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Jeff Klein, the owner the Tower Bar, Hollywood’s key power nexus, recalls the former First Lady’s dinners with Betsey Bloomingdale and Merv Griffin during her final years.
As a child growing up watching her, I remember thinking what a glamorous woman Nancy Reagan was: She was not only the president’s wife, she was also Hollywood. In 2006, I remember the first time I ever met her. My dear friend Casey Ribicoff (the late Senator Abraham Ribicoff’s widow) brought her to the Tower Bar with Connie Wald and Betsey Bloomingdale. That night was scary and magical. I couldn’t believe that this woman who used to tell me on TV to say no to drugs was actually in my hotel!
After that she kept on coming back more and more. She was very sweet and always engaging. Asking my staff and me about our lives, about my business, about the menu — and she was always wanting gossip, but never solicited it.
There are many great Nancy stories, but one stands out in particular. I remember one night she came in with Merv Griffin and they called me over to the table to come sit and chat. Beyoncé was sitting next to them and they were in awe. Little did they know Beyoncé was in even more awe of them!
It was amazing to me what a celebrity she was — especially with young cool people in the restaurant. Later that same night, Merv made a very dirty joke (all I remember is that it involved some fancy woman giving a blow job) and Nancy looked at me and said, “Merv that’s really shocking, I don’t like that!” There was an uncomfortable silence and then she looked at me holding back a smirk and then looked at Merv unable to contain himself and we all broke out hysterically laughing.
She was a special woman. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.
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