Nancy Reagan scares me. She "hob-nobs." She "refurbishes." She "shuttles," often to New York, sometimes to French restaurants, somtimes to the Joffrey Ballet! Many of her dresses are the work of designers with decidedly foreign-sounding names. All this and more was divulged to us in a very scholarly report in the Dec. 21 issue of Newsweek. It was the magazines' cover story, featured in the "Natonal Affairs" section, lest you think Newsweek's editors are lacking in sophistication.
This "hobnobbing" is done with "Hollywood notables" and ith established members of Washington society -"Southern-inflected, old-money families." Evangeline Bruce was mentioned, along with a relative of the late Theodore Roosevelt. Newsweek has discovered a lot of other disturbing details about the first lady. Nancy Reagan had the White House washed down and redecorated without recurse to the U.S. Treasury. The funds were donated! Nancy Reagan is sweet, but sometimes she is not. And there are times when in the quiet of the evening she turns the thermostat up to "85 or 87 degrees."
Why she skips 86 degrees we are not told. It is slipshod journalism like this that leaves all American journalist open to charges of frivolity. I whish Newsweek's editors would be more thorough. There has got to be n explanation for this mysterious lacuna between temperatures.
Probably the most disturbing revelation about Nancy Reagan is that she is normal. She does not flop onto the Freudian couch every time some sophomoric reporter fixes an eye on her and inquires as to the existential fuffering that throbs within. Nancy Reagan lays upon us none of that I'mgrowing-changing-learning flapdoodle that so enraptures the cheap minds now dominant in our pop culture. She has failed them. They will remain in the mulli-grubs until she duly works some fashionable humbug upon them.
Will Nancy Reagan ever become enough of a phony to ingratiate herself to the cheap minds? All available evidence suggests that she will not. Last March's attempt on the president's life presented her with auspicious opportunities to create a mawkish legend replete with personal revelations of eeriness and angst, but she remained reticent and dignified.
The, too, she could have turned her childhood into one of those sentimental sagas so fetching to our pop culture. Yet she tends not to dweel on the fact that shortly after her birth her father flew the coop; her mother had too leave her with relatives for years; and there were moments of loneliness, perhaps even want. Instead, Nancy Reagan reminds us that her mother eventually married a worthy Chicago physician. "I grew up in comfortable circumstances," she has written, blasting to smithereens a promising legend of personal suffering -perhaps even alienation, possibly depravity. It could have been a swell story, ensuring that few journalists would ever again accost her dry-eyed and sullen.
Nor does it seem likely that Nancy Reagan will fasten upon some goody-goody and breathtakingly factitious cause. Nowadays the cause is a solemn requirement for all wives in publc life, and if the proper cause is selected it can stupefy the press, leaving reporters cooing and glad to be alive. In days of yore it was sufficient that such causes be merely high-minded. Today, however, the cause has to be novel. The idea is to champion some heretofore unchampioned group, whether the group cars to be championed or not, thus revealing a truly progressive humanitarianism.
Yet my guess is that Nancy Reagan will stick with such sober, old-fashioned interests as the Foster Grandparents program that has interested her since 1967 and the family that she has been acquiring for 30 years. She is simply too much the normal American to give herself over to the cheap minds that are stalking her.
This puzzles Newsweek's analysts, and doubtless it irks them. In their Dec. 21 issue they render their judgment that Nancy Reagan is the most "elusive" and incomprehensible first lady since Bess Truman. It is shocking revelation. The distress felt in our Washington press corps could last a long time. Nothing perplexes an American journalist so much as the obvious.