From Publishers Weekly
This joint biography by Vanity Fair
contributor Colacello (Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up
) opens not with a power scene in the White House of the new elected President Reagan, but with a glittering dinner at Le Cirque: Nancy Reagan wore mink, we're told; her friend Betsy Bloomingdale wore sable. So from page one, it's clear that this account will break little new ground regarding the most vital aspect of Ronald Reagan's life: his political evolution and rise to power. Colacello's chief interest is family gossip and the Reagans' interactions with the world's social elites: the aging Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Frank Sinatra, Malcolm Forbes, and Lee and Walter Annenberg, among many others. Throughout the book, vast political generalizations dovetail with energetic name-dropping and a recitation of the Reagans' social calendar. Colacello also focuses on the Reagans' relationships with their children, and some of these details are quite interesting: during the 1970s, Ron Jr. could be heard by neighbors in Pacific Palisades screaming at his mother: "Leave me alone!... All I want is to be left alone." On the political side, Colacello provides a readable but not incisive chronicle of well-known events, almost always adopting Nancy Reagan's point of view vis-à-vis her husband's assistants, associates, allies and enemies (the author had Nancy's cooperation). All told, this account gives far too much space to who had dinner with whom and on which yacht, nearly always to the neglect of more important matters.
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Colacello is the former editor of Interview
magazine and currently a special correspondent for Vanity Fair
. Six years of research and approximately 200 interviews, including many talks with Nancy Reagan herself, stand behind this first volume in a planned two-part dual biography of the late president and his controversial First Lady. In nice and easy prose, in a tone that is both friendly toward his subjects but also balanced in his estimation of them (for instance, about Nancy, "I agreed that the press has been unduly hard on her. Yet it crossed my mind [that she] seemed to have a talent for playing the martyr"), Colacello takes what he calls "a social approach" to the lives of the Reagans. His basic premise, well supported here, is that the importance of Nancy and her social connections to the career of Ronald cannot be overestimated. The biography's actual structure is impeccable as the author profiles the two of them individually, in a series of alternating chapters, and then draws their stories together. This first volume deals with the pre-presidential years, which admirers of the president and Nancy will enjoy learning about; even readers less than admiring of the couple will be curious about the details of their lives, both separately and in tandem. Expect much demand. Brad HooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved