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Politicians And Hollywood Stars Gather For Nancy Reagan Funeral


Under gray skies here in Southern California today, family, friends, politicians and Hollywood stars said their final goodbyes to former First Lady Nancy Reagan. She's being buried next to her husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. NPR's Nathan Rott was there.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: As the Santa Susana High School choir started singing and the final guests took their seats, the dark clouds that had been lingering all day opened up and let down a light drizzle of rain. There are about a thousand guests at the former first lady's funeral, politicians from both sides of the aisle. There were celebrities and media personalities and Nancy Reagan's two children, Patti Davis and Ron Reagan. Their message was one of love, the love of a mother and a daughter despite their difficulties and differences and the deep love that existed between their parents.


RON REAGAN: Since we're among friends, I think we can admit that she was not always the easiest person to deal with. She could be difficult. She could be demanding. She could be a bit obsessive. Truly, she could be a royal pain in the [expletive] when she wanted to be but usually only so that my father didn't have to be. You didn't want to get on mom's bad side, particularly by hurting her husband. If you did that, you had earned yourself an implacable foe.

ROTT: It was love at first sight for the two. They met over a dinner when both were in Hollywood, and James Baker, who served in the Reagan administration, said they agreed to make that dinner brief because both had an early morning casting call.


JAMES BAKER: In fact, neither had an early casting call.


BAKER: An early casting call was the standard Hollywood excuse to put a quick end to unpleasant dinners. But when I opened the door, she wrote later, I knew he was the man I wanted to marry.

ROTT: In the hour before the funeral, friends and family walked in and talked about the Reagans. One of those friends was a legendary television writer and producer Norman Lear.

NORMAN LEAR: We were good friends - totally opposite politically.

ROTT: But friends all the same. Lear is deeply liberal. Ronald and Nancy Reagan, conservative, and yet, he says, they'd talk politics. They disagreed, but they'd talk.

LEAR: My relationship with her and with him just represented my idea of America. This is what it's supposed to be, not what we're watching today.

ROTT: For most, though, today was a chance to put politics aside and to remember a first lady and her love for her husband. Nathan Rott, NPR News, Simi Valley, Calif.


Politics quickly re-entered the scene when Hillary Clinton said this in an interview on MSNBC after Nancy Reagan's funeral regarding the AIDs crisis in the 1980s.


HILLARY CLINTON: Because of both President and Mrs. Reagan - in particular Mrs. Reagan - we started a national conversation when before, nobody would talk about it. Nobody wanted to do anything about it.

SHAPIRO: However, the Reagan administration was widely criticized for its silence in the early years of the AIDS crisis. Many advocates for AIDs research and gay rights criticized Clinton. She later put out a statement apologizing, saying she misspoke and meant to praise the Reagans for their advocacy for stem cell research to fight Alzheimer's. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.