Reagans’ Dance, The White House

1985, Printed Later
Archival Pigment Photograph

Signed, dated and numbered from edition of 35 on recto.

“For over thirty years I photographed President and Mrs. Reagan, from the announcement that he was running for governor of California in 1966 to the last formal portrait of the President and Mrs. Reagan in 1998. In each instance I found them to be elegant, approachable and totally in love. They married in 1952 when both were actors, Reagan having made over 50 films before going into public office. When𝘝𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘍𝘢𝘪𝘳 editor Tina Brown asked me to photograph President and Mrs. Reagan for a cover story in 1985, I knew they would give us only a short time. As it turned out, they stopped by on their way to a state dinner and stayed exactly six minutes.

Unbeknownst to the White House press officer who asked us to wait in the Map Room,𝘝𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘍𝘢𝘪𝘳 Director of Photography James Danziger and I set up a studio with a white backdrop. When the Reagans walked in, I put on a tape of Frank Sinatra singing “Nancy with the Laughing Face.” That brought smiles to the Reagans’ faces and they started dancing. The aides hadn’t expected all of this—in fact, they would have turned me down had I mentioned the concept beforehand. Once it was set in motion, no one dared to interfere. When Tina Brown got back to New York she learned that S.I. Newhouse had decided to stop publication as 𝘝𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘍𝘢𝘪𝘳 was losing money every month, but Tina convinced him to wait until the June 1985 cover of the Reagans appeared. The magazine sold off the stands and the magazine was saved. – Harry Benson