Ben Stein's Diary

Escorting Nancy Reagan

My thrill of a lifetime at the Reagan Library.

By 9.27.10

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Tuesday
Off with my driver, Milkey Imtiaz, to the Reagan Library, in Simi Valley, north westward, outside LA. I slept most of the way -- my favorite venue for sleep: a moving car. We stopped at a Carl's Jr. near the Library. I got a charcoal broiled barbecued chicken sandwich. It was heavenly. Beyond heavenly. Perfect. Tasty, succulent, perfect. You can and do pay forty dollars for chicken at a gourmet café that isn't close to as good. How do they do it over there at Carl's Jr.?

Then, off to the Library, a magnificent series of buildings with many great exhibits, especially the real Air Force One. How well I recall flying on it with Mr. Nixon long ago. That was a treat. We went to dedicate what was then the "new Grand Ole Opry." Now there is a much newer one.

I was ushered to a "green room" to prepare my soul for my speech to many fine men and women. A man came in to tell me I was to meet up with and talk to Nancy Reagan, then escort her into the auditorium. Luckily for me, I had read up on her life and learned she was a child quite near where I grew up in suburban Maryland. She was in Bethesda, I in far more déclassé Silver Spring. I also read about her impressive acting career.

When she came in -- looking as beautiful and elegant as I was expecting -- we had a lovely talk about Bethesda and about her days at MGM. She was quite a star, although it's not as well known as it should be.

She was a fine, down to earth, utterly unpretentious conversationalist about MGM and the star system and the MGM cafeteria status system. I am not sure I have ever met anyone who was more agreeable and interesting. She is not young, but she has all her marbles and perfect recall.

After a short while, we were called upon to walk into the auditorium, packed to the gills with friends of the Library. I was to take Mrs. Reagan's arm and walk her in. I kept thinking to myself, "This cannot be happening to little me. This just cannot be happening."

But it was and it did.

I got a fantastic introduction and then gave my speech to a superb response, and then got to walk Mrs. Reagan to dinner. (I owe my pal Barron Thomas, who had provided me with many fine suggestions for the speech.) On the walk over, Mrs. Reagan talked mostly about her first date with "Ronnie" and her love and devotion to him still are indelibly obvious.

At dinner with various close pals of the Reagans, we had to talk about boring old politics, but I got to ask her if she liked life as a Metro star or as a First Lady better. She said right away that she liked First Lady better, but as I said, "It has a lot of responsibility and a lot of critics. As a star, you have little of either." She smiled cheerfully and nodded.

Really, she still is a star.

I left on a cloud. We stopped at the Albertson's supermarket near the Carl's Jr. so I could buy some bottled water. A cute young checker named Samantha added up my purchases. She reminded me of my pal from Sandpoint, the beautiful Vienna, but with no sense of humor.

I slept every second of the rest of the way home. I got to escort Nancy Reagan, as important a woman as America has ever had. Pretty exciting for little me.

Thursday
A very different kind of day. I awakened feeling ill. I went downstairs to use my computer. Someone with the screen name sow376@gmail.com had not liked a commentary I had done for CBS News about my bewilderment as to why my taxes were being raised if tax raises were bad for the very weak economy.

SOW376@gmail's incisive suggestion about the subject was as follows: "Shut up Jew Boy....You make me think Hitler was right about you filthy stinking Jews. Pay your taxes and shut the fuck up."

I wrote back to him that to be fair, he probably thought Hitler was right before he had ever heard of me. No further response from him.

I get a surprising amount of that kind of mail. I guess it's no longer surprising. Hatred of Jews is a basic part of the nature of sick people and there are a LOT of sick people out there. There are especially a lot of envious people out there.

Then I heard a horrible dripping. Ooops. I had a huge plumbing problem connected with the cursed septic tank system my house is on. Lots of mopping and then glorious, fabulous McDermott Plumbing showed up within about 20 minutes of my call and I was saved. Then my housekeeper came and together we bailed the place out.

Then just as I was about to take a nap, an IMMENSE black spider appeared on the wall of my bedroom. I squashed him. I am not a saint like Wlady's father, who would have gathered him in a handkerchief and thrown him out. But this spider was like a good-sized mouse. I wonder if he would have fit in a handkerchief.

Then, to sleep. All day. As the sun poured into the house in Malibu, as the sun lapped at my Brigid's fur, we slept all day.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.