little brother, Jeb, will remain in Florida, citing the aftermath of Hurricane Charley. "The governor feels that he has more work that he needs to do here in Florida related to the recovery of Hurricane Charley," spokesman Jacob DiPietre said yesterday.

The Daily Blowhard

"I wouldn't run for president. I wouldn't want to move to a smaller house."

-- U2's Bono, responding to People mag's question, "If you ran for president, who would be your running mate?"

With Anne Schroeder