At 10:10 a.m. on Election Day 1980, Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, arrive at their Pacific Palisades, California polling place. Reporters shout questions at the candidate, who smiles and says, "I can't answer till I get on my mark." Though his victory seems likely, he refuses to predict it. "You know me," he says, placing himself squarely on the taped cross showing where he's supposed to stand. "I'm too superstitious to answer anything like that." His wife nudges him and quietly says, "Cautiously optimistic." Reagan takes his cue. "Yes," he says, "I'm cautiously optimistic."

As they leave, he is asked who he voted for. He smiles and says, "Nancy."



At 8:15pm EST, with a mere five percent of the vote counted, NBC declares former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan the 40th President of the United States. When it's all over, Reagan and running mate George Bush have won – 43,901,812 to 35,483,820 in the popular vote, and 489-49 in the electoral college – and the Democrats have lost the Senate for the first time since 1954. Among the losers are veteran liberals George McGovern, Frank Church and Birch Bayh, who is defeated by two-term congressman J. Danforth Quayle.

"I'm not bitter," says President Jimmy Carter, who concedes the election hours before polls in the west have closed. "Rosalynn is, but I'm not." Adds the First Lady, "I'm bitter enough for all of us."


Nancy Reagan – whose husband calls her "Mommy" – reveals how they learned the results of the election: "Ronnie had just gotten out of the shower and he was standing in his robe, and I had just gotten out of the bath and I was standing in my robe, and we had the television on, naturally, when NBC projected him the winner. We turned to each other and said, 'Somehow this doesn't seem to be the way it's supposed to be.'"


CBS newsman Dan Rather gets into a dispute with Chicago cab driver Eugene Phillips, who has gotten lost following Rather's directions. When he tries to get out without paying, the cabbie – unaware of his passenger's identity – drives off in search of a cop. Rather sticks his head and shoulders out the window, waves his arms and shouts that he is being kidnapped. The police, unsurprisingly, take the side of the powerful network star, and Phillips is charged with disorderly conduct. CBS says it will pay the $12.55 fare.


New York mayor Ed Koch tells a radio audience that he, "like everyone else," once tried marijuana. And, like everyone else who publicly admits such a thing, he claims not to have liked it.


Despite President-elect Reagan's claim that no personnel decisions have been made, his transition team announces two key appointments: Bush campaign head James Baker III as chief of staff and long-time Reagan aide Edwin Meese III as White House counselor with Cabinet rank.


Flocking to the Cinema I theater for the hot-ticket screening of Michael Cimino's wildly expensive western, Heaven's Gate, New York's media elite finds itself enduring a 219-minute exercise in pretentious self-indulgence. "Why aren't they drinking the champagne?" Cimino asks at intermission. "Because," his publicist explains, "they hate the movie, Michael."

The next day, New York Times critic Vincent Canby writes,"Heaven's Gate fails so completely that you might suspect Mr. Cimino sold his soul to the devil to obtain the success of The Deer Hunter, and the devil has just come around to collect ... For all the time and money that went into it, it's jerry-built, a ship that slides straight to the bottom at its christening ... Heaven's Gate is something quite rare in movies these days – an unqualified disaster." The film is pulled from release by United Artists for some serious editing.


President-elect Reagan arrives at the White House to receive a job briefing from President Carter, who later reveals that Reagan asked few questions and took no notes, asking instead for a copy of Carter's presentation.


Nancy Reagan tells The Washington Post that she and her husband are going to set an example for "a return to a higher sense of morality" when they move into the White House, explaining, "It kind of filters down from the top somehow."


After eight months of saturation hype, more than 41 million of America's nearly 78 million households tune in to Dallas to learn that Sue Ellen's sister Kristin shot J.R. Ewing.


"Running the government is like running General Motors. It's twice General Motors or three times General Motors – but it's General Motors ... The Cabinet secretaries will be like the presidents of Chevrolet and Pontiac ... Chevrolet competes with Pontiac. Competition is good. But their competition stops at what is good for General Motors."

--Reagan crony Alfred Bloomingdale


Amidst a swirl of rumors about his alleged homosexuality, Ronald Prescott Reagan, 22 – son of the President-elect – heads down to Manhattan Supreme Court to marry his girlfriend Doria Palmieri, 29. "I'm very happy," says Nancy Reagan in California, though The New York Times describes her demeanor as "notably subdued."


At halftime during its Thanksgiving football game, CBS interviews President-elect Ronald Reagan, who reminisces about his days as a radio sportscaster and fondly recalls his penchant for enhancing the events by "making things up."


President-elect Reagan goes to Beverly Hills for a haircut at Drucker's barber shop. Owner Harry Drucker says he has been cutting Reagan's hair exactly the same way for 40 years, describing it as "a traditional haircut, a conservative haircut ... It isn't," he says redundantly, "a hippie-type haircut." And, he says with a straight face, the 69-year-old Reagan does not dye his hair.



Government forces in El Salvador shoot four US churchwomen to death.


After lurking outside New York's Dakota apartment building for several days, cipher Mark David Chapman gets John Lennon to autograph a copy of his new album, Double Fantasy, as he and Yoko Ono leave for the recording studio to put the finishing touches on her new single, "Walking On Thin Ice." When they return, Chapman shows his gratitude by pumping four bullets into Lennon from behind. Though he is rushed to the hospital in a police car, the former Beatle dies within minutes. "Do you know what you just did?" asks the Dakota doorman. Says Chapman calmly, "I just shot John Lennon." Six months later he pleads guilty to second degree murder and is sentenced to 20 years to life, with a general understanding in society that this guy is never coming out. Either he is still in prison as you read this or he is dead.


Radio commentator Paul Harvey scoffs at the renewed calls for gun control in the wake of John Lennon's murder. "Well, now, wait a minute," Harvey says. "Death has claimed a lot of rock musicians prematurely, and none with guns. Keith Moon and Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix OD'd on drugs, and Elvis Presley and Brian Jones and John Bonham ... Plane crashes killed Jim Croce and Otis Redding and Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Ronnie Van Zant. In fact, Lennon at forty lived much longer than most of those." So, it turns out John was really kind of lucky.


Rupert Murdoch's New York Post favors its readers with a front-page morgue photo of John Lennon.


Nancy Reagan reveals that she keeps a gun in a drawer near her bed. "Ronnie was away a lot, you know," she explains, "and I was alone in that house." And what kind of gun is it? She laughs. "It's just a tiny little gun."


President-elect Reagan's first eight Cabinet appointments – including Donald Regan (Treasury), David Stockman (Budget Director), Caspar Weinberger (Defense) and William Casey (CIA) – are announced. Reagan not only doesn't attend the half-hour ceremony but he can't even be bothered to watch all of it on TV. A statement is released in his name calling this group "the exact combination to create the new beginning the American people expect and deserve."


The day after being named US Attorney General – the nation's highest law enforcement officer – William French Smith travels to Rancho Mirage, California to attend a 65th birthday party for Frank Sinatra.


Denying a report that Nancy Reagan "can't understand" why the Carters don't move into Blair House during the transition so she can have a head start on redecorating the White House, a spokesperson explains that the First Lady-in-waiting merely suggested that she might do that favor for the next First Family. Says one Carter aide, "I wouldn't be surprised if we have to fend off the moving vans."


In Beverly Hills, President-elect Reagan stops by Drucker's for another haircut.


Bernice Brown, wife of former California governor Pat Brown, says that after her husband was defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1966, Nancy's secretary called to ask them to move out of the governor's mansion several days early. "They said they needed extra time," she says, "to wash windows and wax floors and all that."


Long-time Reagan aide and Nancy devotee Michael Deaver is named deputy White House chief of staff.






"I don't think you pay ransom for people that have been kidnapped by barbarians."

--President-elect Reagan dismissing Iran's conditions for the release of the 52 American hostages


President-elect Reagan gets, of all things, another haircut.


Nancy Reagan is reported to be insisting that whoever is hired as her husband's press secretary must be "reasonably good-looking."


In Evergreen, Colorado, 25-year-old John W. Hinckley Jr. – depressed over the murder of John Lennon – sits alone in his parents' house, drinking peach brandy and recording a New Year's Eve message. "I don't know what's gonna happen this year. It's just gonna be insanity," he says. "Jodie is the only thing that matters now. Anything that I might do in 1981 would be solely for Jodie Foster's sake ... It's time for me to go to bed. It's after midnight. It's the New Year, 1981. Hallelujah!"



Writing about the Sinatra birthday bash, columnist William Safire points out that maybe it wasn't such a good idea for Attorney General-designate William French Smith to have attended a salute to "a man obviously proud to be close to notorious hoodlums." The President-elect's reaction? "Yeah, I know. We've heard those things about Frank for years, and we just hope none of them are true."


President-elect Reagan – himself! – announces the appointment of pudgy, balding James Brady as White House press secretary. Asked if Brady's visuals have been approved by Nancy, the usually genial Reagan gets testy. "I am getting to be an irate husband at some of the things I am reading," he says of his wife's astonishing knack for alienation, "none of which are true."


With his departure for Washington imminent, President-elect Reagan stops by Drucker's to squeeze in one last trim.


President-elect Reagan is presented with a huge jar of jellybeans at a farewell ceremony in Los Angeles, which prompts his reminiscence about passing the jellybean jar around the table during his days as governor. "You can tell a lot about a fellow's character, if a fellow just picks out one color or grabs a handful," he says, though exactly what one can tell from this is left unrevealed.


The most expensive Inaugural celebration in American history – an $11 million four-day parade of limousines, white ties and mink that prompts Reagan partisan Barry Goldwater to complain about such an "ostentatious" display "at a time when most people can't hack it" – gets underway in Washington.


"Friends have urged me to run for governor in Nevada. Others have told me to try for the US Senate. And I'm thinking about both."

--Las Vegas singer Wayne Newton, taking a break from coordinating the entertainment at the inaugural balls to speculate on his ultimately nonexistent political future


"I'm so proud that you're First Lady, Nancy / And so pleased that I'm sort of a chum / The next eight years will be fancy / As fancy as they come."

--Frank Sinatra at the Inaugural gala that he organized, produced and directed, revising his classic "Nancy with the Laughing Face" (originally about his daughter) to "Nancy with the Reagan Face"


President Carter appears in the White House briefing room at 4:56 a.m. to announce "an agreement with Iran that will result, I believe, in the freedom of our American hostages."

Criticizing the deal, a Reagan aide huffs, "This Administration will not negotiate with barbarians or terrorists."


Just before 9 a.m. Michael Deaver, stunned that the President-elect is still sleeping, enters his bedroom to remind him that he's "going to be inaugurated." Says Reagan, "Does that mean I have to get up?"

At noon, promising an "era of national renewal," Ronald Wilson Reagan becomes the oldest man to take the oath of office as President of the United States. In a stunning coincidence, just as he completes his speech, the 52 hostages held in Tehran for 444 days begin their journey home. Suspicion lingers to this day about whether behind-the-scenes machinations by the Reagan transition team – machinations which would have been nothing less than treasonous – might have played a part in delaying this moment for days or even weeks in order that it might provide this spectacular opening to the eight-year-long movie about to unfold.

Later, President Reagan visits Tip O'Neill's office, where the House Speaker shows him a desk that was used by Grover Cleveland. Reagan claims to have portrayed him in a movie. O'Neill points out that Reagan in fact played Grover Cleveland Alexander, the baseball player, not Grover Cleveland, the President.


At his first Cabinet meeting, President Reagan is asked if the Administration has plans to issue an expected Executive Order on cost-cutting. He shrugs. Then, noticing Budget Director David Stockman nodding emphatically, he adds, "I have a smiling fellow at the end of the table who tells me we do."


On his first full day on the job as National Security Adviser, Richard Allen receives $1,000 and a pair of Seiko watches from Japanese journalists as a tip for arranging an interview with Nancy Reagan.


A Bit of History, the nation's first museum honoring Richard M. Nixon – well, actually it's more of a roadside coffee shop housing some cheesy Nixon memorabilia – opens in San Clemente, California. "We call it 'A Bit of History,'" explains manager Peter Mitchell, "because, of all the history in the United States, this is just a little bit."


Peter McCoy, Nancy Reagan's chief of staff, complains that the Oval Office furniture is threadbare. "And," he adds, with some pique, "in my office, we have to have mousetraps. Mousetraps! Why doesn't somebody write an article about that?"


Welcoming the hostages home, President Reagan puts the world on notice that the US will deal with any future such incidents quite severely. "Our policy," he declares, "will be one of swift and effective retribution." When the band strikes up "Hail to the Chief," Reagan puts his hand over his heart. "Oh!" he says. "I thought this was the national anthem."


At his first press conference as Secretary of State, Alexander Haig refers to himself as the "vicar" of foreign policy.


"Their goal must be the promotion of world revolution and a one-world Socialist or Communist state ... They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that."

--President Reagan at his first press conference, letting the Soviets know he's not really so interested in being friends



At his hearing to become Under-secretary of State, Reagan crony William Clark is subjected to a current events quiz. Is he familiar with the struggles within the British Labour Party? He is not. Does he know which European nations don't want US nuclear weapons on their soil? He does not. Can he name the Prime Minister of South Africa? He cannot. The Prime Minister of Zimbabwe? "It would be a guess." Despite his wide-ranging ignorance, he is confirmed.


Testifying before Congress, Interior Secretary James Watt – of whom President Reagan says, "I think he's an environmentalist himself, as I think I am" – is asked if he agrees that natural resources must be preserved for future generations. Yes, Watt says, but "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns."


On the eve of her husband's 70th birthday party, Nancy Reagan flies her manicurist, Jessica Vartoughian, in from Los Angeles.


"It's just the 31st anniversary of my 39th birthday."

--President Reagan on turning 70


Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan eases requirements for the labeling of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.


President Reagan warns a joint session of Congress that the national debt is approaching $1 trillion. And how big is that? "A trillion dollars," he explains, "would be a stack of $1,000 bills 67 miles high." In other words, very big.



MARCH 1981


In an interview with Walter Cronkite, President Reagan cites a 1938 speech by President Franklin Roosevelt in which he "called on the free world to quarantine Nazi Germany." In fact, FDR made no such speech.


"Well, the 'tiny little gun' disappeared quite a long time ago. I had the 'tiny little gun' when my husband was away a great deal of the time and I was alone and I was advised to have the 'tiny little gun.'"

--Nancy Reagan revealing that she is an ex-owner of diminutive weaponry


"Jodie Foster Love, just wait. I'll rescue you very soon. Please cooperate. J.W.H."

--Text of a letter hand-delivered at 1 a.m. to actress Jodie Foster's Yale dormitory




President Reagan holds his second press conference – the first in American history for which the order of the questioners has been determined by the President drawing names out of a jellybean jar. Many of the unchosen – among them, reporters from NBC, ABC and AP – boycott the event, and the system is quickly abandoned.


"And that's the way it is, Friday, March 6th, 1981. I'll be away on assignment and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years. Good night."

--Avuncular, reassuring Walter Cronkite anchoring his last evening newscast after being retired insanely prematurely by CBS to prevent twitchy, anxiety-inducing Rather from moving to ABC


Washington Post gossip columnist Maxine Cheshire reports that lobbyist and recent Playboy model Paula Parkinson – who last year shared a vacation home with three House members – has videotaped several others in her bedroom. A spokesman for Sen. Dan Quayle (R-IN) says that though the then-congressman was a guest at that Florida golfing weekend, he "doesn't remember anyone by the name of Paula Parkinson." Adds Quayle's wife Marilyn, "Anyone who knows Dan Quayle knows he would rather play golf than have sex any day." Parkinson refrains from responding, "Anyone who knows Marilyn Quayle knows why."


"Jodie, Goodbye! I love you six trillion times. Don't you maybe like me just a little bit? ... It would make all of this worthwhile. John Hinckley, of course."

--Text of a letter hand-delivered at 4 a.m. to actress Jodie Foster's Yale dormitory


President Reagan stuns Los Angeles Times theater critic Dan Sullivan by calling and asking him to plug his friend Buddy Ebsen's play, Turn to the Right. Sullivan takes the opportunity to berate Reagan for cutting funding for the arts, suggesting there might be some boondoggles in the Defense Department. Yes, replies the President, $4 billion worth, "and we've caught them!"


Hosting a party for the Special Olympics committee, Henry Kissinger thanks Warner Brothers "for making the story of my life in Superman and following it up with Superman II," thus proving that he belongs in the Special Olympics for humor.


"If I didn't own them, somebody else would ... It's much ado about nothing."

--White House aide Lyn Nofziger responding to charges that three Baltimore slums he owns should have been boarded up months ago


The State Department explains that Alexander Haig was simply expressing "one theory" when he suggested that the four American nuns shot to death in El Salvador might have been killed while trying to "run a roadblock."


President Reagan puts Vice President Bush in charge of the administration's "crisis management" team, making Alexander Haig – whose high opinion of his own abilities is exceeded only by his contempt for Bush's – very unhappy.


Following a speech at the Washington Hilton, President Reagan is shot in the chest by John W. Hinckley Jr. Three others are also injured, including press secretary James Brady, who survives a bullet to the brain after being reported dead on all three networks.

When the President sees Nancy at the hospital, he reportedly says, "Honey, I forgot to duck" – a line originally spoken by Jack Dempsey to his wife after being beaten by Gene Tunney in 1926. As he enters the operating room, he reportedly asks the surgeons, "Please tell me you're Republicans." A bullet is removed from his left lung. When he comes out of anesthesia, he reportedly begins scribbling humorous notes to the nurses: "All in all, I'd rather be in Philadelphia." "Send me to L.A., where I can see the air I'm breathing." "Does Nancy know about us?" Key word here, of course: reportedly.

During the operation, Alexander Haig rushes to the White House briefing room where, trembling and with his voice cracking, he seeks to reassure our allies that the government continues to function: "As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the vice president." Afterward, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger confronts Haig and informs him that he has misstated the line of succession, which actually places the Speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate ahead of the Secretary of State. Snarls Haig, "Look, you better go home and read your Constitution, buddy. That's the way it is."

An ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that President Reagan's popularity rating went up 11 points after he was shot, though not everybody suddenly adores him. One student writes in his college newspaper that he hopes Reagan dies of his wounds, prompting Nancy to inquire about the possibility of prosecuting him.


Unmailed correspondence found in his Washington hotel room suggests that John W. Hinckley Jr. had become obsessed with actress Jodie Foster after repeatedly viewing Taxi Driver, in which she played a 12-year-old prostitute.

On a postcard with a photo of the Reagans he has written, "Dear Jodie, Don't they make a darling couple? Nancy is downright sexy. One day you and I will occupy the White House and the peasants will drool with envy. Until then, please do your best to remain a virgin. You are a virgin, aren't you? Love, John."

"Jodie," one letter reads, "I would abandon this idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you . . . I just cannot wait any longer to impress you ..."

Foster issues no public statement about the state of her virginity or the degree to which she has been impressed.


With the Academy Awards having been delayed a night because of the Reagan shooting, Robert DeNiro wins an Oscar for his performance as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. As it happens, reporters are far more interested in discussing Travis Bickle, the character he played in the heavily Hinckley-viewed Taxi Driver.

APRIL 1981


CNN airs a videotape of psychic Tamara Rand "predicting" the Reagan shooting on a Las Vegas talk show reportedly taped on January 6th. Rand said she felt Reagan was in danger "at the end of March" from "a thud" in the "chest area" caused by "shots all over the place" from the gun of a "fair-haired" young man named something like "Jack Humley."


President Reagan poses with Nancy at the hospital. The photo released to the press is carefully cropped to hide the IV tubes hooked up to his left arm.


Talk show host Dick Maurice admits that Tamara Rand's astonishing prediction of the Reagan assassination attempt was actually taped the day after the shooting. Still, she had it pegged pretty close.


Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke wins the Pulitzer Prize for her story about an eight-year-old heroin addict, which, it unfortunately turns out, she totally made up.


Former FBI officials W. Mark Felt and Edward S. Miller, convicted of authorizing illegal break-ins during the Nixon years, are pardoned by President Reagan, who claims they served the nation "with great distinction." Decades later, Felt will reveal himself to have been the infamous Watergate source "Deep Throat."


Maureen Reagan, 40, marries her third husband, 28-year-old Dennis Revell, in Los Angeles. The couple exchange self-penned vows: "I love you because you're going to let me be me." At the last minute, the First Couple sends word that they will be unable to attend, thus avoiding the eagerly anticipated encounter between Nancy Reagan and Maureen's mom, Jane Wyman.

Two months later, Maureen makes a commercial for a mail-order acne lotion.


"It's as if somebody called every household in the country and said, 'There will be a curse on your family if you go see this picture.'"

--United Artists Vice president Jerry Esbin on the streamlined 148-minute version of Heaven's Gate's pathetic $1.3 million opening weekend


A New York Times/CBS News poll reports that only 25 percent of the public knows that El Salvador is in Central America, with 28% placing it in South America. Others think it's "around Israel" and in "Louisiana, near Baton Rouge."

MAY 1981






Musician Bob Marley dies at 36 of brain and lung cancer.


Ed Meese calls the American Civil Liberties Union "a criminals' lobby."


TV viewers jam the switchboards of stations across America to complain that their soap operas and game shows have been preempted by coverage of the shooting of Pope John Paul II.


A bitter Michael Reagan says he'll resign from his job at a military supply firm after a letter he wrote on March 24th – in which he invoked his father's name on a business solicitation – becomes public. "It's just so silly," he says. "Somebody else can write a letter to the military bases ... and say, 'Hey, I think Ronald Reagan's a great President.' I write a letter and say my Dad's a great President and I have the press on my doorstep." And did Dad have any advice? "Don't write any letters."


"His vision, now as then, has a compelling simplicity about it."

--Honorary degree awarded to President Reagan by Notre Dame, where he emitted the first of umpteen bazillion utterances of the phrase "Win one for the Gipper" 41 years earlier while filming Knute Rockne – All American




The US casts one of only three votes against a World Health Organization ethics code preventing the sale of American infant formulas to Third World countries, where their use with contaminated water has killed thousands.


Newsweek publishes a rare cover story on art, "The Revival of Realism," illustrating it with a very realistic painting of a bare-breasted woman.

JUNE 1981


The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta issues a report about unexplained outbreaks of a kind of pneumonia that usually affects only cancer patients. All five cases described – as well as six others under study – are homosexual men in their 20s or 30s. "The best we can say," says epidemiologist Wayne Shandera, "is that somehow the pneumonia appears to be related to gay life style."


Major league baseball's first-ever mid-season strike begins.


President Reagan fails to recognize his only black Cabinet member, Housing Secretary Samuel Pierce, at a White House reception for big-city mayors. "How are you, Mr. Mayor?" he greets Pierce. "I'm glad to meet you. How are things in your city?"


At 12:30 a.m. a venerable television tradition – giving madman Charles Manson air time in an effort to boost ratings – is born, as NBC devotes 90 minutes to an interview conducted by Tom Snyder at California's Vacaville prison. The show is produced by former Nixon media man Roger Ailes. Among the burning questions answered: Was Manson a heavy drug user? "No, I smoked a little grass, and I've taken some acid, mescaline, psilocybin, peyote, mushrooms, but actually take dope? No. I wouldn't take anything that I feel would hurt me."


President Reagan holds his third press conference, where he responds to questions on:

*The Israeli attack on Iraq – "I can't answer that."

*Israel's refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty – "Well, I haven't given very much thought to that particular question there."

*Pakistan's refusal to sign the treaty – "I won't answer the last part of the question."

*Israeli threats against Lebanon – "Well, this one's going to be one, I'm afraid, that I can't answer now."

*The tactics of political action committees – "I don't really know how to answer that."

As for skepticism about his administration's grasp of foreign affairs, the President declares, "I'm satisfied that we do have a foreign policy."


"I regard voting as the most sacred right of free men and women."

--President Reagan who, mouthed pieties aside, refuses to commit to supporting an extension of the Voting Rights Act


"We love your adherence to democratic principle, and to the democratic processes."

--Vice President Bush gushing an exuberant toast to newly re-inaugurated Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, whose fondness for democracy is less celebrated by those he rules undemocratically

JULY 1981


In a letter to a New York Times reporter, John W. Hinckley Jr. refers to his "historical deed" as "an unprecedented demonstration of love ... Does Jodie Foster appreciate what I've done? ... Everybody but everybody knows about John and Jodie ... Jodie and I will always be together, in life and in death."


The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta issues a report documenting 26 cases – eight of them fatal – of a rare skin cancer called Kaposi's sarcoma. All the patients are male homosexuals.


Nancy Reagan, 60, celebrates her 58th birthday.


President Reagan nominates Arizona Judge Sandra Day O'Connor to be the first woman on the Supreme Court. The next day, Rev. Jerry Falwell suggests that O'Connor's opposition to abortion might not be sufficiently rabid to please him. Responds Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), "I think that every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass!" O'Connor goes on to be confirmed by the Senate, 99-0.


Baptist minister Dwight Wymer begins using a homemade electric stool to teach his Bible students to obey God. He discontinues the tactic when told he will be subject to prosecution if the 12-volt shocks cause any injury.


Max Hugel – appointed by William Casey to run the CIA's covert operations – resigns amidst allegations of fraud in connection with certain of his financial transactions in the early 1970s.


President Reagan dismisses stock fraud charges against William Casey as "old news."


"I would like to see us do less of the really rotten shows."

--Newly appointed NBC chairman Grant Tinker suggesting a strategy to get the network out of the ratings cellar


Author Norman Mailer's literary protégé Jack Henry Abbott, a convicted bank robber who has been living in Manhattan on a work-release program, gets into an early-morning argument at an East Village restaurant and stabs a young man to death. The next day, The New York Times Book Review calls his collected letters from jail, In the Belly of the Beast, "the most fiercely visionary book of its kind in the American repertoire of prison literature ... awesome, brilliant." Columnist Murray Kempton suggests Abbott could be the first fugitive to surrender to The New York Review of Books.


"Heck, no. I'm going to leave this to you experts. I'm not going to get involved in details."

--President Reagan declining Treasury Secretary Donald Regan's invitation to join the negotiating session at which his tax-cut bill is being shaped




The Heimlich maneuver saves the life of New York mayor Ed Koch after he almost chokes to death in a Chinatown restaurant, where waiters say he was talking nonstop while stuffing pork into his mouth. Not wishing to alienate Jewish voters who don't partake of the pig, Koch claims a piece of sautéed watercress caused the problem.


Nancy Reagan – giddy to be in London for the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer – announces, "I'm off to see the King and Queen," though there hasn't been a King of England in 27 years. The British press can't stand her. "Maybe she'll fall again," writes one paper of the First Lady's propensity for toppling over, "and break her hair."




Baseball players end their 50-day walkout. In an effort to renew the interest of fans whose teams were doing poorly, a "second season" is established, with an extra set of play-offs.



With the public's attention span shrinking by the second, MTV, cable's first 24-hour music channel, establishes the four-minute rock video – essentially a commercial for an album – as the hot new art form. Fast cuts, slow motion and artsy black-and-white photography – largely selling sex and violence – define the visual style of the decade, spreading to movies, prime time series, advertising and magazines.


The Reagan Administration begins sending dismissal notices to over 5,000 striking members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Union (PATCO). By week's end, the union is broken.




Limited public response results in the closing of A Bit of History, the Nixon museum. Says manager Peter Mitchell, "If nothing else, it's been a good stopping point for people to use the restrooms between L.A. and San Diego."


President Reagan takes time out from his summer vacation at his home in Santa Barbara, California – which is oddly called a "ranch" though no livestock or crops are raised there – to sign the largest budget and tax cuts in history into law. When his dog wanders by, a reporter asks its name. "Lassie," the President replies, then corrects himself. "Millie!" he says. "Millie. Millie's her name." Everyone laughs and laughs.


Jerry Lewis appears on Donahue to defend telethons. When a woman says she finds the format "kind of repulsive," he responds as he does to virtually all criticism: he assumes that the critic must be a Jew-hater and says, "I've got to get you an autographed photograph of Eva Braun."


At Malcolm Forbes' 62nd birthday party, Henry Kissinger is asked if he's read D. M. Thomas' novel, The White Hotel. "I don't read books," he replies hilariously. "I write them."


Ed Meese sees no need to wake President Reagan just to tell him the Navy has shot down two Libyan jets. Defending Meese's decision, Reagan explains, "If our planes are shot down, yes, they'd wake me up right away. If the other fellows were shot down, why wake me up?"


Former movie actor Rex Allen, who spent 45 minutes with President Reagan after presenting him with four pairs of free boots, says, "He acted like there was nothing else in the world he had to do, nothing else on his mind."

Says an unnamed White House aide, "There are times when you really need him to do some work, and all he wants to do is tell stories about his movie days."



The Agriculture Department proposes cutting the size of school lunches and offering tofu, yogurt, cottage cheese or peanuts as viable meat substitutes. In addition, condiments such as ketchup and pickle relish would be reclassified as actual vegetables.


John W. Hinckley Jr. writes to a Washington Post reporter, pointing out that his travels were necessary to further his relationship with Jodie Foster, and requesting that he not be referred to as a "drifter" in the future.


Nancy Reagan defends her decision to spend $209,508 in donated funds on a 4,732-piece china set. "The White House really badly, badly needs china," she explains. "It's badly needed."


Entertainment Tonight premieres. With show business and gossip increasingly setting the tone for the nation's affairs – and with Hollywood's creative energy focusing less on the product and more on the deal – this syndicated nightly half-hour provides volumes of nonessential data (movie grosses, TV ratings, record sales) that, in happier times, people knew enough not to care too much about. The show inspires the term "infotainment." Asks comedian Harry Shearer, "Why not 'entermation?'"


White House Secret Service agent John A. Bachmann Jr., 29, is arrested for robbing a local bank.


President Reagan plays host to welterweight champion Sugar Ray Leonard and his wife. "We're very proud," says the President, "to have Sugar Ray and Mrs. Ray here."


President Reagan – untroubled by the drop in stock prices "because I don't have any" – announces that he has withdrawn the proposal to cut school lunches. He suggests that a dissident faction in the Agriculture Department might have come up with the idea as a form of "bureaucratic sabotage."

Just to set the record straight, aide James Johnson explains, "It would be a mistake to say that ketchup per se was classified as a vegetable. Ketchup in combination with other things was classified as a vegetable." And what things would ketchup have to combine with to be considered a full-blown vegetable? "French fries or hamburgers."



At his fourth press conference, President Reagan denies that his Administration has a "millionaires on parade" style. As for the fancy new set of White House china, well, "Nancy's taken a bit of a bum rap on that."


At a White House briefing with Caspar Weinberger, President Reagan is asked how his MX missiles will be deployed. "I don't know but what maybe you haven't gotten into the area that I'm gonna turn over to the, heh heh, to the Secretary of Defense," he says sheepishly.

"The silos will be hardened," Weinberger says, then nods approvingly as Reagan ad-libs, "Yes, I could say this. The plan also includes the hardening of silos."


The Cincinnati Reds end the strike-marred season with the best overall record in baseball. Unfortunately, they finish in second place in each half-season and fail to qualify for the play-offs.


Newsweek publishes a written interview with John W. Hinckley Jr. "In closing," he writes, "I would like to say hello to Ms. Foster and ask her one small question: Will you marry me, Jodie?" Meanwhile, Time publishes a letter in which the would-be assassin finally explains his fondness for the actress. "From head to toe, every square inch of Jodie is what attracts me," he writes. "Jodie's got the look I crave. What else can I say?"


Hours after Egyptian president Anwar Sadat is shot to death, Hollywood producers Sandy Frank and David Levy – who have long wanted to make a TV movie about him – alert the media that they are stepping up their efforts. "Now the story has a definite ending," says Levy. "The lack of an ending was what was stopping it from being made."


During a White House interview with Nancy Reagan, Andy Warhol says he "always thought they should have a lottery where they invite one family to dinner every night because it's so exciting to be here."

Says the First Lady, "There are tours, of course, Andy."


California State Senator John Schmitz tells an interviewer that if Reagan's policies fail, "the best we could probably hope for is a military coup or something like that." He explains that he is talking about "a good military coup, not a bad military coup."


"Now, that's silly. I'd never wear a crown. It messes up your hair."

--Nancy Reagan citing a popular postcard portraying her as a queen, hoping that if she makes fun of herself, everyone else will stop


The national debt hits $1 trillion. (67 miles of $1,000 bills!)


Following his team's loss to the Dodgers in the fifth game of the World Series, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner gets into a fight on his Los Angeles hotel elevator with two unidentified men who make derogatory comments about the "animals" who live in New York and the "choke-asses" who play for his team. Though he claims to have "clocked" his taunters, his own souvenirs of the encounter include a swollen lip, a bruised head and a cast on his broken left hand. The Yankees go on to lose the Series.



President Reagan elicits hoots of laughter at his fifth press conference when he says of his constantly feuding aides, "There is no bickering or backstabbing going on. We're a very happy group." As he leaves, Lesley Stahl holds up a copy of the just-out Atlantic Monthly featuring William Greider's article "The Education of David Stockman," in which the chatty Budget Director:

*Admits, "None of us really understands what's going on with all these numbers"

*Acknowledges that supply-side economics "was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate"

*Says of the Reagan tax bill, "Do you realize the greed that came to the forefront? The hogs were really feeding."

Was the President aware of this article? He was not.


"My visit to the Oval Office for lunch with the President was more in the nature of a visit to the woodshed after supper ... He was not happy about the way this has developed – and properly so."

--David Stockman describing his crow-eating lunch with President Reagan, who blames the whole flap on the media


"This house belongs to all Americans, and I want it to be something of which they can be proud."

--Nancy Reagan showing off her $1 million White House redecoration – funded by tax-deductible donations – to Architectural Digest, which is then forbidden to release any of its photos to the general news media


The White House announces that the Justice Department is investigating a $1,000 payment given to National Security Adviser Richard Allen by a Japanese magazine after he helped arrange a brief post-inaugural interview with Nancy Reagan. "I didn't accept it. I received it," says Allen, who explains that "it would have been an embarrassment" to the Japanese to have returned the money.


"When I hear people talking about money, it's usually people who don't have any."

--GOP finance chairman Richard DeVos, dismissing charges that Reagan economic policies are unfair


"It's impossible / Making love in a Toyota / It's impossible."

--Robert Goulet, apparently mistaking the White House for a Vegas nightclub while performing at a state dinner for the president of Venezuela


President Reagan receives the annual White House turkey, which upstages him by squawking and flapping its wings madly. Not to be outdone, the President recalls a Thanksgiving long ago when he was carving a turkey, noticed what seemed to be blood oozing from it, assumed the bird was undercooked, then realized he had sliced open his thumb. Everyone laughs and laughs.


Washington Post columnist Judy Mann writes that Nancy Reagan, who is "in the position to champion causes that will improve the quality of life for Americans," has so far merely "used the position to improve the quality of life for those in the White House." The First Lady is said to find this criticism more upsetting than any since 1980 when, according to an aide, an article referring to her "piano" legs caused her to go "into a sort of coma for three days."


Secretary of State Alexander Haig wins the 1981 Double-speak Award given by the National Council of Teachers of English. Among the statements and phrases cited: "I'll have to caveat my response, Senator," "careful caution," "saddle myself with a statistical fence," "post-hostage-return attitude," "nuance-al differences," "epistemologicallywise," "definitizing an answer," and "This is not an experience I haven't been through before."


President Reagan vetoes a stopgap spending bill, thus forcing the federal government – for the first time in history – to temporarily shut down. Says House Speaker Tip O'Neill, "He knows less about the budget than any president in my lifetime. He can't even carry on a conversation about the budget. It's an absolute and utter disgrace."


ABC's Barbara Walters asks President Reagan what adjectives he would use to describe himself? "Soft touch, I really am ... sometimes I'm stubborn, I hope not unnecessarily so, but ... [long pause] ... I ... I can't answer that question, I wouldn't know how to do it." He is, however, able to describe his academic record: "I never knew anything above Cs."


Actress Natalie Wood, 43, who has suffered from an intense fear of drowning since childhood, slips off a yacht anchored near California's Catalina Island. Though she screams for help for at least fifteen minutes, her husband Robert Wagner and friend Christopher Walken, both of them on her yacht, don't hear her, and the people on nearby yachts who can hear her don't help her, and her worst fear is realized.


Nancy Reagan, irate about being dragged into the Richard Allen scandalette, convinces James Baker and Michael Deaver that the tainted official must be removed. Allen takes a leave of absence while the investigation continues. "I fully expect to resume my duties," he says, embarking on a doomed attempt to save himself by going on TV and taking his case directly to the people, who couldn't care less who the National Security Adviser is as long as they're not required to know his name. Despite ultimately being exonerated of any law-breaking, he is gone in a month. The President hails his integrity, then names noted foreign policy non-expert William Clark to succeed him.


Social secretary Muffie Brandon reveals that the White House is experiencing "a terrible tablecloth crisis." Says Brandon, "One set of tablecloths, to my complete and utter horror, went out to the dry cleaner and shrunk."


"I don't think that we have a crisis here. I think we'll manage. I don't see this as a frightening thing."

--Sheila Tate, Nancy Reagan's press secretary, downplaying the tablecloth alarm


President Reagan tells a $2,500-per-ticket GOP fundraiser in Cincinnati about a letter he allegedly received from a blind supporter. "He wrote in Braille," the President claims, "to tell me that if cutting his pension would help get this country back on its feet, he'd like to have me cut his pension." The altruistic soul's identity is never revealed, leaving whoever is so inclined free to believe the story was made up.



Following a four-month investigation into William Casey's business dealings, the Senate Intelligence Committee gives the CIA Director the rousing endorsement of being not "unfit to serve."




Joking about Muammar Qaddafi's alleged threats to have him assassinated, President Reagan ends a budget meeting by turning to his Vice President and saying, "Hey, by the way, George, I don't know how you feel about it, but I think I'll just call Qaddafi and meet him out there on the Mall." Everyone laughs and laughs.


A Newsweek poll shows that 62% of the American people feel that Nancy Reagan "puts too much emphasis on style and elegance" during hard times, with 61% thinking her "less sympathetic to the problems of the poor and underprivileged" than her predecessors.


Asked by a TV news crew about possible irregularities in his relations with the Nixon White House, Chief Justice Warren Burger lunges forward and knocks the camera to the ground. He later claims he was provoked when the lens "hit me in the chin," though videotape of the incident shows that the equipment never touched him.


At his sixth press conference, President Reagan is asked if he agrees with his Justice Department's efforts to overturn the Supreme Court's Webber ruling, which allows unions and management to enter into voluntary affirmative action agreements. The President says he "can't bring that to mind as to what it pertains to and what it calls for." When a reporter explains it to him, he says he supports the decision, though White House aides later say he thinks it should be overturned.


White House PR guru Michael Deaver says he can't get by on his $60,000 government salary.




On 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace asks his longtime friend Nancy Reagan about her image as someone who, despite "the requisite visit to the drug rehabilitation center" or "the requisite amount of time ... spent on foster grandparents," really only cares about "style and fashion and her rich friends."

"Well, it's not true, of course," she says. "It's just – it's just not true." Mike does not press the point.


As Christmas approaches, President Reagan authorizes the distribution of 30 million pounds of surplus cheese to the poor. According to a government official, the cheese is well over a year old and has reached "critical inventory situation." Translation: it's moldy.


Asked to comment on his wife's unusually high disapproval rating, President Reagan says, "I just heard earlier today – and maybe Larry can tell me if this is true – I just heard that some poll or something has revealed that she's the most popular woman in the world."

White House spokesman Larry Speakes says he has seen no such poll. "I tell you," says the President, "if it isn't true, it should be. I'm on her side."


Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist – who has, for several months, been taking substantial doses of Placidyl to relieve intense back pain – checks into George Washington Hospital for treatment of side effects, including speech so severely slurred that he was frequently incoherent in court and, according to a hospital spokesman, "hearing things and seeing things that other people did not hear and see."


Special prosecutor Leon Silverman begins an investigation into allegations that Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan received a union payoff by his former New Jersey construction firm. "I have paid a large entrance fee to this city," says Donovan, rejecting demands for his resignation, "and I intend to stay for the double feature."