Monday, March 7, 2016

Ten Things You Never Knew About Nancy Reagan

So, you think you know everything there is to know about Nancy Davis Reagan?
Not quite.
Here are some things you may not know:

1) Nancy Davis was not her real name. She was born Anne Francis Robbins. Her father, Kenneth Robbins was a used-car salesman who abandoned the family. Nancy was the name she came to be known by and she took the last name of her stepfather, Dr. Loyal Davis, who adopted her. She always regarded Dr. Davis as her real father.

2) Many people thought Nancy Davis Reagan was born in 1923 but that was a fib as somewhere along the way Nancy conveniently shaved two years off her age. She was born in 1921.

3) Nancy was born into show business. Her mother, Edith Luckett was a stage actress who traveled the nation in touring companies. Her godmother was the great silent screen star Alla Nazimova. She wasn't terribly impressed with show people as they were part of her everyday experience. She grew up around stars like "Uncle" Walter Huston and Spencer Tracy.

4) Nancy suffered through a long separation from her mother from the age of two to the age of eight. During that time she lived with her aunt while her single mom trouped the boards. It wasn't until her mother married Dr. Loyal Davis and settled into domesticity that Nancy knew a stable family life.

5) Though most people know that Nancy Davis was a movie actress (she was under contract to MGM and appeared in 11 movies, one with Ronald Reagan) most people don't know that Nancy appeared on Broadway in the musical Lute Song with Mary Martin.

6) Though California became her home, Nancy's roots (like Ronald Reagan's) were firmly planted in the midwest. In fact, they both came from Illinois: he from Tampico and she from Chicago. She shared with him old-fashioned, small-town midwest values. These included discipline, modesty and good manners.

7) For a time when the Reagans were first married Nancy was the family breadwinner. His career as an actor was in decline while she was still able to make a buck.

8) Those who knew her best say Nancy was actually quite frugal. She watched the family budget closely and was equally vigilant regarding taxpayer dollars. She was actually quite careful to keep White House expenses under control. Those who visit the Reagan's ranch house in California are startled to see how tiny, simple and unadorned it really is. BTW: That "controversial" White House china didn't cost us one cent of taxpayer dollars. It was paid for by private donations.

9) Nancy was always gay-friendly. She quietly advised tolerance to those of all sexual persuasions, invited gay friends from Hollywood to the White House, encouraged the appointment of gays to administration jobs and worked behind-the scenes to increase understanding of the growing AIDS epidemic. When the rising young makeup artist Way Bandy died of AIDS, an autographed, framed photo of Mrs. Reagan stood on a night table alongside his deathbed.

10) Mrs. Reagan encouraged compromises on budget policies to preserve some programs for the poor and others in need; she often restrained President Reagan from actions that would further restrict abortion rights and she successfully prodded the President to approach the Soviets and reach historic arms agreements.

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