Feature

The enigmatic Reagan

Ron Reagan and his father shared a fondness for each other that was colored by mutual incomprehension.

Ron Reagan is an ambivalent son, said Manuel Roig-Franzia in The Washington Post. If his older brother, Michael Reagan, is the torchbearer of their father’s conservative politics, and sister Patti Davis (who once bared herself in Playboy) is the black sheep, Ron has had a more complicated role. He and his father shared a fondness for each other that was colored by mutual incomprehension. An avowed liberal and atheist, Ron says his father worried that “I’d find life to be this horrible abyss of despair.”

He hasn’t, although his life hasn’t been simple. A ballet dancer in his early days, he’s been rumored to be gay for as long as he can remember. “To me, it’s like someone claiming I’m Chinese,” Reagan says. “It’s not pejorative. It’s just incorrect.” He’s been married to the same woman, Doria, for 30 years. Lately, he’s caused an uproar for suggesting his father showed signs of Alzheimer’s while in office. “I wasn’t worried that he was going to launch a nuclear attack because he thought he was turning the TV on,” says Reagan. “But the Alzheimer’s might have exacerbated tendencies to trust his aides too much. I’m thinking of Iran-Contra.”

Though they seldom agreed, he believes his father “meant well.” Now 52, he wishes he had his dad’s certitude: “I’m still asking myself what I want to be when I grow up.”

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