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25 July 1991
Nancy ReaganThe Unauthorised Biography 
by Kitty Kelley.
Bantam, 532 pp., £16.99, April 1991, 0 593 02450 8
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... which someone has plopped a clearly reluctant cat. As those who have ploughed through its five-hundred-plus pages, full of this kind of upfront bitchiness, will already know, this is an indictment of NancyReagan composed by the vacuum-cleaner method. Five years of ‘meticulous’ research and over a thousand interviews have been sucked into the Kitty machine so as to give us the accumulated dirt. The ...
7 December 1989
Life Lines: Politics and Health 1986-1988 
by Edwina Currie.
Sidgwick, 291 pp., £13.95, November 1989, 0 283 99920 9
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My Turn 
by Nancy Reagan and William Novak.
Weidenfeld, 384 pp., £15.95, October 1989, 0 297 79677 1
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Heiress: The Story of Christina Onassis 
by Nigel Dempster.
Weidenfeld, 180 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 297 79671 2
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... for power; we expect them to be pious, and talk about the public good, and to keep their own ambitions decently veiled. It is the question of public expectation, and how to meet it, that bedevilled NancyReagan during her time in the White House. ‘By the end of 1981,’ she tells us, ‘I had a higher disapproval rating than any first lady of modern times.’ Joan Didion called her smile ‘a study ...

Dad & Jr

Christian Lorentzen: Bushes Jr & Sr

4 December 2014
... bankrolling and lucky political breaks (a first Congressional win in a new Houston district; a second race unopposed; deployment as the resident ‘worrywart’ in the Nixon and Ford administrations; Reagan picking him as a running mate in 1980 to avoid being pushed by the party into standing with Ford as an effective co-president. As president, Dad won the Cold War: he’s a second Churchill. The ...

Ronbo

Michael Rogin

13 October 1988
Guts and Glory: The Rise and Fall of Oliver North 
by Ben Bradlee.
Grafton, 572 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 246 13364 3
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For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington 
by Donald Regan.
Hutchinson, 397 pp., £16.95, June 1988, 0 09 173622 6
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... Ronald Reagan’s autobiography, Where’s the rest of me?, repeated the question the actor had asked in the movie King’s Row, when he woke up in a hospital bed to discover that his legs had been amputated ...
1 September 1988
Citizen Cohn 
by Nicholas von Hoffman.
Harrap, 483 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 0 245 54605 7
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... deadbeat who only paid a bill when he had a gun at his head. He was a blackmailer who dealt in gossip, threats and innuendo. His main characteristic was cynicism. And yet his friends included Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump, Norman Mailer, Barbara Walters (they almost married), Cardinal Spellman, nearly all the top Mafia people, Richard Nixon, Si Newhouse, Rupert Murdoch, Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover ...

Vertigo

Richard Rudgley: Plant obsessions

15 July 1999
The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession 
by Susan Orlean.
Heinemann, 348 pp., £12.99, April 1999, 0 434 00783 8
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The Tulip 
by Anna Pavord.
Bloomsbury, 438 pp., £30, January 1999, 0 7475 4296 1
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Plants of Life, Plants of Death 
by Frederick Simoons.
Wisconsin, 568 pp., £27.95, September 1998, 0 299 15904 3
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... thereby the secular and often trivial nature of the cult’s adherents. There are various subspecies in this modern nomenclature, such as those named after First Ladies – the Jackie Kennedy, NancyReagan and Hillary Clinton – and a whole subculture surrounding the orchid world: orchid baby-sitters, orchid doctors, even orchid boarding-houses, as well as a virtual cosmos of orchidodelirium on the ...

Who Will Lose?

David Edgar

23 September 2008
Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future 
by Newton Minow and Craig LaMay.
Chicago, 219 pp., £11.50, April 2008, 978 0 226 53041 3
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... opponent – would prove decisive in debate series from Ford/Carter in 1976 to Bush/Clinton in 1992. Prep was never more significant than in the debates of 1980 and 1984, in both of which Ronald Reagan’s surrogate opponent was David Stockman, a young former radical who went on to head the Office of Management and Budget before resigning over the budget deficit in Reagan’s second term. Stockman ...

Most Sincerely, Folks

Michael Wood: Andrew O’Hagan

5 June 2003
Personality 
by Andrew O’Hagan.
Faber, 328 pp., £16.99, May 2003, 0 571 19501 6
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... Green himself gets a soliloquy or two in this book), wins the competition time after time, makes it to the Palladium and Las Vegas, appears with Dean Martin and Les Dawson, is introduced to President Reagan. Something is amiss, though. Even NancyReagan notices it. ‘My word,’ she says, ‘you’re terribly thin, my dear.’ Then she adds: ‘Well, never mind. A girl can never be too thin.’ At a ...
19 September 1996
... simply ridiculed. The Democrats, of course, had to follow a challenging Republican Convention – brilliantly made for television by Haley Barbour, the Party’s national chairman. The appearance by NancyReagan spoke for itself. The elevation of Colin Powell into some sort of co-candidate and the exceptional prominence given to Elizabeth Dole, who made the most of her opportunity by wading into the ...

Those bastards, we’ve got to cut them back

Daniel S. Greenberg: Bush’s Scientists

22 September 2005
The Republican War on Science 
by Chris Mooney.
Basic Books, 288 pp., £14.99, October 2005, 0 465 04675 4
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... deference to fundamentalist passions as the price of keeping one of their own in the White House. The therapeutic hopes aroused by stem-cell research, however, have shifted political alignments. NancyReagan, mourning her husband’s death from Alzheimer’s disease, received public support when she endorsed the expansion of stem-cell research. More recently, the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist ...

Right Stuff

Alexander Cockburn

7 February 1991
An American Life 
by Ronald Reagan.
Hutchinson, 748 pp., £19.99, November 1990, 0 09 174507 1
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... It made no difference, given the consensus on his non-badness, and I realised then that the ‘damaging story’ was a thing of the past, part of the discarded paraphernalia of the Nixon age. Reagan answered most satisfactorily this essentialist expectation, since as an excellent actor he had no problem in assuming or discarding roles, and could constantly refashion the ‘essential Reagan ...

Rising Moon

R.W. Johnson

18 December 1986
L’Empire Moon 
by Jean-Francois Boyer.
La Découverte, 419 pp., August 1986, 2 7071 1604 1
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The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection 
by Edward Herman and Frank Brodhead.
Sheridan Square, 255 pp., $19.95, May 1986, 0 940380 07 2
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... inaugurated by Watergate. The Moonie newspaper, Rising Tide, played a key role in these years in rallying the disparate elements of the American Right into the great crusade which was to culminate in Reagan’s election in 1980. Rising Tide was warmly greeted by Barry Goldwater and its columns featured articles by such luminaries of the conservative movement as Congressman Larry McDonald (head of the ...

Styling

John Lanchester

21 October 1993
United States 
by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 1298 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 233 98832 7
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What Henry James Knew, and Other Essays on Writers 
by Cynthia Ozick.
Cape, 363 pp., £12.99, June 1993, 0 224 03329 8
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Sentimental Journeys 
by Joan Didion.
HarperCollins, 319 pp., £15, January 1993, 0 00 255146 2
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... Or: I remember thinking that I had made the right choice in 1959 when we were casting The Best Man, a play that I had written about a Presidential convention. An agent had suggested Ronald Reagan for the lead. We all had a good laugh. He is by no means a bad actor, but he would hardly be convincing, I said with that eerie prescience which has earned me the title the American Nostradamus, as a ...
16 October 1997
The Royals 
by Kitty Kelley.
Warner, 547 pp., $27, September 1997, 0 446 51712 7
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... the years since George V changed the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha into the House of Windsor in 1917. Her method, already perfected in her unauthorised and unflattering biographies of Frank Sinatra and NancyReagan, is to write bestsellers that take what she describes as ‘an unblinking look’ at their subjects – which might, of course, mean that her eyes are permanently open or permanently closed ...

National Treasure

Christopher Hitchens

14 November 1996
Jacqueline Bouvier: An Intimate Memoir 
by John Davis.
Wiley, 256 pp., £14.99, October 1996, 0 471 12945 3
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... had a Tiffany-style team of designers, a personal dresser, the first press secretary in the history of First Ladyhood and a Frank Sinatra-hosted inaugural party. All the things, in short, for which NancyReagan was later to be lampooned. But, as any one who has ever argued with a fan will swiftly appreciate, nothing is wrong if a Kennedy does it. ‘Class’, you see. ‘American royalty’ is the ...

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