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 Monday.
"Nancy Reagan: the Unauthorized Biography" skewers NancyNancy 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 NancyNancy 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 Nancy 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 Nancy 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 Nancy 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 Nancy 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.
Nancy 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 Nancy 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 Nancy 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 Monday, 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 Monday 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 Monday and employees said at midmorning that people had already been asking for it.
Kelley says Nancy 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."