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On the Circuit

First Daughter's Novel Reminiscent of Real Life

February 28, 1986|MARYLOUISE OATES | Times Staff Writer

This book is not, repeat not , the story of Ronald and Nancy Reagan and their daughter, Patti Davis. Readers of "Home Front" this spring might spend days figuring out where fiction ends and fact begins, but this tale of a rebellious daughter of a politician and his traditional wife, the author insists, is merely a novel.

First Daughter Patti Davis (she took her mother's maiden name in her struggle for independence) says she wasn't "bounded in" by reality, but simply used the "seeds of a problem, a struggle I was familiar with" as the basis of fiction. This week she began a nationwide blitz to promote her novel (Crown Publishers: $15.95), a first attempt at fiction, written with Maureen Strange Foster.

"I'd write a chapter. Give it to Maureen. And she'd put in her creative input. I'd never written dialogue," said the pretty brunette, who was a songwriter in the early 1970s, when she dated one of the members of the rock group, the Eagles.

In the novel, heroine Beth Canfield becomes involved with anti-war activities, smokes marijuana, even helps a boarding school friend get an abortion in Mexico. (Davis herself knew "a couple of girls who had terrible abortions and their parents only found out when they were bleeding to death.") Beth falls in love with and helps bring back to reality a strung-out Vietnam vet. There is mild sex, generational conflict and there is the war--a war Patti Davis was too young to really protest. "I feel like a missed something. Yes, I do."

But even as her father, then Gov. Reagan, faced off with demonstrators, his teen-age daughter "was wrenched then. On the one hand, it is my father. On the other hand, I disagreed with what he did."

Beth's mother--Harriet Canfield--is concerned with redecorating the White House and with appearances in general. For her, Davis feels "sympathy. She was a victim of her generation and what society imposed on her at that time. She took on the attitudes that were told to her."

Yet, Davis, now married and living in Santa Monica, is clear that the book's younger brother is drawn from real life. Yes, there is indeed a younger brother--"Brian was my brother . . . a wonderful buffer." She "never gets away from questions about my parents," and confines her protesting these days to taking anti-nuclear activists Helen Caldicott and Harold Willens to the White House.

Would she have gotten a reportedly hefty advance on a first novel if her parents weren't the First Couple? "Probably not. But if I weren't Ronald Reagan's daughter, I wouldn't have the insight to write it."

Would readers get a better picture of her parents from the novel? "I hope they feel like they understand a situation better than before . . . nobody was right or wrong."

And her mother's reaction to the book? As of last Monday, "I don't know if she has read it."

BATTER UP--It's the fifth annual all-star celebrity day at MacLaren's Children Center on March 15. The extravaganza is being organized by United Friends of the Children, the support group that has generated more than $1 million in the past six years. MacLaren is the El Monte shelter for abused and neglected children, and the Friends number among their stalwarts Stacey and Henry Winkler and Warner Bros.' Bob and Nancy Daly. Among those going on the bus: Richard Dreyfuss, Linda Gray, Michelle Lee, Olympic gold-medalist Peter Vidmar, as well as players from the San Francisco 49ers--Eric Wright, Dwight Clark and Bubba Paris. Also expected are James Farentino, Susan George and Simon MacCorkindale, Bonnie Franklin, Nancy and John Ritter, Jayne Meadows, Linda Lavin, lots of other stars, Disney characters, Spiderman and Yogi Bear.

RESIDENT CYNIC--"The owner of the resort where Duvalier is staying wants him thrown out by the French government. Duvalier would thus become the first man without a hotel, let alone a country."

TEA TIME--Dozens of well-known women turned out Tuesday to hoist a teacup welcoming Sharrell Alatorre (wife of Councilman Richard Alatorre) to the L.A. world of politics. The honoree, a career administrator, is becoming a division chief of the county Children's Services Department. "I'm loving it," she managed to say, before greeting still more of the women invited by Andrea Van de Kamp and Kathy Moore Moret. Deputy Mayor Grace Davis, City Hall's Fran Savitch, Special Assistant Atty. Gen. Barbara Y. Johnson and Councilwoman Joy Picus joined councilmanic wives for an afternoon of tea and scones. Lucille Bernardi, Ann Finn and Margaret Ferraro caught some fresh air on the back porch of Hale House, the Heritage Square home where the tea took place. Was this an L.A. councilmanic tradition? No, Lucille Bernardi said, "It's the first one in my 25 years."

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