The cause of death was congestive heart failure, according to her rep Joanne Drake. “Mrs. Reagan will be buried at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, next to her husband, Ronald Wilson Reagan, who died on June 5, 2004,” Drake wrote in a statement.
I first saw Ronnie and Nancy Reagan at the Republican convention of 1964 in San Francisco’s Cow Palace.
As luck would have it, I stood leaning on the metal railing that enclosed the boxed-in open place where, side by side, Ronnie and Nancy were seated watching Ike. Suddenly, I was fascinated by them. First, there was her furious glare when someone created a diversion during Ike’s aria. She turned, lip curled with Bacchantish rage, huge unblinking eyes afire with a passion to kill the enemy so palpably at hand—or so it looked to me. For all I know she might have been trying out new contact lenses. In any case, I had barely heard of Nancy then. Even so, I said to myself: There is a lot of rage in this little lady.
The inaugural turns out to be a long and beautiful commercial to Adolfo, Blass, Saint Laurent, Galanos, de la Renta, and Halston. At one point, Ronnie reads a poem his mother had written; there were “tears in his eyes.” During the ceremonies, Ronnie said later, “It was so hard not to cry during the whole thing.” But then Ronnie had been discovered, groomed, and coiffed, by the brothers Warner who knew how to produce tears on cue with Max Steiner’s ineffable musical scores. So overwhelming was Maestro Steiner that at one point, halfway up the stairs to die nobly in Dark Victory, Bette Davis suddenly stopped and looked down at the weeping director and crew and said, “Tell me now. Just who is going up these Goddamned stairs to die? Me or Max Steiner?”
“As her husband spoke…her eyes gleamed with tears,” while “the Mormon Tabernacle choir brought tears to his eyes.” Tears, size sixes, Edwards-Lowell furs, Jimmy and Gloria Stewart, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, new noses and old ideas, with charity toward none…then a final phone call to one of Nancy’s oldest friends who says: “Oh, Nancy, you aren’t a movie star now, not the biggest movie star. You’re the star of the whole world. The biggest star of all.” To which Nancy answers, “Yes, I know, and it scares me to death.” To which, halfway around the world, at Windsor Castle, an erect small woman of a certain age somewhat less than that of Nancy is heard to mutter, “What is all this shit?”
Here’s Ronnie at his best, playing “Will” to Bette’s “Grace” — with no Nancy in sight.