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This story first appeared in the Oct. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
When Fred Ryan, Ronald Reagan‘s chief of staff from 1989 to 1995, first toured the soon-to-be-former-president’s future office suite on the 34th floor of Fox Plaza, the floors were littered with bullet shells and broken glass.
The space was being used for the filming of 1988’s Die Hard, and when production wrapped, Reagan could have the only remaining space in the just-completed tower. When Ryan inquired about the building — Reagan was breaking tradition by choosing private office space over a federal building — he was told the building was full. But when word got back to 20th Century Fox owner and Reagan pal Marvin Davis, space miraculously became available. When Ryan informed the Secret Service of the choice, an agent deadpanned, “Great, you just picked a building where there’s been a movie made about how terrorists can blow it up.”
Reagan’s digs generated wide public interest. There were rumors (unfounded) about how Reagan, who would endure the commute between the office and his $2.5 million Bel-Air home, was behind an unsuccessful bid to build a heliport at Fox Plaza. Reagan was so eager to start his new life that he showed up at the office on his first day back in California (where he was governor from 1967 to 1975). The phones didn’t work properly, and he ended up playing receptionist to the surprise of incoming callers: “Ronald Reagan’s office, Ronald Reagan speaking.”
The 13,939-square-foot suite cost $18,000 a month, about 40 percent off market. Tastefully decorated in neutrals and polished wood, the office’s bookshelves were lined with statues of wildlife and the president’s favorite watercolors hung on the walls. Down the hall, wife Nancy had an office for her anti-drug foundation.
Reagan sometimes would have friends in for lunch — his very first guest was his former agent and then-MCA boss Lew Wasserman — or slip out to the Fox commissary. He entertained saints (Mother Teresa), stars (Tom Cruise) and Iron Ladies (Margaret Thatcher) in the suite. Even as Alzheimer’s eroded his mind, Reagan still would show up, sitting at his desk quietly reading the newspaper comics.
Finally in 1999, five years before his death, he stopped coming in (his staff moved to less opulent quarters in 2001). Ryan says what he’ll most remember is how much Reagan loved the view from his high perch. “Every day when he came in, he would look to the west to see if the fog had burned off and if he could see the ocean.”
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