Friday, May 6, 2016

Reagan Library lures, charms longtime liberal

Flowers are left at the foot of Reagan's bronze each day, a docent told us.  During the weeks
after Nancy Reagan's recent death and burial on the site, the number of bouquets grew.



The approach to the Reagan Presidential Library is typically "southern
California" with a lovely fountain, mosaic tiles and nicely kept gardens.
HIGH ATOP a Simi Valley hill, with a view stretching to the Pacific he loved to admire, our 40th President's final resting place lures millions of tourists.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is a popular diversion for locals and, as we recently saw, for visitors from all over the world.
WE WERE among a recent full house to pay our respects to the colorful and charismatic world leader, spending a pleasant and informative afternoon perusing his 100,000-square foot memorial.
Its 24 wide- ranging galleries include a full-sized replica of the Oval Office as he and Nancy decorated it, and the actual Air Force One aircraft used by Reagan and six other presidents as their "Flying White House."
Keller prepares to board Air Force One, 
the actual plane which carried Reagan 
and other presidents around the world.
WE ARE far from die-hard Republicans, but then Reagan himself dabbled a bit in the "pick your party" game.   Raised in a Republican neighborhood in Illinois, by liberal Democrat parents, he was a Democrat himself until age 50.
So his politics was not an issue in our decision to visit this lovely and historic site. (We've visited others of the 13 Presidential libraries, which began with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This is by far the most impressive.)
You can join Reagan for a horseback ride, as Cookie did, in one exhibit.
Our favorite sentimental parts of the eclectic and well curated display had to do with the relationship between Ronnie and Nancy.  Everyone knows that she was instrumental in grooming his political career, and in influencing decisions -- large and small -- that
shaped his career both as governor and as president.
The Berlin Wall's history is documented.
Visitors number in the millions, but the museum does not feel crowded.
Here people cue up to step inside the actual Air Force One Reagan used.
SOME OF THE NOTES he wrote to her are displayed, and many photos of the two together -- dancing at the inaugurals, riding horseback, visiting world figures, including the Pope, and simply spending time together.  Their constant and abiding love and affection is one of the enduring legacies the couple left.  Their amazing partnership is a touching part of the library, which they both helped create and which she refined and enhanced after his death in 2004.  Mrs. Reagan's candor in her long, devoted care of her husband through his 10-year decline is also noted.  And among the famous photos and newsreels are several of the Reagans after the attempt on his life.  
Here, a dummy sits in the Air Force
One office, where Reagan worked.
Our favorite "history" parts of the museum had to do with Reagan's international role in forging a path of peace.  His impassioned appeal to "tear down that wall" echo in the display about Berlin.
The Reagan Museum also features lectures and changing exhibits.
Currently on show is "Vatican Splendors," a splendid collection of Vatican art.

BEST BETS:  If you are anywhere near Old Town, San Diego, and Cygnet Theatre, don't miss "The Rocky Horror Show," which ends its nearly sold-out run extended to Saturday, May 7. Fabulous, energetic production of this cult favorite. And at Northcoast Repertory Theatre in Solano Beach, Calif., "Way Downriver," is a thoughtful, entertaining adaptation of a provocative William Faulkner story. David Ellenstein directs the cutting edge work, held over through May 15. Both of these unique productions prove that great art has staying power. Next up, we visit a unique elephant seal preserve on the gorgeous central California coast. 

Sean Murray, left, plays a delightful Frank 'N' Furter, in Cygnet's "Rocky Horror
Show," closing soon. Above, Geno Carr, Richard Baird and Sara Fetgatter
star in Northcoast Repertory Theatre's "Way Downriver." Both terrific.   
MOVIE BUFFS, too, we enjoyed the segments and "pick a movie" displays, where one can cue up clips from his films -- from "Santa Fe Trail" to "Bedtime for Bonzo" to "Knute Rockne, All American," in which Reagan's character explains to his coach that he is not afraid to die, asking that the team "win one for the Gipper." Appropriately, "Gipper's Grove" features 43 meticulously groomed crepe myrtle trees.



  1. Dallas history buffsMay 6, 2016 at 8:26 PM

    What fun. We too visit the Presidential libraries and always enjoy. We will also check out the plays..... Didn't know Reagan was a Democrat early on...interesting....

  2. Wonderful idea to visit all the Presidential libraries. Love it.

  3. Fort Worth FollowersMay 8, 2016 at 1:48 PM

    We, too, are fans and followers of presidential museums. What a good idea FDR had (one of many!) Nice spread.

  4. Betty B of Baton RougeMay 9, 2016 at 8:48 AM

    Love Cookie on horseback with Reagan -- side saddle to boot -- and Keller preparing to pilot Air Force One!

  5. Sports loving Reagan fanMay 10, 2016 at 4:59 PM

    Methinks the Gipper would enjoy this lively and concise piece and the delightful photographs.