Tuesday, March 8, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Remembering Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan and Liz in 1985.
by Liz Smith

Remembering Nancy Reagan ... Congratulating Rupert and Jerry!

what you've been through with somebody," said James Thurber.

I can't think of a more appropriate quote to recall Nancy Reagan, who went through a lot — without, apparently, a moment's regret — for her great love, Ronald Reagan.

Despite the privileged life she led as an actress, then as first lady of California on to her role as First Lady of the United States, I always felt if her "Ronnie" had wanted to make a life digging ditches somewhere, Nancy would have put on a pair of jeans and supported his choice — maybe even digging a few ditches herself.

Still, even in the trenches, I think somehow Nancy would have found herself a good hairdresser.
I LOST a dear friend when Nancy Reagan died over the weekend, at the age of 94.
I first became a fan of Mrs. Reagan after Mike Wallace, her good pal of many years, telephoned me from Washington. Mike, who I had worked with in my youth (prior to his "60 Minutes" and my gossip column) was at the White House, and said simply:

Mike Wallace interviewing Nancy Reagan in 2004.
"Liz, there's someone here who wants to talk to you!" Much to my surprise, he put the First Lady on the phone to get acquainted. She thanked me graciously for my having defended her in my column over the contretemps of the famous $200,000 set of new china.

Her detractors had griped about this expenditure for the White House, while her husband was slashing the budget. But dinnerware aside, the press kept busy attacking Nancy for her clothes (too expensive) her devotion to Ronnie (too intense) using an astrologer to figure out when the President should travel (too wacky — but this was after the assassination attempt) and her "power" in general. Others, who knew her personally, sang her praises.
I thought she was amazing, great looking and good for America. She was certainly warmer and wittier than her image sometimes seemed to suggest. (The media might want to forget it now, but Nancy was given a pretty hard time by the press corps.)

Nancy Reagan on the cover of Andy Warhol's Interview Magazine in 1981
Shortly after this, I was invited to the White House for dinner in the Rose Garden. I think that was engineered by her good friend and mine the socialite real estate heir Jerry Zipkin. My presence — and that of Andy Warhol — scandalized the Washington Post newspaper. They lectured on the likes of a gossip columnist and an outré artist being invited to the White House. It seems perfectly silly nowadays. We developed our friendship for years — during her time as First Lady, after she and Ronnie left Washington, and after the President died.

I saw Mrs. Reagan quite a lot. Once, I went to dinner with her as the guest of music mogul Ahmet Ertegun. We took Mrs. Reagan out to a trendy restaurant. I have never done well with alcohol and that night we had so much fun gossiping that I overdid it. At one point I "advised" Mrs. Reagan, who had been busy caring for the President as he succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer's to "get a job" and do something important like Hillary Clinton, who had become a Senator. Nancy Reagan looked at me and answered gently: "I thought I was already doing something important."

The next day I wrote her an apology letter saying I'd hope she would forgive me for my insensitive remarks and confessing I didn't handle liquor very well. She sent me a charming reply "Liz, no one has ever confessed to having one too many and asked my forgiveness except you. I love it!"
We had many fond conversations on the phone. She would call and ask me to give her all the New York gossip. I also kept up with her through my friend Peter Brown, the famous PR man. (Bob Colacello, who wrote a biography about the great love story of Nancy and Ronald Regan, was also friendly with Mrs. Reagan to the end. They spoke only a week before her death, and she was still eager to know all the show biz dish!)

I will miss Nancy Reagan, for many reasons, not the least of which was her tolerant attitude toward a tipsy gossip columnist who forgot that Nancy was already doing the job of her life — taking care of the man, the person, she cared about most deeply. She was one of a kind.
THIS column sends happy sincere congratulations to Jerry Hall and Rupert Murdoch, who recently married in St. Bride's church in London.

I am especially interested in this wedlock as I was recently with the couple aboard their chartered boat in the Caribbean. They looked mysteriously happy there and one couldn't doubt the sincerity of their attraction and well being.
The happily married couple.
I still work for Rupert on Fox News Entertainment and the ebullient Jerry is my long time Texas friend. I knew her adorable mother in Gonzales, Texas many years ago when my parents lived there.

Jerry is a wonderful person who has cheerfully and skillfully managed the limelight through her days as a top model, actress and wife to Mick Jagger — she is the mother of 4 of Mick's 7 children.
A quick nod to daughters Lizzie and Georgia May as Jerry prepares to walk down the aisle.
NONE other than Tom Brokaw himself has agreed to be the guest of the Maria Droste Counseling Services charity. This good work for those in need of mental health service by the charity's esteemed psychological whizzes happens April 19th, a Tuesday, in midtown.
Perri Peltz will be quizzing Tom during the upcoming benefit for Maria Droste Counseling Services. It will be much more lighthearted than this picture suggests!
We keep our guests for only an hour or two with cocktails and a chance to mix and mingle. The divine Elizabeth Peabody will chair and the one and only documentary ace and fine reporter Perri Peltz will join me in quizzing Tom about what North and South Dakota have in common and other mysteries. We'll talk to one-of-the-last kings of TV about some of his marvelous books — " A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope" and "The Greatest Generation."
Elizabeth Peabody at the 2014 benefit for Maria Droste.
The Maria Droste Counseling Services have been put on the map by the impact of VIPs and stars from Bette Midler to Whoopi Goldberg, Pete Peterson, Marie Brenner, Candice Bergen, Gail Collins, Christopher Buckley, Frank Rich and Alex Witchel, telling all about themselves.

Call for tix and info at 212-889-4042.
Liz with Candy Bergen and Marshall Rose at the 2015 benefit.
Frank Rich and Alex Witchel at the 2014 benefit.
Whoopi and Liz at the 2013 benefit.
Liz and Bette at the 2012 benefit.

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.