Ronald Reagan was a corporate sellout who hated poor people
On his 106th would-be birthday, Ronald Reagan was commemorated for his revitalization of conservatism; but it’s also worth marking the occasion (or any occasion, for that matter) with a look at perhaps a less flattering side to the Gipper’s story—particularly his animosity toward the poor and, in all likelihood, being cuckolded by Frank Sinatra.
The former movie star, who told ABC News that the homeless “make it their own choice for staying out there” and once blamed the federal deficit on welfarians who bought groceries “with food stamps and took the change and paid for the vodka,” believed it was the government’s obligation to accommodate Big Business. His administration famously regulated ketchup as a vegetable for school lunches. Boardrooms reveled in huge tax breaks. In what may as well have been a paid advertisement by Swanson TV dinners, the president called on “the American people to observe” March 6 as Frozen Food Day “with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
None of this would come as a surprise to those familiar with his Hollywood career. Highlights include the host of CBS’s “General Electric Theater”and Boraxo powdered hand soap commercials. But while his White House was helping big business win big, the president wasn’t exactly victorious in his domestic life.
If the president’s mothball-y IMDb credits foreshadowed anything, it was that he would not exactly keep pace with the budding generation, i.e. rather than “Licensed to Ill” or Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Reagan preferred the tranquil tunes of Frank Sinatra. Nancy Reagan also appreciated the big band singer, and not only for his Republican fundraising efforts. Unbeknownst to the president, Sinatra apparently gave the first lady a few one-man shows at the White House—upstairs. Nancy scheduled three- and four-hour “private ‘luncheons’” for herself and Ol’ Blue Eyes, according to one of her staff.
“She played the music low, all his songs, of course, which she played in her bedroom day and night,” the source continued in Kitty Kelley’s controversial and catty Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography. “She usually would arrange those ‘lunches’ when the president was out of town … She was not to be disturbed. For anything. And that included a call from the President himself.” (Incidentally, Sinatra found her husband repulsive. “I couldn’t stand listening to his gee whiz, golly shucks crap,” he told fellow Rat Packer Peter Lawford.)
Reagan died of Alzheimer’s in 2004, and it is often suggested that the president struggled with dementia while in office. “I wasn’t worried that he was going to walk into the White House and launch a nuclear attack because he thought he was turning the TV on,” his son Ron Reagan told the Washington Post in 2011. “But the Alzheimer’s disease might have exacerbated tendencies he had, anyway, to trust his aides too much, to not ask enough questions.” Indeed Reagan took the oath of office at 69–that’s 14 years after qualifying for Jack in the Box’s senior citizen discount.
While traveling, presumably while Frank and Nancy tested the acoustics in the master bedroom, the cuckolded old-timer ate jellybeans to ward off his cigarette craving. President Gerald R. Ford may have frequently indulged in two martinis on Air Force One flights, but Reagan abstained. Though the 40th president did fancy himself a connoisseur of California wines (according to Barry Landau’s “The President’s Table,” Gipper would break out Silkwood Cellars Chardonnay at dinners), the collection was mostly a poser effort to keep up with his aide, Michael K. Deaver, who was more knowledgeable of west coast varietals. Reagan didn’t even drink all that much in the first place.
After all, who needs alcohol when you can’t remember your middle name?