For Ronald Reagan, his wife Nancy has for decades been the "respite at the end of the day," according to a new book by a former Reagan aide and longtime friend of the couple.
The former first lady had a look of total adoration for her husband that was familiar to observers throughout the world.
That look never faltered, according to the author of the new book, Michael Deaver — and he believes it offers a clue to the motivation behind almost everything Nancy Reagan has ever done in her life.
"I can tell you it's real," Deaver says of the adoring look the former first lady would give her husband. "I didn't believe it at first either," the author told Primetime, noting that Nancy Reagan was once an actress.
But he added, "She didn't pay a lot of attention to her own image. She was, you know, just driven with blinders on, protecting him."
In the new book, Nancy: A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan, Deaver reveals a version of the former first lady that he believes escaped most Americans.
For example, he doesn't think the former president entered politics at the urging of his wife.
"The myth always is: it was her conservative family and her political drive that drove him to run for political office. It's just nonsense. I mean, he lived, ate and breathed politics and public issues, and did from the time they first met," Deaver said.
"It wasn't Nancy who was pushing this. Nancy was the brakes, if anything. Nancy was the one that was saying, 'Wait a minute … you'd better be sure about this.'"
In fact, Nancy Reagan wrote in her college yearbook that her goal was to have a successful, happy marriage. "I think it was her number one goal," Deaver said. "She wanted the picket fence and the whole schmear."
Nancy herself was born to an actress mother who led a gypsy life, and a father who left before she was born. Her mother remarried, to a surgeon name Loyal Davis. As a teenager, Nancy sought out her biological father to tell him she wanted Davis to adopt her.
Deaver said he once asked her how her father took the news. "All right, I think, but my grandmother was I think hurt," he says she replied.
Eyes to the Stars
Deaver also talked about Nancy Reagan's famed use of an astrologer. He said he was surprised that it had become a comfort to her, but he said he didn't argue with it.
Nancy would call him and tell him what were bad days for her and he would accommodate her by scheduling around them, but Deaver says he never believed in astrology himself.
"I would sometimes get bad dates in advance, when the stars were wrong, and so I'd sort of schedule around those," he said. "It wasn't very hard."
Deaver, who was Reagan's deputy chief of staff from 1981 to 1985, blamed himself for the news of Nancy's using an astrologer getting out.
He told Donald Regan, who became chief of staff in 1985, just by way of briefing him. "I figured I should tell Don," Deaver told Primetime. "I hadn't told anybody in all those years that I was working."
"On my last day in the White House, Don was taking over. I said, 'There's one more thing I should let you know. This may come up. But she uses an astrologer occasionally.'"
Deaver never thought it would be leaked to the world. But Regan later revealed the astrology consultations to the world in his 1988 memoir, For the Record.
Off and On Again