Presidential Crowd Toasts New Library


A private luncheon catered by Chasen’s and a gala dinner at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel were the social highlights of the festivities surrounding the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley on Monday.

Along with President Bush, former presidents Reagan, Ford and Carter (President Nixon had to bow out; his wife, Pat, was feeling ill) and their first ladies lunched Monday in the $56.8-million library on cold fresh asparagus, filet of sole and a dessert snowball with chocolate sauce created by Chasen’s.

“It was such a lovely day, I kept wanting to push a button to hold it; but you can’t do that--it just goes,” said Mary Roosevelt of Newport Beach, widow of the late James Roosevelt, the oldest son of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “Jim would have loved it.”

During the luncheon, held after the dedication of the 150,000-square-foot facility, Roosevelt reminisced with the Reagans and former first ladies Lady Bird Johnson and Rosalynn Carter “about days gone by,” she said.


She also talked with the children of former President John F. Kennedy--John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Kennedy-Schlossberg--about James Roosevelt’s friendship with their late grandfather, Joseph Kennedy. “They were intrigued,” she said.

On Sunday, Orange County developer William Lyon and his wife, Willa Dean, and hamburger mogul Carl Karcher and his wife, Margaret, had joined the Reagans at the soiree held in the Wintergarden Room of the Regent Beverly Wilshire. (In 1988, the Lyons staged a $100,000-per-couple luncheon for the Reagan Library at their Coto de Caza mansion). Gus Owen and Roger and Janice Johnson also attended.

“The party was great fun,” Willa Dean Lyon said later. “You should see Lod Cook and Nancy Reagan dance.”

After dining on beef tenderloin, guests had watched Nancy Reagan--who wore black lace (she saved her trademark red for the dedication)--and Lodwrick Cook, chairman of the library’s board of trustees, boogie to the sound of Les Brown and his Band of Renown.


“Then the Reagans danced. It was a perfect evening,” said Carl Karcher, who noted that former ambassador to Great Britain Walter Annenberg, former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell also attended.

“Powell is a friend of mine and the minute he saw me, he asked: ‘Where’s my hamburger pass?’ ” Karcher said, laughing.

It was Karcher who paid for the 6,000-pound section of the Berlin Wall that will be installed at the library. The word free has been scrawled on its lower half.

“It just kind of warmed my heart to think it would always be there, reminding people of the joy of freedom,” Karcher said.