President Reagan and First Lady Nancy relied heavily on astrology, a fairly benign if boneheaded practice in Hollywood but a troubling one in the White House. The stars were luckily aligned properly for beneficial international relations during the Administration, particularly with the Soviets, though it was still something of a shock to the country when news of the voodoo surfaced during the end of the President’s second term. Two excerpts follow, one from a 1988 People piece about the revelation and an excerpt from Douglas Martin’s 2014 New York Times obituary of Joan Quigley, stargazer to the Reagans.
The year was 1980, the mood in the nation restless. American hostages languished in Iran; American athletes were sitting out the Olympics. In the White House, a dithering peanut farmer President looked to be wreaking havoc on the economy. At least, that’s how it appeared to one conservative society lioness out West—whose husband had spent some time in politics but was now between jobs. She felt she had a better man for the office.
Just to be certain, however, she called up a friend, a wellborn San Francisco Republican, from whom she had been taking counsel for several years. The woman, one Joan Quigley, quickly did an astrological chart on Jimmy Carter. Then she got back to Nancy Reagan with good news about her husband’s presidential bid: “I was certain Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have any trouble with him,” says Quigley, who volunteered her services to the campaign and later provided them, on a regular basis, to the Reagan White House.
Throughout this association, the Vassar-educated astrologer with country club manners was—as befits a lady—terribly discreet. By the end of the first term, her fellow astrologers had begun to notice the impeccable celestial timing of many Reagan moves, like the bombing of Libya and his announcement for a second term. “I had astrologer friends calling me saying, ‘Reagan must have had his chart done,’ “Quigley recently confided during an interview in a suite at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel. “I just said, ‘Yes. He must have been consulting someone.’ ”
Last week the soignée soothsayer’s cover was blown by former White House aide Donald Regan. In his just-published book, For the Record, Regan spilled what he insisted was “the most closely guarded domestic secret of the Reagan White House.” To wit: “Virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House Chief of Staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise.” Within hours, an avid press had zeroed in on Quigley as the mystery adviser.
If astrology was the Reagans’ little secret, however, it was not very well kept. “I have known since before Reagan was elected that they went to astrologers,” says former Washington Post style reporter Sally Quinn, “and that’s why I’m surprised at all of the surprise and shock.” In fact the Reagans’ interest in astrology goes back to the early ’50s—and amounts to far more than the scanning of newspaper horoscopes that the President once jovially confessed to a reporter. Quigley was only the most recent of several stargazers to enter the Reagans’ domestic orbit and exert the pull of the heavens on decisions great and small.•
From the Times:
In his 1988 memoir, Donald T. Regan, a former chief of staff for President Ronald Reagan, revealed what he called the administration’s “most closely guarded secret.”
He said an astrologer had set the time for summit meetings, presidential debates, Reagan’s 1985 cancer surgery, State of the Union addresses and much more. Without an O.K. from the astrologer, he said, Air Force One did not take off.
The astrologer, whose name Mr. Regan did not know when he wrote the book, was Joan Quigley. She died on Tuesday at 87 at her home in San Francisco, her sister and only immediate survivor, Ruth Quigley, said.
Mr. Regan said that Miss Quigley — a Vassar-educated socialite who preferred the honorific Miss to Ms. (she never married) — had made her celestial recommendations through phone calls to the first lady, Nancy Reagan, often two or three a day. Mrs. Reagan, he said, set up private lines for her at the White House and at the presidential retreat at Camp David.
Further, Mrs. Reagan paid the astrologer a retainer of $3,000 a month, wrote Mr. Regan, who had also been a Treasury secretary under Reagan and the chief executive of Merrill Lynch.
“Virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House chief of staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise,” he wrote in the memoir, For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington.
In an interview with CBS Evening News in 1989, after Reagan left office, Miss Quigley said that after reading the horoscope of the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, she concluded that he was intelligent and open to new ideas and persuaded Mrs. Reagan to press her husband to abandon his view of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” Arms control treaties followed.•