Michael Reagan: "What I wanted to do most when my dad got out of office was find out who Mike Reagan is. Because Mike Reagan has always been the son of somebody all of his life."
Michael Reagan, former KSDO radio personality, shows up at the City Deli at Sixth and University promptly at 9:30 a.m. He is wearing dark sunglasses, a navy- blue sports coat, white shirt with button-down collar, and Levi’s. He has come, he says, directly from the gym after a red-eye flight from Milwaukee. Despite a receding hairline, possibly because of it, Reagan looks boyish, cherubic, childlike. It is as though he has finally come to embody the thing he has spent his adult life writhing against: a professional child.
Reagan with Danuta as KUSI. "Many of my friends have blown their brains out, coked themselves to death. The Crosby kids, two suicides."
Forty-six-year-old Reagan is quick to laugh, seems relaxed and comfortable with himself. He orders coffee, corned beef hash, and eggs. He is, he says, starving and in dire need of caffeine.
Q: How much time do you spend in San Diego?
A: I’m here 90 percent of the time. I come down from Sherman Oaks on Mondays and go back on Friday, unless I have an appearance or promotion to do. Then I'd stay down here. I’ve had my house in the San Fernando Valley on the market, but I just haven’t been able to sell it.
Planning session at KUSI with Van Deerlin, Reagan, Paul Beaver and Danuta (left to right)
So you're married and...
Yeah, two kids. Cameron is my boy. He’s 13 and will be 14 May 30. And then Ashley Marie, my little girl, she’s 8. She’ll be 9 April 12. One’s gonna be an attorney, the other one the first case.
The obvious question here is, how come your show was canceled?
You ask me, I think dollars. Well, I know it was dollars and cents. Gannett, a major corporation - the definition of conglomeratives — it’s a mixed mess. They take from one group and give to another group. The AM side was doing really well, dollar-wise, with Roger’s [Hedgecock] and my show. Commercial time constantly sold out. I think that with budget restraints and stuff, I was a fall guy. They threw me out and brought in RushXimbaugh, a syndicated show. They brought it in taped from 12:00 to 3:00 ‘cause they could get it basically for free. They just barter out the [commercial] spots, and they don’t have to pay me.
My contract had called for two hours, with an option for a third. When Roger redid his contract this year, he dropped an hour and they gave it to me. So to negotiate with me, they would have had to pay me for a third hour and give me an increase, as they gave everybody else, and they just opted not to do that. Besides that, I don’t think Mike Shields, the general manager, ever really liked me.
What would you say were the most memorable things you did on the air?
I think what I brought to KSDO was the fact that I was able to get the guests they had never gotten to. Before I went to KSDO, they really thought themselves a small station, that they couldn’t get the larger guests because they were only a 10,000- watt station. And I used to hammer on them. 1 said, “I want to get this guy and this guy...” and they used to laugh at me.
One of the first guests I ever had on my show was Jack Kemp. They kind of laughed at that, like, you can get Jack Kemp? I got him on the phone on a Saturday sitting by his pool in Virginia. And then we got another one and another one — Allen Dershowitz, Robert Rice, and so on. Rice is an economist at Harvard who’s written a couple of books. He’s on Nightline a lot. Then we got a reputation on the show, and KSDO started routing through New York to start sending people to San Diego.
But one of the most memorable guests was Mohammed al- Mashat. I walked in the station one morning, and Marna, my producer, she’s terrific, said, “Well, who would you like to have on the show?” And I said, “Mohammed al-Mashat, the ambassador from Iraq to the United States.” She said, “Mike, this is KSDO, this is not Nightline. The Jack Kemps, the Robert Rices, the Allen Dershowitzes, fine. But, come on! Mohammed al-Mashat?” I said, “Hey, how do we know if we don’t call the guy.”
What was interesting was that Sheik al-Sabah, the ambassador from Kuwait, was coming to San Diego. Gayle Falkenthal had been calling him for Roger’s show, and they’d been turned down absolutely flat. “No way we’re gonna do a talk radio show. We’re busy; we’ve got appointments; we’re not gonna do it.” Well, al-Mashat’s flak calls Mama back and says, “We’d love to do Mike’s show. We’ll give you 30 minutes.”
So now we promo the fact that Ambassador Mohammed al-Mashat is gonna do the show. We start running the promo on a Friday, ‘cause the show was gonna be on Monday. Al-Sabah’s people heard it and called Gail and said, “We’re not gonna let that guy be on here without us being on the air.” So they booked him for Roger’s show.
We had, I think, the only talk show in the country that had Sheik al-Sabah and Mohammed al-Mashat back to back, hour for hour. Even though they had booked 30 minutes, al-Mashat gave us an hour.
So that was what stands out, that we were able to get the A list. We were able to affect not only my show, but Roger’s show. The other high point was probably having Ollie North on. He came in just to do my show.
Mike Shields never ever made reference to or thanked me for bringing Ollie North into town.
Mike Shields is not a fan?
Never. Never! We bring North into town, every major newspaper reporter was there. I had to yell at him to advertise.
I went to Shields and I said, “Listen, Ollie North’s coming to town, exclusive, just for us.” I think I said, “Why don’t you take out an ad? If you don’t promote the fact that we’re doing this, who the hell’s gonna listen?” I yelled and screamed, slammed doors, and he said, “Oh, well, I guess maybe we’ll do it in the Times.”
I was originally hired for a talk show by [KSDO managers] Chris Conway and Jack Merker, some people with vision. And then new management went in there and decided to put me in as a morning news guy, and I was terrible. I told them I’d be terrible, and I proved it to them.
So they just moved me-into Stacy Taylor’s slot on Saturday, figuring to get rid of me. But I didn’t want to do the stuff that Stacy Taylor did. They told me that I wouldn’t even get that show, don’t even think about it. And they went through 10, 15 people and finally came to me four months later and said, “Okay, we’ll give you a try.” So I don’t think they really ever supported me from the beginning.
I was at KSDO three years, from January of 1989 to the end of January of ‘92. That show ran for two years, and we were the top-rated show in the time slot. We were always in first or second or third. The last [ratings] book had us down, but everybody at the station was down.
Do you have something now?
Breakfast with you.
Reagan forks corned beef hash into a wide smile with baby teeth. Eyes my pancakes and nods approvingly. The waitress refills Reagan’s coffee cup several times before it gets to the halfway mark. He gives her a smile every time. He continues:
I’m talking with some other people. I did Point, Counterpoint with Van Deerlin on KUSI two weeks ago, on the 10:00 news. I’m going in today to do four more of those with Danuta. So KUSI is talking to me about some things. I’ve got a chance for broadcasting a syndicated show out of Las Vegas. There’s a group here in San Diego called American Entertainment Network who is also talking to me about a syndicated show. I’m also talking to KFMB about possibilities. I just got back from Milwaukee, and, boy, that could be a phenomenal deal with a talk radio station there. The station owns the two newspapers and a television studio, so you can really do a combo. But I love radio. And I love San Diego.
What I wanted to do most when my dad got out of office was find out who Mike Reagan is. Because Mike Reagan has always been the son of somebody all of his life; he’s never been Mike Reagan. He’s always been the son of Jane Wyman,
Ronald Reagan, depending on which parent was most famous at that point in time. And so I came to San Diego to build my own base and find out who Mike Reagan was.
Talk radio was a good way to do it because real quick you find out if you can think on your feet. I knew I could do that, but as far as having your own views, without their always being the views of your father, that was new for me. Going out campaigning for 25 years as I did, people have a tendency not to give a damn what you think about. They never ask you, “What do you think?” Because what you think doesn’t matter. It was always, “What does your dad think?”
Here Reagan looks thoughtful, almost brooding, then grins sourly. He stretches his arms over the dark red womb- colored upholstery of the booth.
As a child, you have visions of laying on the ground bleeding, and somebody comes up and says, “What does your dad think?” You go, “I need a doctor.” “Well, what does your dad think?” I go, “But I need a doctor, I’m bleeding.”
I remember my first day on my talk show, in January of ‘90. I figured the first question would be something like, “What do you think about this or that?” and that I would automatically give the answer I believed my dad would give because I was still campaigning, in a sense. Like if I answered right, the caller would vote for him.
Then I had to realize, “He ain’t running for office no more.” So slowly I started to really look at the issues, read a lot, and formulate my own ideas. But that was the hardest thing to do, and it was good for me to get out of L. A. To do it in San Diego was even better.
I would love to stay here. I want it. It’s now a matter of finding the right vehicle here in San Diego that would allow me to stay here. That’s why I’m talking to all these people.
My thoughts return to that nightmare. In it, my wife and children are walking hand in hand with me through clouds to the gates of heaven where God is standing. The gates open and I step aside to let my family precede me. Suddenly God steps in front of me, placing His burning hand on my chest. My son Cameron turns around. ‘Come on, Daddy,’ he says impatiently and starts toward me. But God is still halting my progress. He turns his back to me and takes out my Book of Life from deep within his white robes. He opens the book and shows my family a page. His voice booms in my ears. ‘Michael Reagan is not allowed into heaven because he is illegitimate and he once committed a homosexual act.’ My wife, who knows this, starts to protest. ‘Michael has changed. He is a good man.’ God holds up His hand to quiet her. My children begin to cry as God closes the book. The gates of heaven start to shut, and I am left alone outside the gates, watching my loved ones disappear from sight.
— On the Outside Looking In
Asked about his present relationship with his father, Reagan continues to worry the subject of his recent radio cancellation. He stabs at his plate with his fork, punctuating his phrases. For each point he makes, he creates a small pile of corned beef hash.
The thing is, I’ve built a reputation, and the people I talk to in Milwaukee, New York, Vegas — everybody’s trying to understand what KSDO did to me. Why they would take a show that was successful and go to taped radio. They say “news talk,” but in fact the show they have in place of mine is a taped show. You can’t call in, you can’t get involved. Limbaugh doesn’t talk about local issues, and people in San Diego really want to talk about local issues.
I was out in the community. I was doing things with the United States Volleyball team here. KSDO never saw that, and I think that it could come back to haunt them. I think this decision that they made is either going to prove out to be the greatest decision in the history of radio or, in fact, Gannett’s gonna finally wise up and change the management at KSDO.
Reagan attacks his food with renewed vigor. The busboy drops a bustub of dirty dishes a few feet away, and the sound is deafening. Sun breaks through the clouds over University Avenue, and the interior of the City Deli brightens by degrees. I ask again what Reagan’s relationship with his dad is like. He answers with an enormous smile, which seems genuine rather than a practiced P.R. smile.
Great! Actually could not be better. Since he got out of office, we spend a lot of time together. In fact recently we had the anniversary thing — Nancy and Dad’s 40th, where they renewed their wedding vows. We had it at the Bel Air. It was really nice.
Usually, every time there’s a family gathering, everybody in the world is there. The press, family friends, it’s never just a family gathering. It was the first time I remember in 25 years that it was just family. It was myself and my wife, the two kids, Ron and Dorian, and Maureen and Dennis, the pastor, Don and his wife, and that was it. Everything my parents have done has always been so doggone public.
My daughter Ashley’s class recently had to draw a picture of their favorite thing or person, their favorite thing that person does, and then they had to do an oral report in front of the class about that very important person. Well, Ashley chose her grandfather. And then she decided that she wanted to take her third-grade class to my grandfather’s library. So all 60 kids took off on a field trip last Tuesday to the library.
She had gone to her grandfather and said, “Grandma and Grandpa, if I take my class to the library, could you guys show up?” And they did. They showed a film on my dad, and when the lights came back on, there were Dad and Nancy.
And they stayed with the kids to answer questions, and it was great. Ashley got to do her show and tell. “Here’s my show and tell; beat that one.”
My childhood in Hollywood was -— especially when 1 was a child in Beverly Hills — the only people who think you have a lucky life are the ones outside of it. You’re inside seeing all the warts. You’ve got to live according to how people view you, not according to reality.
When I was five and a half years old, I went to boarding school. In those days, that’s just what you did. When the kids got old enough, they went to boarding school. And when it was time to have pictures taken by the publicity department at Warner Brothers, you came out of school and you were there for the family portrait. Then, boom, and you’re back in school, because it was all about building images.
Us kids knew that. It pissed us off. It was like an image thing, right? It wasn’t really the parents’ fault, even though we blamed them. It was just the way the system worked.
And when you get out of Hollywood or Beverly Hills, people view you differently — “The only reason you got the show at KSDO is ‘cause of who your dad is. The only reason you’re able to do that is ‘cause of who your mom is.” That kind of thing. You never seem to get credit for any of the things that you accomplish. Your parents do. But the things you don’t accomplish, well, then you’re just a spoiled brat. There’s no in between. And you lose identity because you can become the son of somebody instead of your own person. So there’s a lot of anger bred into the children of Hollywood. Some survive, but many don’t.
Many of my friends have blown their brains out, coked themselves to death. The Crosby kids, two suicides. And what happens is, people blame the kids. Well, Bing Crosby was an ass. But see, we knew that. Hollywood knew that. But the public saw him as The Bells of St. Mary's, a wonderful human being. And then we as kids have to go out and play, like,
“Yeah, that’s the way it really is,” and...ugh! So many of us go to drinking, drugs, whatever.
People ask, “Why do you write these books?” Well, these books come out of Hollywood because it’s our way of getting an identity. If we go out and do drugs and we die of drugs, we die, we did it, it was our identity, not theirs. Finally, we write a book about our parents. It’s our identity. And that’s what we’re looking for. Maybe somebody says, “Hey, you’re an asshole.” That’s great! I’m an asshole! But I’m my own asshole.
Reagan garners looks from nearby tables. The waitress considers refilling his coffee cup, reconsiders, and moves on. The sun has disappeared behind clouds outside, and the room darkens.
And that’s the mentality. You look at the stuff with Marlon Brando’s kids. His parents backed him; but they just give you guilt money because they weren’t with you when you were young. They had you at boarding schools. They always gave you a check for your birthday, here’s 50 bucks, here’s 100 bucks, here’s 200 bucks, like that’s gonna make everything all right. And what happens? The kids get used to that. And then they never know how to go out and earn it on their own.
My problem is, my parents had a birth defect. Both of them had this thing called a work ethic. And they didn’t understand this give-money-to-the-kids thing. They only understood go out and get a job. And it really upset us. I’d rather have had the Ferrari like my buddy. But that’s the way my mother was. My mother’s always been that way. Work, do it on your own.
But the idea outside of Hollywood is, you must have all the money in the world, you must have everything that you want, you don’t need anything. People figure, why should I hire you? If you need a job, you ought to be able to call home like E.T. But you think to yourself, “Wait a minute, I’m 46 years old. I don’t call home for work anymore.” I knew that when I was 14. And so people don’t understand this. You’re always trying to overcome that side of growing up in Hollywood.
I remember going out and buying my first house in 1977 with my wife Colleen — 333 Beverly Way, just south of Sunset. Absolutely gorgeous house. Two stories, big chandelier, circular staircase up to the top, laundry chute down to the basement. Big back yard. Pool, veranda, the whole deal. But it’s still not like I remembered from when I was young.
When I was growing up, we had just everybody you’ve ever seen from those days when we had parties. I opened the front door one night, and in came Marilyn Monroe. I’d just seen her in the famous [Life magazine] velvet nude shot that day. I was, like, eight years old. And I went, “Wow! There she is,” you know. So you see all this when you’re growing up, so when you go out to buy your first house, you’re thinking, “I’m looking for this house with the Cadillacs and the maids and all that for, like, $49,500. Where is it?”
If you go to most kids and say, “How will you know if you’ve succeeded in life?” their answer is, “Well, if I do better than my parents.” I think people have a drive to do better than their parents. They feel their parents accept them then —
“Hey, my son did better than me; look at my son, he’s an attorney, look at my son, he’s a doctor.” Right? How do you get better than the President of the United States and an Academy Award winner? I mean, where do you go? King?
In my generation, the parents never knew the other side. You now have the younger kids coming up who are bringing up their sons and daughters differently. But for the most part, the group back in the ‘30s and ‘40s all came from very poor families, so they never knew how it was to be the child of somebody famous. They couldn’t relate.
Now I’m able to share with my son, because my son goes through it. Cameron gets teased because of who his grandfather is. Kids at school think I’ve got money because his grandfather has money.
Did you hang out mostly with kids of famous parents?
Yeah, quite a bit. The Crosby kids would come over, and George Burns’s kids were always there. And Candice Bergen, we used to always go over to her house.
At Chadwick School, where we boarded, you went home every other weekend. I was five and a half years old, and I’d go to school, and two weekends later I’d go home for a visit. Some of the kids who didn’t board would say something like, “Boy, he’s lucky. His mother is Joan Crawford.” Or “They’re Reagan kids, they’re Wyman kids.” jane was a lot better known than Ron Reagan back in those days. They just talked about how lucky we were. But it was interesting that we who boarded there would see these kids get picked up every afternoon by their moms who weren't famous and be driven home. And we’d be sitting there thinking, “They’re going home with their parents.”
We always thought they were the ones who were lucky, but we always had to play the part. Children of stars are bom actors because we’re asked to play the part of children all of our lives. I’m 46 years old, and I’m still considered a child, one of Ronald Reagan’s kids. You get to a point where you have to ask, “Do 1 get to be an adult here or what?”
When Maureen and I were out campaigning for Dad back in ‘76 and ‘80, Dad was 69. And the campaign staff was afraid of having Maureen and 1 on the trail because we were so old. People think of presidential kids as if they’re gonna live in the White House. The number-one question asked me during eight years of my dad’s presidency: Do 1 live at the White House? I’d look at them and say, “Do you think we’re the Ewings? I’m 40 years old. I don’t live at home. I live with my own wife and kids.”
Would you say that you have a certain amount of anger? You talk about how you were kids growing up angry. Would you still characterize yourself that way?
No, I wrote a book; it was an honest book, which made me ‘bad.’ My parents are unusually honest, and I got that from them, which was really kind of terrible. My honesty took a prospective $2 million advance for the book and lowered it drastically. If I’d written an angry, mean book — which was what they wanted — I could have gotten $2 million up front, but I started writing it and I got honest.
I wrote it in ‘88, and it was almost written like a letter. Like, “Dear Dad and Mom, while you were out, there’s a lot of things that were going on in my life that I’d like to make you aware of. And they weren’t that great.” It was the starting point of a whole new relationship with the family that has just grown and grown and grown since then. It’s been terrific.
The last interview my dad did when he was president was with Tom Brokaw, and Brokaw said, “What were some of the most hurtful things you went through? Could it have been, like, the fact that your kids wrote books about you, like Michael’s book, writing such a derogatory book about you?” Dad stopped him and said, “Excuse me, can I ask you a question? Did you read the book?”
“Well, no, Mr. President, I didn’t read the book.”
“Well, I suggest you read the book. I thought it was wonderful. In fact, I recommend it to many people. I think you’ve got the wrong information that it’s a bad book.”
And Tom went, “Oh, excuse me. Let’s go on to the next question.”
What about your sister Patty?
She’s still angry. She never dealt with it honestly. She has a book coming out the end of April or May, but this will be a true story about the Reagan family. So we all want to see what this one is like.
Her books have all been masterful. But here’s a person who got angry and started blaming and has never dealt with it. And you say, “Patty, you’re now 39. Get on with it, just get on with it.”
I had to share my dad for 25 years with people, which was not easy. I could not sit at a table with him during a function. People who were campaign contributors sat at the table, not the family. You have to get to the point where you say, “Let go of that and learn to be forgiving.” The last line of my book is, “If we don’t learn to forgive our parents, we’ll never survive.”
But so many people are like Patty. “Well, I’m gonna blame them for everything. I don’t care.” Thirty-nine years old? Grow up.
There were times during the White House years which were really tough. The Secret Service caused all kinds of trouble in my life. There was a big rift in the family back in ‘83 and ‘84, going into the ‘85 inaugural, that was all brought on by the Secret Service. They convinced the President of the United States, my sisters, everybody, that I was a thief.
What happened was, it was my wife’s birthday, March 17, and friends of ours took us to an Irish pub out in the San Fernando Valley for green beer. It was raining and cold, and I had a jacket on. I bought Colleen a green T-shirt with the name of the pub on it, and I put it underneath my jacket and we went outside. We stopped in a children’s clothing store; Colleen was pregnant with Ashley at that time, and pregnant women cannot walk past a children’s store without going in. I went back to the car to pick them up so they wouldn’t have to walk back in the rain. So I got back to the car, opened the door, pulled the T-shirt out from underneath my jacket, and threw it in. The Secret Service writes down that I’d stolen a girl’s green dress or green blouse from this children’s store. They never asked us what was going on; they just wrote it down.
And once four of us went skiing up at Heavenly Valley, and the people that managed the Heavenly Valley Lodge gave us all ski pins. And one Secret Service agent put down that we had taken them and not paid for them. And we didn’t pay for them, he’s right. But we didn’t steal them. And they put down that I had taken one of those little bottles of booze from an American Airlines flight. Like nobody’s ever done that, huh?
But what happens when the government makes a mistake, as you’ve probably seen over the years, they never, never come out and apologize. They always try to cover it up and act as if it really happened. They say, “Let’s now build the facts to fit our case.”
They came to me just before my daughter was bom in ‘83 and read a statement accusing me of being a thief. To think that I could hurt my family, my family name, my dad, and so on. But they were trained police officers who saw this as if I had a real problem, and I needed to deal with this problem ‘cause I had stolen some items. I was very upset by this whole thing, and I said to the guy in charge, “So tell me what 1 stole. Maybe there’s an answer. What did I steal?” He says, “Well, Mike, we can’t tell you what you stole.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Because you would deny it.” So I said, “Why don’t you try me on for size? Why don’t you just give me a hint. What is it?”
They said, “Mike, you have a terrible, terrible sickness, and we’re here to help. You see, you would deny it because you don’t know you did it. Mike, you’re a kleptomaniac.” And I went ballistic, I went absolutely ballistic.
They went to my dad with this. The Secret Service had just saved his life a couple years earlier, so he figures why would they lie to him? So they convinced him the story was true, and it got to a point where we weren’t talking to each other. We were yelling and screaming at each other. I didn’t go to Thanksgiving dinner. I said to everybody, “You’d be able to tell who Mike Reagan was at Thanksgiving dinner. I’d be the only one with a goddamn paper plate. Everyone else would have china.”
I think it was October of ‘84 when they finally gave me a list of the things they said I stole. But up to that point, they kept on trying to convince me to go see a psychiatrist because I was a kleptomaniac. And I was just...aarrghhhhhhh! That was our good government all over — we screwed up, but we’re gonna cover it up.
Then there was that big story, the worldwide news about the mini-summit between Mike and his dad on December 28 " because I wasn’t gonna go to the inauguration. I said, “Take the inaugural and shove it up your ass. I’m not going to no inaugurals!” And that was a nightmare. I couldn’t get a job; nobody would hire me ‘cause I was in a big fight with the White House.
I had no idea, specifically, what the Secret Service was talking about, what I was supposed to have stolen. I’m waiting for the Ferrari to drop, and all I’m hearing is about me stealing miniature bottles of booze off of airplanes. So I pleaded guilty to that. I said, “I probably did that, but who hasn’t?” They finally said that if I said I stole a couple of the items, they’d say I didn’t steal a couple of the other items. Well, this still makes me a thief, and I’m not a thief.
I finally said, “What do you .want? Do you want me to go to the inaugurals? You want me to do these things, I want letters exonerating me. If it ever comes out through freedom of information that the Secret Service thought I was a thief, I’m dead. And you guys did this to me to cover up your own messes.”
It took years, but they finally sent me a letter saying that some mistakes were made, basically, and “after reviewing the reports, you didn’t really do all these things.” Blah, blah, blah.
Pause here to finish breakfast. Reagan chats with waitress who doesn’t seem to recognize him. The deli is clearing out. Breakfast patrons are gone. A few men linger over coffee and the classified sections. Reagan begins yet again about his radio show.
We tried to get more stuff going. Radio and TV. Also, knowing this industry, I decided I need a backup job. So I got my real estate license. And I hung my real estate license with ReMax up in Peñasquitos a few weeks ago. So I’m up there now during the daytime most times. Even if I get radio and TV going, I’m gonna do that. I really want things to work out so I can stay here in San Diego and make this my home.
What was going on with you and your dad at the time of the assassination attempt?
I was in a meeting with some people in Burbank. Knock on the door. We say come in. A Secret Service agent says, “There’s been an assassination attempt. Your father’s all right,” and closed the door. That’s all they said. I looked at the guy I was meeting with and said, “What happened?” That’s the Secret Service, though.
I turned on the radio and adjourned the meeting, and I just had a chill go through me. I said to myself, “You know, I don’t think things are okay.” Then I went out and asked the agent, “What’s going on now?” He said, “Your dad’s on the way to the hospital, but he’s only going there to see people who have been shot.” I started thinking, “How can he be going there to see people that are probably still laying on the ground?” ‘cause very little time had elapsed.
I just had a feeling that he was shot, and of course, it ended up that he was. So I went home, and of course, the world press was sitting on my front lawn. My wife and my kid were indoors and couldn’t walk outside. Cameron, who was three at the time, had walked outside, and somebody from the press is throwing questions at him, like, “What do you think?” Well, what’s a three-year-old know? That’s why he was in the house.
When I got home, I just made a quick statement, because I don’t know where these people get these questions. Here it is right after my dad is shot, and they’re asking, “What’s your feelings?” Well, my feeling is my Dad’s been shot. So we stayed at the house until we heard from the White House, and they mustered a plane for us.
The only plane they could find was a C-130 transport. They didn’t want to fly us out too soon because they didn’t want to worry the people in the country, so we took off at about 6:00. Before we got on the plane, a Secret Service agent comes up to me and says they’re going to give me earplugs, a box lunch, and a blanket. I thought he was joking, but we get down there, get on the plane, and that’s exactly what they hand me. You see, those planes are used to transport cars and tanks and everything. There’s no insulation in there, so that’s why you need the earplugs. It’s just so noisy. And it’s cold for the same reason. You’re either getting blasted with 100 degree heat from the heater, or they shut it off and you freeze. You sit in these canvas seats too, which are torture. And these planes are slower than death.
We got into Washington about 4:00 a.m. and stayed at the White House. I went over to see my dad the next morning. It was a very trying time because we didn’t know at that time that he would make it. You know what he said to me when he saw me? He said “Mike, if you ever get shot, don’t be wearing a new suit. Yesterday I was wearing this brand new blue suit, first time I’d ever worn it. Well, apparently the doctors won’t let you just take off your suit when you’re shot. The last time I saw it, it was cut to shreds sitting in a comer. From what I understand, the Hinckleys have a lot of money. You think the Hinckleys would buy me a new suit?”
You had the Secret Service following you around for eight years?
Everywhere. Parked outside. They had cameras in the back yard and front yard. They stopped my wife and son from coming in one day. They had just changed shifts when my wife comes home, parks the car in the driveway, walks over to the front door ready to put her key in, and a Secret Service agent stops her.
They said, “Who the hell are you?” She says, “Colleen Reagan.” Guy says, “I want to see some I.D.” She says, “I’m Colleen Reagan; this is my son Cameron.” Guy says, “I don’t know that, and I don’t know you.” So they kept her outside the house while some guy goes down to the command post and looks up our pictures in the file. Sometimes you wonder...you wonder.
Are you politically active at all now?
I don’t think you can be a Reagan and not be somewhat politically active. My sister Maureen’s running for the 36th Congressional District up in L.A. I imagine I will probably end up doing some things for her. Would I go out and campaign for a presidential candidate? No. You want to get them all on the air; you don’t want to make too many enemies in that regard.
Is there anybody that you support or endorse personally?
As a Republican I lean towards George Bush. The only reason is because of appointments on the Supreme Court. I don’t lean towards George Bush because of the dynamite job he’s doing as President of the United States, because I don’t think he’s done a dynamite job as President of the United States.
Bill Clinton, I’ve never loved him. I like the guy, but I tell you, when he gets stepped on, he comes back very vindictive. You know, that shot he took at Jerry Brown at the one debate, “Chill out, Jerry; you’re from California. Chill out!” And Jerry Brown’s the hidden horse in this thing.
You know, the difference between Pat Buchanan and Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan is that the conservatives found Goldwater and Reagan, and Pat Buchanan’s trying to find the conservatives. So he’s coming across angry, mad, vindictive. Ronald Reagan never came across like that. Neither did Barry Goldwater.
You get to the point in life where somebody comes up and says, “I’d like you to run for political office.” And you know the day you announce that, reporters are going to be going through anything you’ve ever done in your lifetime. Say you’re married, got a couple of kids. Who has ever told their wife everything? Or vice versa. The last thing you want is this stuff on the front page on a regular basis.
So I think there’s a lot of cases where many people opt not to run for office |cause they don’t want this minor stuff disclosed. You know — “in 1966 I did this and that, had a great time, but now I’m doing something else entirely,” but some person is going to sell a story to the Star or the Enquirer. I used to get calls regularly during my dad’s presidency from the Enquirer, the Globe, offering me 40-, $50,000 to tell stories on my dad. They don’t care about anything. They just want the story. And I’m going, “God, everybody’s turned into a whore!”
I never gave them anything, but they had a heyday with me. They loved me. One thing that came of that has to do with the fact that I’m adopted. In April or May of ‘87, they put me on the cover of the Enquirer. The headline was “Nancy Closes White House to Michael.” And there was a picture of myself and my daughter Ashley at the ranch after Ashley’s fourth birthday party. That was the time I shared with them some of the things I had written about in my book....
When camp was over each day the counselor always let me sit next to him in the car — just like Dad — while he drove the other kids home. Invariably he took me home last. When we were alone, he would drive slowly, his arm across my shoulder, and tell me how great I was as he tousled my hair.
Without my knowing it, he had gently manipulated me by stages into a relationship in which I was beholden to him. It began one day as he was driving me home he asked if I wanted to make him feel good. He had done so much for me that I said yes, not knowing what he would ask next. He then unzipped his pants and took out his genitals and asked me to touch them. It didn’t seem right, but he had been so good to me I didn’t want to disappoint him.
It wasn’t long before he began doing the same to me, while always confiding in me that this was our game and I couldn’t tell anyone, not even Mom....
At this point he took me by the hand and led me out of the makeshift darkroom into the living room. He had me stand in front of a chair. I was almost catatonic as he unzipped and took down my pants. What happened then made me worry for the rest of my life that I was or would be thought of as a homosexual. It was so dirty that to me it would have been easier to die than to relive it. All I know is that my stomach was in knots and I wanted to vomit. Thirty-five years later, while telling my father, I did.
— On the Outside Looking In
...Anyway, the National Enquirer gets the photo of me and Ashley at the ranch and prints it. “Nancy Livid After Mike Reagan Reveals What’s in Book; Tells White House Never to Allow Him Back.” This was on the front cover.
Well, a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in years was selling supplies to waterbed stores in Columbus, Ohio, and she was with the manager of one of those stores the day the Enquirer story came out. His name was Barry Lang. They stopped off at a grocery store to get something, and Margie happened to see the Enquirer with my picture on the cover and said to Barry, “Why do they do this to Mike? I know him, and it just tears him up.” Barry says, “You know Mike Reagan?” She said, “I’ve known him for a long time.” Barry says, “I want to take you back to my house and show you something.” So at the house he pulls out scrapbooks. He says, “Mike’s my brother.” And he was right. I didn’t know it, but Barry was my birth brother. Barry Lang of Columbus, Ohio. That’s how I found out, thanks to the National Enquirer and the luck of the draw. That’s how we found each other. We met for the first time October 25, 1987.
Proving the Enquirer has a cosmic function.
Yeah. I’m surprised they didn’t bill me.