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WITH MICHAEL REAGAN
Michael Reagan is a
proud conservative, a writer and radio talk show host. “The Michael
Reagan Show” has more than 5 million listeners across over 200 stations.
The adopted son of President Ronald Reagan and his first wife, Jane
Wyman, he is active in the world of adopted and foster children. His
book, Twice Adopted, tells about the love that is abundantly present in
the world of the adopted. As Sean Hannity says, “Mike’s story will make
you angry. It will bring tears to your eyes. It will challenge, inform,
and motivate you…It will change your life.” You can learn more from his
www.reagan.com. I met him at Chez Nous Restaurant
TONY:Well tell me how you got
started here, how did all of a sudden – I mean, I know it wasn’t all of
a sudden, but how did you become a writer and a talk show host?
MICHAEL:You know, it’s really
interesting – it probably was forced on me.A lot of people don’t know
that.It’s when your last name is
“Reagan,” it’s like something you can’t get away from.No matter what you do-- I joked during this last
campaign – I said “I have this feeling that if I was caught robbing a
bank and as they’re putting handcuffs on me and putting my head down to
put me in the back seat of the car, somebody would say to me ‘So, who do
you think is going to win the election?’”It’s like something that is
hard to get away from. I was in the boat business for years. I was their
top unit salesman in Los Angeles
for about 10 years running.Then dad became President
of the United States
and my life changed.All of a sudden, I’m
selling boats with 10 secret service agents around 24 hours a day.So it makes it a little
tough to be able to sell and have agents with you when you go on
demonstrations.You come back from
demonstrations and they’re with you.So I had to get out of the
business. Interestingly, I could not find a job.My dad was President of the
and I could not find a job. I used to joke and say “the democrats think
that your parents take care of you and the Republican parents say, ‘take
of yourself.’”So I was like between a
rock and a hard place.My wife and I started a
company called “MCR International.”She had been in sales and
I’m in sales and we thought “maybe what I should do is go out and go
back to boat racing.”I had been boat racing back
in the sixties.I was champion in 1967 and
inboard rookie of the year. So I said “why not go back to boat racing
but this time do events that are long in distance and are done as fund
raising events.”So the first one I did was
on the Mississippi River
between New Orleans
and St. Louis.I raised half million
dollars for the U.S. Olympic Team, sponsored by Budweiser.So, I did that for more
than half of the 1980s.We had one for Cystic
Fibrosis, and one for the U.S. Olympic Team, and one for Juvenile
Diabetes, as examples.So I created all of that
and figured “the press is going to come after me if I’m raising money
for charitable causes,” because the press is looking to find a Billy
Carter in every first family.They were really kind of
coming after me in that way.So we did that during the
80s – during that time I had dabbled in doing talk radio – guest
hosting, but I saved all my tapes.
TONY:But how did you dabble in
that?How did you get started?
MICHAEL:I went over to KABC Radio
in Los Angeles.My wife, when she moved out
here, moved out with her best friend who was working at KABC and was in
charge of the syndication for Michael Jackson, for that whole operation
when they got syndicated.We went over to have lunch
and I met him there and . . .
TONY:Met who, Michael Jackson or
. . ?
MICHAEL:My wife’s best friend,
Kittie, who was Assistant to George Green, who was the general manager
at the time, so we went over to meet Kittie for lunch.She introduced me to George
Green and George and I started talking and George said to me “You’ve got
a nice personality, ever thought about doing talk radio?”This was July 12, 1983 and I said jokingly
back to him “Oh I think about it every day, but nobody ever asked.”And so George Green said
“Michael Jackson is taking Monday off, why don’t you sit in for him?”I said okay and my first
interview I ever did on talk radio was with Charles Curalt, who is best
known for his segments on the CBS Evening News, “On the Road with
Charles Curalt.”Charles Curalt said to
George Green, after the interview “George,
that’s the best interview I have ever had on radio.You had better find a way
to keep this guy.”And I thought, well that’s
really kind of neat.So I started doing Saturday
and Sunday shows on KABC for a while, and I kept all my tapes.In 1989, I got a call from
KSDL Radio in San Diego
to come down and guest host down there, which I did.And they ended up offering
me a contract and I went to work for them for three years.I never moved – I lived
here and I went down Monday, came back Wednesday, went down Thursday,
came back Friday. I started my national show in 1992 on September 7th.Then I got fired when some
guy by the name of Rush Limbaugh became available.I had no money.I had to find work –a
couple of guys (who?) said “let’s do something, we’ll find a studio”,
but the only studio they could find was in San Diego.So I drove from Sherman oaks (where I
lived) to San Diego
and back every day, 262 miles every single day doing this radio show and
there was no money coming in.We were selling time for
about $3.00 a minute.
TONY:How did you get an outlet?
MICHAEL:They actually got some
outlets.I had one live station.It was – I think it was
KBIF in Seattle, but I had one live station, but the live station had
Monday Night Football, so on Mondays when I was going down to do the
show, I was doing 3 hour monologues. I
was basically reading the paper.And I remember calling my
mother – Jane Wyman’s my mom – calling my mom one day and just whining
saying “This nuts, I’m driving 262 miles a day, there’s no money coming
in, we’ve got the two kids, they’re in school, we can’t afford to put
them through school, Coleen’s going to work what do I do mom?”And my mom says “I’ll tell
you what you do, you shut up and keep driving.”
TONY:What did she mean by that?
MICHAEL:And I said “What?”She said “So, you don’t
have to pay your dues?Everybody pays their dues.You’re paying your dues and
some day when it’s a success, you know, you’ll feel good about it, but
to sit there and whine that you’re working too hard to put it together
is ridiculous, so just shut up and keep driving.”She then hung up on me.
TONY:Good for her.Wow, tough love.
MICHAEL:Geesh, thanks mom.[Laughter]And so that started my
national show in 1992 and so now we just started our what – 16th,
TONY:So between the time you
were filling in for Michael Jackson, it was 1984?
MICHAEL;I was doing the boat
racing.I was still doing – I did a
race – I set the record between Los Angeles and Seattle.We did that race in honor
of a young girl, Alex Deford.You know, Frank Deford the
writer?We did it in honor of his
daughter, Alex, who died of Cystic Fibrosis at 8 years of age.And ABC 20-20 covered it.Tom Brokaw was in the boat.We raised $250,000 for
Cystic Fibrosis.Largest fund raiser they
had ever had.So it worked out really
well.We did a Juvenile Diabetes
run back east, we did a run for the Statute of Liberty Foundation,
and New York.
TONY:So you did that from 1983
MICHAEL:So I did that basically
from 1983 to 1987, got out in 1987 and was guest hosting radio shows and
doing that kind of stuff until 1989 when I got the call.
TONY:How did you get the guest
MICHAEL:Because I would call people
– I called radio stations, sent them my tapes.Always a good idea to keep
your tapes.So I would send my tapes
and you know, some people would bite.A station in San Diego actually had
me in for three weeks guest hosting.At the beginning of the
three weeks, they said they didn’t have a spot and at the end of three
weeks, they offered me a job.
TONY:So you did it all yourself
– you didn’t have an agent or anything?
MICHAEL:Didn’t really have an
agent, you know what agents do.Agents say “call me when
you get the job and I’ll take 10 percent.”
TONY:That’s right.When you get a job, sign up
MICHAEL:So that’s basically how I
got into talk radio. I campaigned for my dad in 1976 and 1980.
TONY:Did you ever consider being
a lobbyist since your dad was President?
MICHAEL:No, I really didn’t.I never thought about that.Never even thought about
TONY:That’s how all these guys
make money now.
MICHAEL:Yeah, boy did I blow it.No, I didn’t really think
about it.I mean I was doing what I
was doing in sales.
TONY:Knowing what I know about
your dad, he probably wouldn’t have put up with that anyway.
MICHAEL:No, he wouldn’t have – he
absolutely wouldn’t have.It’s not going to happen in
my family.But, no, I campaigned – I
say on my radio to this day, there are a lot of radio talk show hosts
who talk about politics and campaigning, but there’s really only one of
them who has actually walked all the precincts, actually knocked on all
the doors, who has actually been in winning campaigns, who really gets
it and understands it.So I look at things through
the eyes of somebody who really has been there – whether it’s the
gubernatorial races of the 1960s and early 1970s, Presidential race in
1976 or 1980 or 1984, you know, the perspective that I bring to these
things is completely different than what anybody else does and I kind of
shake my head sometimes when I hear all of these people re-casting my
father in their own image or likeness.
TONY:Yes, I bet you do.How do you keep your mouth
TONY:Yeah, that’s why you have
your radio show.
MICHAEL:I really don’t – I have a
column I write every week.The reagan.com.
TONY:For News Max?
MICHAEL:It’s on News Max, but it
goes to about 400 newspapers.And it’s on – Human Events
carries it, News Max covers it, Worldwide Daily gets that.
TONY:How did you get that?
MICHAEL:A group out of Kagel
Cartoons, actually is the syndicator.They do a lot of stuff
besides cartoons and I was one of their first people coming on.Now they have about 400
newspapers – I make no money on it, but it’s all about branding.
TONY:You don’t make money on it?
MICHAEL:I make a few bucks, but not
TONY:I thought syndicated
columns made a lot?
MICHAEL:Not anymore – too much
competition.The internet kills you.I mean, before the papers
get it, the internet’s got it all over the place.
TONY:Does Garthwiathe (editor of
Newsmax) pay you anything?
MICHAEL:Not that much, but I look
at it more as a billboard.It’s just branding.You’re out there.People think “where are
you?”I’m still there.I put my column up and send
it out to news outlets every week.
TONY:How do you do that?
MICHAEL:Just e-mail it to them.E-mail it to ABC, NBC, CBS box, CNN.
TONY:Whether they want it or
MICHAEL:Whether they wanted it or
not and sometimes – what I’d do because I do a lot of CNN and FOX, lot of times it
will be because of my column or they’ll ask me a question based on that
TONY:Do you get paid for being a
Fox news analyst?
MICHAEL:I used to get paid on that
and then they dropped me as a contributor, which is probably good
because it allows me now to do CNN and the other outlets, rather than
just Fox.I was saying to a group of
people the other day – I was speaking to some young people and I said –
I asked questions “How many watch Fox?”You can imagine all those
young kids (then he growls).Then I ask “How many watch
MSNBC?”Same.“How many watch CNN?”Eh, a few went up.What is really bothersome
to me today is you don’t watch Fox for information, you watch it for
affirmation.You don’t watch MSNBC for
information, you watch it for affirmation.CNN is more centering
itself now, trying to give more information, but still we’re trying to
be affirmed, instead of getting information.So often we argue about
points that aren’t true.You know, something comes
across the internet, we think “that’s it, it was on the internet.Let’s all talk about it.”The internet and the Foxes
and CNN and the MSNBCs all have their place.Unfortunately, we’re
knocking really good information that some guys would need to make a
TONY:Are you on “Reliable
MICHAEL:No, I haven’t been on
there.That’s really interesting
because that’s a weekend show though.
TONY:It’s Sunday morning.
MICHAEL:See I’ve really – I made a
promise to my wife on January 20, 1989 when
my dad went.I looked at her and I said
“done my last weekend unless you say it’s okay.”Because I laugh at both
parties always talking about the children and the family; how both
parties are for the family, but neither one of the parties want you home
on weekends.They’ve always got an event
for you to go to, and if you don’t stop it, it never ends.Well, you did if for them,
do it for me.So I can actually count on
three fingers how many weekends I’ve done since that time.And I do, if Colleen, in
fact okays it.A couple of years ago, I
was doing an interview with the LA Times.I had a book out called
“Twice Adopted.”And the LA Times girl was
interviewing, my daughter Ashley was there doing some stuff for me in my
office with my mail and she walked in and the LA Times reporter looked
at her and said “Tell me something about your dad right now that you
think I need to know but I don’t know.”And Ashley looked at her
and said “He saves weekends for the family.”
TONY:Wow, that was quick.
MICHAEL:Now, she and I had never
discussed this.This was between her mother
and me and I just sat back and went “Wow, I talked about the fact that
in families there are more things caught than taught and really she
caught that, that I saved weekends for family.
TONY:How old was she?
MICHAEL:This was about two years
ago.It was her last year of
college.She asked me to speak at on
a Saturday out at Cal Lu, where she graduated – undergraduate, at a
leadership conference, and I said “I’m there for you.”I looked at my calendar.I had booked a speech that
Friday night in Sugarland, Texas
for the Republican Party.When I booked it, the year
before, I looked at the wrong calendar and thought it was Thursday
night, instead of Friday night.So now I’m looking at
Friday night and I’m in Sugarland,
Texas.I’ve got to be at Cal Lu
Saturday morning, so I hired a private plane.I took what my fee was for
going to Sugarland, and it went into a private plane out of Van Nuys
Airport and I told my staff “You guys, do you want to go to Sugarland,
for this speech? I’ve got a private plane.I’ve got four empty seats.”So I flew there and got
back that night from
but I was there Saturday morning.
TONY:Let me ask you about
something, I have a niece that’s adopted.You have three mother
figures in your life, your birth mother, Jane Wyman, and Nancy.How do you juggle that?
MICHAEL:Jane Wyman’s my mom.It’s really easy.Jane is my mom.I never knew my birth
mother, Irene, but I’m closer to my birth sister, Terry. She and I
shared the same birth father, John, and I’m closer to Barry, with whom I
shared the same birth mother, Irene, than I probably ever have been to
Patti or Ron.
TONY:So you were all separated?
TONY:Your birth brother and
MICHAEL:Oh absolutely. In 1987 I
decided to do a search, with the help of my father.I wrote a letter to my mom
and all this stuff and it just literally came together in months by
accident.And so Barry and I first
connected.I wrote a book, “On the
Outside Looking In,” and in the book I talked about it.And then John happened to
read the book and said “Well that’s not how it happened at all.”He then contacted Barry
whom he never knew, and then Barry came out here and we did a television
show together. The reason I knew John Burholster was my birth father is
because someone had sent me a photograph of him in the Fresno area in California, leaning
against an old Ford. It was from a woman who said “Listen I was dating
this guy in the 1940s or early fifties and he bragged about the fact
that his son had been adopted by Ronald Regan and Jane Wyman.I though he was giving me a
line, but I guess he wasn’t and his name was John Burholster.”So I had that photograph
and that story and then John contacting Barry and it all kind of worked
out.But Jane was always my mom.Nancy
was never really my mom. She was my step mom.
TONY:Who raised you?
MICHAEL:Jane raised me until 14.I moved in with my dad when
I was 14.I had gone through a lot of
stuff in my life.You know it’s not easy,
you’re adopted into a family.Your family breaks up.And it’s interesting what I
do in radio, because you look at what’s going on in the world today and
say “Gee, so much of that stuff, I’ve lived.”You know, your parents
break up when you’re three years of age.All of a sudden there’s
another woman in your father’s life.How do you deal with that?That’s not easy to deal
with for any child. You know it always seems to be about the parents and
people always think that the children will just get though it and
children don’t just get through it.That’s what my book “Twice
Adopted” is all about.You know, we’re thinking
with a child’s mind and adults are thinking with an adult mind.We’re seeing it through a 3
year old, 4 year old, 5 year old’s eye, not through a 25 or 30 year
old’s eyes and so, it wasn’t easy dealing with the fact that there’s
another woman.What do I do?You know, I’ve got mom over
here.You’ve got Nancy over here.What do you do during the
holidays as you get older?Where do you spend time?You’re not in Hollywood with small
egos.You’re dealing with the
egos of Hollywood
– all this stuff.“I’m a better actress than
your mother.”“No, mom’s a better actress
and dad’s in the middle.” It’s interesting, when I got married to Lynn,
Dad and Nancy and mom were all at the wedding, which was the first time
the three of them had been in the same room in like forever.And when the parents of the
groom were asked to stand up for the pictures, and I’m telling you could
have heard a pin drop in the room.You had dad standing there
on one side – mom was over on the other side of the chapel and finally
mom stood up and said “Come on Ron, let’s get our picture taken with our
son.We’ve had our picture taken
will be fine.”And dad went “whew.”Then he got up and we had
the picture taken.
TONY:Did they get along after
MICHAEL:You know, it’s interesting,
I don’t know if they did or not and I really didn’t know if they did or
not until my mom passed away and I’m going through her things and found
out she was a contributor to my father’s Presidential campaigns and
there were thank you notes from my dad to my mom that she had thanking
her for her support when he was President of the United States.I never knew that.I was looking at this
TONY:So you thought there was a
schism between them and there wasn’t?
MICHAEL:Well not a schism, but you
know, it’s like, there’s no reason to talk.And mom was one of the
great classy ladies of Hollywood.You know, she had a rule
and the rule was very simple because remember, she had “Falcon’s Crest”
during the eighties.
TONY:She had what?
MICHAEL:She had Falcon’s Crest, the
television show during the eighties.So she was like the queen
of the hop on television.And, she had a very strict
rule “You want to interview me fine, about the show, fine.The second you bring up the
President of the United
States, the interview
is over.”They would try.She would just get up and
walk away.And she did that and never
said a word.She was offered – you can
imagine how much money she was offered for a book because we lived in
that day and age and never did anything, never said a word until the day
we buried my dad and then she put out a statement, “The world lost a
wonderful, wonderful man.”And that was it.And so, really a classy,
classy lady because so many others would have been right there, do a
story, let me tell you the truth.I’ll tell you what’s going
on.And maybe that’s how you
learn more about Jane Wyman and find out why she has two stars on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame – hand prints and foot prints at Gorman’s
TONY:You know, I always thought
she was classy about being silent like that, but then I often thought
that maybe it was because she really can’t stand him and is angry about
MICHAEL:No, she was just – it was
just something that was just the way she was, she just didn’t talk;
didn’t talk about those kinds of things.That was in the past.And, I never knew.I knew that Nancy and she
were not good friends – but I don’t know any family where former wives
and new wives really get along well, like on Desperate Housewives. But
the fact that I was going through her things and actually find notes
from my dad thanking her for her support.I jut went “whew.”
TONY:How about you and Nancy, do
you still see her?
MICHAEL:Not really, we haven’t
spent a whole lot of time together since the funeral, and I really think
that’s all.Dad was the glue that held
the family together and when dad was gone the glue really was gone.She has her two kids, Patti
and Ron, and Jane was my mom. So we haven’t spent a lot of time
TONY:That’s too bad.
MICHAEL:I just deal with it. But
it’s just one of those things. I was Jane’s boy.
TONY:Yeah, and now you don’t
have either of your parents. That must be tough.
MICHAEL:No, I don’t, but I’ve got
my kids – I’ve got a great wife and that’s super.I’ve got great friends out
there who I’ve known for years.But it would be nice. My
wife lost her parents a few years ago, but she’s got a great family and
I’ve got great friends.
TONY:Do you have any animosity
towards Rush Limbaugh for taking your spot.
MICHAEL:Oh no, no, not at all.It’s just “welcome to
radio.”That’s just business.It’s dog eat dog.You know, people think
these conservative talk shows hosts, we all get on the phone every day
and talk to each other.What are we going to talk
about today?Actually, it’s seldom that
we even talk to each other.I mean, we all look at each
other as competition.You know everybody asks “If
Rush disappeared, what would you do?”I said, I’d call his
stations and try to get them on my side.That’s what I’d do.And that’s what Rush would
do and what any of us would do.So, no, not at all, but it
was interesting, my dad did call – early on in my syndication, my father
called Rush Limbaugh’s people and said “Listen, could you help my son in
his endeavors to syndicate his show.”So I met with them, gave
them my tapes and they came back at me and said “You know, we appreciate
what you’re doing, but you’re not really qualified to do it and we can’t
help you and the best thing you can probably do is get out of national
talk radio and find a local show somewhere that you could do.”I said “thank you so much.”So, starting in 16th,
17th years in syndication,
I feel pretty good because the people that told me that are no longer in
TONY:Is that right?What were Rush Limbaugh’s
qualifications to start out with?
MICHAEL:The only qualifications are
if people listen.It’s all in people
listening.If they don’t listen, you
have no qualifications.
TONY:Well, I like to make these
short because I usually get too much stuff to use and then it’s hell for
me to write it because I can’t decide what to put out, but I would like
to ask you what you think about Obama.
MICHAEL:You know, I hope he becomes
a great President.I understand – again, this
is sometimes the problems I have like on the conservative side – having
been down this road on one or more occasions over all these years.
not new to me.I hope and pray he’s a good
TONY:How do you think he’s
MICHAEL:You look at the
appointments.Here’s what I think about
the appointments.Some you agree with, some
you don’t agree with.Eric Holder, you think he’s
going to be a good guy.Is he going to be
supportive of the FBI, the CIA,
whatever it might be?The thing is, part of
winning the election is you get to appoint the people you want to have
in those positions. I
said on my show, “I wish the Democrats were as kind to George Bush back
when George ultimately won 2000 as the Republicans seems to be at this
point with Barack Obama and his choices because really, when you win,
you get your choice to put people in place that you want in place.”Now, when they’re in place
and he is sworn in January 20th
and he starts working towards whatever, okay if he makes a mistake, I’ll
climb all over him.But again, I think we would
hope and pray that he’s a successful President, because if he’s not,
we’re all in a lot of trouble.
TONY:You know, I think his
appointments are good, but where is the change he was talking about?They’re all Clinton people.
MICHAEL:Yes, but you know
something.It’s really interesting, if
McCain would have been elected, it would have been all Bush people.This is one of the problems
with politics is the fact that it’s the same people on the same
merry-go-round.They get off for 4 and 8
years and then get back on the merry-go-round.
TONY:Do you blame McCain for any
of this?I thought he ran a really
MICHAEL:Well he did run a terrible
campaign.I volunteered to speak at
the Republic Convention and all I got was “We don’t want you to upstage
our candidate.”I tried to get an invite –
when Palin was out here – to be onstage with her.I couldn’t get a return
call from the campaign.And this was the McCain
campaign.They weren’t just doing it
to me. They were doing it to volunteer after volunteer across the
country who were trying to help. Just stubborn and wouldn’t listen. And
that’s what’s been George Bush’s problem.
TONY:What has irritated me since
1989 was the way George Herbert Walker Bush purged all the Reaganites
out of his Administration.
MICHAEL:Thank you for remembering
that! I tell that story. Dick Cheney had 72 hours to purge everyone
connected with Ronald Reagan out of the Defense Department.
TONY:Why hasn’t anyone ever
written a book about it?
MICHAEL:I might. George Bush’s
first action was to get rid of all of my father’s people. If my father
was looking for a legacy, it would have been Reykjavik. Nancy, George
Schultz, and everybody that wanted him to sign on to whatever Gorbachev
was selling in Reykjavik.That’s what they wanted to
do.That’s why they had my dad
go there and Gorbachev wanted him to give up the Satellite Defense
System, what everyone came to call Star Wars.Had dad signed on to that,
they would have felt that would have been his legacy.But my father, in 1976,
told me the reason he wanted to be President of the United States was so
he could be the first President to look the leader of the Soviet Union
in the eye and when the Soviet Union leader was telling him, the
President, what it was he was going to have to give up to get along with
them, he wanted to be the first President to say “nyet.”So, there he was in 1986
and he looks at Gorbachev and says “it’s not going to happen – nyet.I’m not going to sign off
on that.”His staff just goes numb
because that’s what they wanted.Little did they know the
“no” toGorbachev would end up
being the legacy of Ronald Reagan because from that point on, the Berlin
Wall starts coming down, we bankrupt the
Soviet Union because of the backside deals
that my dad put together with the Saudis on the oil situation.Again, all this knowledge,
that Bush was never able to use.And I’ve got to tell you, I
called and volunteered on numerous occasions – telling them, “If you
want to, call me – I know how the building got built and nothing has
changed.You can still do it the
same way, and it will work.” But the problem is that everyone wants to
change the game and you can’t.
TONY:One last question, Bill
Clark, did he want him to sign up too?
MICHAEL:Oh no, Bill Clark, no.Bill Clark was Ronald
Reagan’s conscience.Everybody else worked for
my dad.Bill Clark was his
conscience because dad knew he could go to Bill Clark.Bill would tell him that it
wasn’t about politics, it was about reality.Bill Clark was one of the