The Night Nancy Reagan Asked Me to Undress in Her Elevator

It hardly seems possible it could have been fifty years ago.

The year of 1966 was the year everything in my life changed. I graduated from John Marshall High School and started at UCLA. And between those two events — were the two most important moments of my life. The start of my ten cowboy years — and the loss of my virginity.

It was also the year I became involved with an exceedingly wide range of ‘only in LA’ people such as Carlos Castaneda/Don Juan (who were the same person) and Thelma Moss, both of whom I met at UCLA after discovering I had inherited certain talents I was never told existed in my family until after they abruptly appeared.

But of all the memories of that year — there is one that keeps coming back to me. It happened at the Biltmore Hotel the night of Ronald Reagan’s election as Governor of California (and I am 95% certain it was the general and not the primary election). But — either way — it was at the Biltmore and it was total and complete chaos.

There were far more people trying to get into the Biltmore Bowl (which I am — 95% certain was the room) than there was going to be room for and I had heard the fire marshals had already shut the doors while I was still walking down a packed hallway trying to find a place to change into the suit I was carrying when someone unexpectedly placed a hand on my shoulder. I turned and it was Nancy Reagan.

Biltmore Hotel Downtown Los Angeles

She had broken from the scrum surrounding her and whispered to me to follow her as her staff surrounded us and herded us into the elevator being held for her. Then, barely a second after we started to go down — she had the elevator stopped, looked at me and asked, “What are you waiting for?” gesturing to my suit. But I was too stunned to react, so she added, “Don’t worry. I won’t look.” And everyone laughed and I changed into my suit — being very, very thankful I had not gone commando that day.

She then got off on an upper floor and I was taken to the fire marshal sealed ballroom — where I was promptly put back to work — and locked out of the ballroom again. But this time I managed to get myself back in courtesy of a typewriter I ‘borrowed’ from AP (at best, a 50% chance it was AP’s) — but that’s a whole different story.

So, getting back to Nancy Reagan — and what ended up being our final encounter other than a handwritten thank you letter from her mentioning things I had already forgotten. I had long ago understood there was a very particular reason I kept recalling that moment in the elevator.

It had increasingly become a constant reminder to me of the way Nancy Reagan treated those who were around her — no matter what their standing — when she saw someone needed help. And that philosophy has increasingly become more and more of a reminder for me to try and be not just a better but also a more observant person when dealing with others.