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Profile : Late Night With Ron Reagan : Son of Former President Aims to Confront Issues on His New Talk Show

August 11, 1991|STEVEN HERBERT | Times Staff Writer

Ron Reagan is dispensing with the usual show-business hyperbole and ego, admitting he could become the latest addition to the long list of unsuccessful late-night talk show hosts.

"There's no guarantee," said Reagan, 33, whose "The Ron Reagan Show" debuts Monday on KTTV Channel 11. "It's a very tough market now. I won't kid you. There are people who are very nervous about this show because it isn't following the formula of a desk, couch, celebrity show. We're trying to do something different.

"It's no referendum on my character. It doesn't make me a bad person. I hope we last longer than 'Johnny B . . . on the Loose' (he was referring to Jonathon Brandmeier's talk show, canceled July 19 after four weeks on the air).

"Who knows? Maybe people don't like me. I was all right on morning television once in a while, but maybe every night, late-night, people hate my guts. That doesn't make me a bad person. Life goes on."

Despite Reagan's fears--or modesty--the show already has found a market. By mid-July, it had been sold to more than 100 markets, covering 90% of the nation's population, including the top 34 markets.

Kevin Bright, the show's executive producer, is an Emmy winner with Fox's "In Living Color" and the co-executive producer on Home Box Office's "Dream On." Though a neophyte at producing talk shows, Bright is impressed by Reagan's ability to be accessible to an audience.

"What's great about Ron is that he's very well-informed, but I don't feel he's imposing," Bright said. "We want somebody on these shows to be an authority figure to a certain degree, but also I think Ron gives a really wonderful comfort level along with that. He has an air of confidence, competence and respectability, but at the same time he's just like you and me. He's not above it all."

A plus, Reagan said, is not having "the cast of 'Knots Landing' come on and tell you what they did on their summer vacation or the new cologne they are coming out with. The premise of the show is a rather dangerous one, which is that the audience is smarter than a lot of people in the industry give them credit for."

Yet such a tack proved troublesome to Bright a few days before the show began taping.

"Since we're paying the same thing as everybody else, which is anything from nothing to scale, will celebrities make the time to address themselves to issues they have claimed to the press are important to them?" Bright asked.

"I do want the biggest names possible because they have the biggest perspective of experience. . . . I also want people to watch the show, and the better authorities I can entice to be on the show will expose that issue better and make the show watched."

The first show taped July 24 was titled 'The Selling of Women."

"Women are portrayed in a shocking way in the media," said Reagan, sitting in his second-floor office above a Sunset Boulevard mini-mall. "Ninety percent of what you buy is sold with the hook being sex. Any car ad for instance. I don't care if they're talking about your overhead cam, dual hemi exhaust. What they're really saying is, 'Buy this car guys and beautiful women will (perform a sex act with you.)'

"On top of that, as a tangential or separate issue, imagine what it's like to be a woman in this society. You wake up in the morning, you're an ordinary-looking person like most of us are, and you're told right off the bat when you open a paper, magazine or look at TV, that if you don't look like (a super model) on a good day, that somehow you're not all you can be (and) you better have a little facial surgery, wear lots of makeup."

Another topic Reagan plans to examine is television.

"We're doing a general show with critics on why television is so relentlessly stupid," Reagan said. "Children's television is another major concern. Here are kids getting bombarded with seven hours of television a day and most of it is advertisements for various sugar products."

Reagan was a national correspondent for ABC's "Good Morning America" from 1985 to 1990, and also has hosted "Saturday Night Live" and a Cinemax cable comedy special. But he will always be known as the son of former President Ronald Reagan.

"How can you get out from under something that big," said Reagan, the third Reagan sibling to get a talk show. Half-sister Maureen hosted programs on KABC radio during separate stints in the 1970s and 1980s, while half-brother Michael has a show on KSDO-AM in San Diego. "If you were Michael Jackson's child, or the Pope's--although that's unlikely--royalty or any kind of enormous celebrity, you're stuck with that. But it's not something you have to go around thinking about all the time. You just have to be conscious that everybody is thinking about it."

The younger Reagan smiled, and quickly shook his head no, when asked if he expected either his father or mother, Nancy Reagan, to ever appear on his show. He doubts his father's declining popularity since leaving office will rub off on his show.

"If it does, there's nothing I can do," Reagan said. "If it were to happen, what the hell can I do about it?"

"The Ron Reagan Show" airs weeknights at 11:30 p.m. on Channel 11; 11 a.m. weekdays on Channel 6 in San Diego and midnight on Channel 63 in Ventura.

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