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Book: Nancy Reagan Had White House Affair With Sinatra

April 8, 1991 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Nancy Reagan carried on an affair with Frank Sinatra, smoked pot with her husband while he was governor of California and pulled strings in the White House, says a juicy biography that began hitting bookstores today.

″Nancy Reagan: the Unauthorized Biography″ skewers Mrs. Reagan as an ambitious woman who mentally and physically abused her children, manipulated her husband and lied about her age and her own impoverished childhood.

″The best thing I could say about Mrs. Reagan is she was a good president,″ the book’s author, Kitty Kelley, said in an interview Sunday.


Former President Reagan was asked about the book as he and Mrs. Reagan went to church services in Bel-Air on Sunday. ″I don’t think a church would be the proper place to use the word I would have to use in discussing that,″ he said.

Bill Garber, spokesman for the Reagans, said Mrs. Reagan ″has said nothing to me other than to say she will have nothing to say about the book.″

Kelley, who wrote similar lurid biographies of Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, said Mrs. Reagan was her most difficult subject because of the command she had over people Kelley wanted to interview.

″I’m kind of scared of her,″ Kelley said. ″I still think she’s very powerful.″

Kelley portrays Mrs. Reagan as a ″Marie Antoinette windup doll.″ The book says she was so greedy she accepted $1 million worth of free fashions and jewelry and wheedled her husband’s friends into paying for all of the couple’s needs - including a mansion to live in when Reagan was governor of California.

In return, Kelley alleges, the donors received publicity and invitations to White House galas.

Mrs. Reagan never spent money on gifts, preferring to ″recycle″ gifts given to her and the president, the book says. Once, she sent a teddy bear to Reagan’s grandson as a birthday gift, not realizing the boy had left the toy at the White House during a previous visit.

The book relates an affair between Mrs. Reagan and Sinatra that was said to have begun in Sacramento after the singer appeared at a Reagan gubernatorial campaign function.

Years later, Kelley wrote, Sinatra often entered the White House by a back door for private lunches with Mrs. Reagan.

″When the first lady was with Frank Sinatra, she was not to be disturbed. For anything. And that included a call from the president himself,″ Kelley wrote.

Early today, Sinatra spokeswoman Susan Reynolds said: ″We are not going to dignify this type of writing with a formal response.″

In New York City, Brentano’s bookstore got about 50 copies when it opened today and sold three right away. ″We expect it to sell well with all the publicity they gave it on TV,″ said employee Jose Colon.

B. Dalton and Barnes & Noble in Manhattan expected shipments of the book later today and employees said at midmorning that people had already been asking for it.

Kelley says Mrs. Reagan was born in 1921 and not 1923 as she claims.

The book says she engineered 22 top-level firings, including those of White House chief of staff Donald Regan, Interior Secretary James Watt, several ambassadors, White House photographers and White House curator Clement Conger ″for not being deferential enough.″

It is not the first unfavorable picture of the Reagans. Daughter Patti Davis was not flattering in her autobiographical novel ″Home Front,″ and Regan portrayed Mrs. Reagan as dominating her husband in his memoir ″For The Record.″

Kelley’s book credits the former first lady with pushing Reagan toward detente with the Soviet Union in spite of his own rabid anti-communism.

The book was based on 1,000 interviews with estranged family members, disaffected former staffers and Reagan friends and loyalists, as well as numerous journalists who wrote about them over the years.

The book also makes these purported revelations:

-The Reagans, who portrayed themselves as anti-drug crusaders, once smoked marijuana at a party during the 1960s thrown by department store heir Alfred Bloomingdale and attended by George Burns and Jack Benny. Sheldon Davis, Bloomingdale’s former executive assistant, recalls Bloomingdale as saying the Reagans giggled and said ″they couldn’t see what the big deal was.″

-In his Hollywood years, Ronald Reagan was a notorious womanizer, sleeping with so many women he once woke up in the bed of a woman whose name he couldn’t remember.

-Nancy Reagan pursued the actor for three years and they married after she disclosed she was pregnant. Kelley writes that Reagan suspected she was trapping him into marriage.

-Reagan’s true love was actress Christine Larson, who turned down his marriage proposal. Kelley says Reagan was with Miss Larson on the night that daughter Patti was born and that he continued to see the actress after his marriage.