(This story I found last week in the same sort of intertubes wormhole where dwells “Rope’s End.” It has something of a farcical history. In October of 1998, while working for the same shooting-star newspaper that published “Rope’s End,” I set out to try to explain why I thought the press and the public had become obsessed with the peregrinations of The Clenis, then absurdly dominating the national discourse. But the piece quickly grew so long that it would no longer fit in the newspaper. So I cut it off, announcing at the end that the story had become a series. That first installment is lost; this is the second one. There was to be a third—which explains why this piece ends so abruptly—but before it could be published, the paper died.
(After the paper expired, bits and pieces of this story popped up on the tubes now and again, when plucky souls attempted to use it as reference to alter Wikipedia biographies of such notables as Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan, J. Edgar Hoover, Roy Cohn, and Bob Barr. Always these attempts have been spurned by Wikipedia mandarins. Which is one of many reasons why I have no respect for Wikipedia: because everything in this story is true. I’m posting it here because I performed a lot of research in writing this thing, and some of the historical info may prove useful at some point, such as the next time some political figure is found to have awkwardly dropped his (or her) pants. Which, things being what they are, should come any minute now. And which, unless said pants-dropping has the effect of hurting people (see, for example, Schine, McCarthy, and Cohn), is really none of our business.)
The sexual shenanigans of Ronald and Nancy Reagan were never a secret. Both were most relentlessly promiscuous while in Hollywood, locus of the nation’s largest, longest, strongest, and most obsessively tended gossip grapevine. Many a starlet seeking studio entree via the well-traveled smile-and-spread circuit hopefully ungirdled her loins and passed under Reagan, while Nancy’s name was routinely circulated among executives in search of a fast and practiced backseat blowjob. Power to the mavens of the entertainment press meant possessing such tantalizing tidbits; once the Reagans began their improbable electoral ascent, the information easily passed through the flimsy scrim separating the Hollywood desk from those patrolling the political beat. Campaign operatives and reporters shamelessly swap gossip with nearly every breath, and thus the Reagans’ sexual adventuring eventually became such common knowledge that even I, who have always occupied only the very outer arm of the political-gossip spiral, knew of Nancy’s legendary mouthwork long before Robin Leach coyly alluded to it during Reagan’s first term, and had heard as well tales involving Reagan’s on-the campaign-trail seduction of an 18-year-old true-believer, a sort of atavistic return to his Hollywood days, which were replete with libidinous, bibulous blackouts, when he would not uncommonly awake not knowing the name of the woman—or sheep (kid-ding, kidding)—ly-ing beside him.
Though until Kitty Kelly I’d never heard the tale of how Reagan blithe-ly bounced the bedsprings with lover Christine Larson while wife Nancy, alone in the hospital, struggled to give birth to daughter Patti (a daughter Nancy would later so abuse—her favorite weapon a hairbrush—that Patti had herself sterilized before the age of 25, terrified that she might abuse her own children; Nancy’s serial abuse came during her 40-year addiction to prescription pills, something she—nor anyone else—never managed to mention while serving as pious diva of the ludicrous “Just Say No” to drugs campaign). Still, I was one of probably millions of Americans cognizant of the open joke of Nancy’s cuckolding of the increasingly befuddled Ronnie with Frank Sinatra in the residence quarters of the White House. And anyone in the nation who paid attention to the numbers—and could count even to nine—realized Nancy was four months pregnant when she pledged to Ron “I do.”