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The Reagan Re-Entry : After Years in the Capital Fishbowl, the First Couple Hope to Find a Little Calm in a Much Changed L.A.

December 04, 1988|BEVERLY BEYETTE and BETTY CUNIBERTI | Times Staff Writers

In 1981, when Ronald and Nancy Reagan left the comforts of the West Coast to become the quintessential Washington outsiders taking over the White House, Mrs. Reagan says she and her husband felt as if they had been put under a public microscope.

Their lives became more harried and less private than even they had expected.

Everywhere they went, there were crowds--admirers and detractors, members of the press and presidential security. Their friends were barraged with questions about the First Family. What they ate, who they saw, where they went--these were matters of enormous public interest. The President and his wife even had matters of their personal health widely publicized during their illnesses and after the assassination attempt.

But after eight years of unrelenting pressure and scrutiny in the nation's capital, the Reagans now hope to return to a very different life in Southern California, a place that has undergone its own changes in the years since the First Couple have been gone.

New Lives in Bel-Air

So how will the Reagans fit in when they come home to Los Angeles? Who will they see and what will they do? What do they want in their new lives in Bel-Air and at the Santa Barbara ranch?

Peace and quiet mostly, the First Lady said.

"I know there's always going to be a little microscope (on us), but it won't be as concentrated as it is here," she said in a recent White House interview. "We won't have those television cameras at the ranch. We'll be spending most of the time at Bel-Air, but . . . we'll go to the ranch."

The President and the First Lady, however, also have made it clear that they hardly will disappear once they return to Los Angeles and shed their present, hard-won status as the ultimate Washington insiders.

Mrs. Reagan plans to campaign in the fight against cancer and continue her war against drugs from an office in the Nancy Reagan Center at Phoenix House, a 150-bed residential drug treatment facility planned near Pacoima. The President will have his office in Century City's Fox Plaza, where part of his time will be spent working on the Reagan Library and Republican Party affairs.

Books and Speeches

Both Reagans will write autobiographies and give speeches.

They also will renew ties with friends in a Los Angeles social scene that has changed considerably in their eight-year absence. They'll live in swank Bel-Air, becoming neighbors to Michael Jackson.

And there promises to be a spate of social and official events--including a major Valentine's welcome home bash for Nancy--wedged comfortably between the Reagans' respites at the Santa Barbara ranch.

"The first thing, I want to get myself settled in the house and that takes a little time. But I'm going to be very involved at the drug center. Very. I worked awfully hard for 7 1/2 years on that and I'm not about to give it up now."

Mrs. Reagan said she was uncertain about whether she would go to the office on a daily or weekly basis.

"That'll all work itself out. I can't say how often I'll be there," she said. "But I'll be very involved. I'll be giving speeches, probably on two things: drugs and cancer. And probably life in the White House, I would guess."

While the President will probably stay active in politics to some degree as the GOP's elder statesman, Mrs. Reagan speculated that she will try to steer clear of partisan causes.

"I don't know when I'm going to have time to be politically active. And I think after 20 years, I've really given my time," she said.

Plans already are jelling for the Valentine's Day gala that will welcome Nancy Reagan home.

Good friend Erlenne (Mrs. Norman) Sprague is chairing what she promises will be "a fabulous event for Nancy," a luncheon in the Crystal Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel with Adolfo (one of Mrs. Reagan's favorite designers) presenting his spring collection.

The event is being sponsored by the Colleagues to benefit the Children's Institute International for abused children and drug-addicted babies, and, Sprague said: "We're expecting at least 400. Many of (Nancy's) good friends will be there."

Among those she named were Mrs. Marion (Earle) Jorgensen, Mrs. Armand Deutsch, Mrs. William Doheny, Mrs. Thomas Trainer, Mrs. Henry Singleton, Mrs. George Scharffenberger, Mrs. Virginia Milner, Mrs. Thomas B. Jones.

Nancy Reagan is a member of the Colleagues, Sprague said, adding that "hopefully" she will be an active member once again.

Intimates say they expect the Reagans, after a period of rest and quiet, to do "a good amount of socializing" within a circle of longtime friends that includes members of the President's onetime "kitchen cabinet," the group largely responsible for his rise in Republican politics.

And "we wanted ours to be the first event," Sprague said. "Remember, so many of the girls in this group are her very close personal friends."

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