By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
At core, the Reagan suite is perfect for somebody who has important business — a commemorative speech, a pitch meeting, a round of golf — to attend to the next day at 7 a.m. sharp. Or for someone who doesn’t much have to be anywhere at all.
The room itself is an immaculate little Reagan shrine: An “It Can Be Done” plaque. An official White House china plate. A portrait of Reagan and Nancy on a dock, snuggling. Reagan and Nancy with the Pope. Reagan in riding boots with his horse. Tasteful groupings of Reagan photos are on each wall — except in the bedroom and bathroom, two places an omnipresent Reagan is counterindicated. And if you’ve bought the hotel’s Reagan Package special, you’ll get a souvenir jar of presidential jellybeans.
Beads of perspiration condense on a bottle of French lemonade chilling on the coffee table. Next to it is a picture book (alas, not a pop-up), Air Force One: The Final Mission. Never a stranger to the on-flight practical joke, President Reagan liked punking cabinet members. He’d stand over them while they slept on Air Force One, take pictures, then post the shots on a White House bulletin board.
The suite is a good place to cozy up on the couch next to the double-sided fireplace and read with delight or horror, however long your tolerance allows, from The Reagan Diaries. A copy comes with the Reagan Package. It’s a thick tome of a book, easily doubling as a doorstop or a weapon.
“Intelligence reports say Castro is very worried about me,” Reagan writes, “I’m very worried that we can’t come up with something to justify his worrying.”
It’s a beautiful area, someone says to the guard, gazing out over the scrub-brush expanse the next day at the nearby Reagan Library.
“Absolutely,” barks the guard.
Museum docent Gerrie O’Meara, who knows more about Reagan than probably Reagan did, makes swift work of the presidents in the Portrait Gallery. Andrew Jackson, the first president for the people. Van Buren, clearly having “a bad hair day.” Polk, who believed in sea to shining sea Manifest Destiny. Buchanan, the only one who never married — his niece became first lady. Which presidents were assassinated, which were “stinkers,” which died of infections, which had Clintonesque “active social lives.”
The “just the highlights” VIP tour, skipping the miscellaneous Reagan videos, skipping the new Discovery Center, where sixth-graders role-play the Grenada scenario, clocks in at three hours.
The replica of the Oval Office is exact in detail down to the privacy panel Teddy Roosevelt installed in the president’s Resolute desk. Reagan’s body is interred here at the museum. They opened up the granite tomb and rolled him in, with his feet facing the ocean.
The library’s crown jewel, however, is the fuselage of Reagan’s old Air Force One. You can walk around in it and touch stuff that would otherwise get you thrown into a federal gulag should you even look at it funny — the chair on the plane, for instance, where the dude with the nuclear-codes briefcase (a.k.a. “the football”) would sit. They trucked the airplane over in pieces just before midnight, startling motorists on the 118. Stranger things have been spotted on California freeways, but not much.
“This is not political,” O’Meara says, who bristled when asked about the 40th president’s predilection for naps. “It’s historical. Even if you disapprove of Reagan, that’s eight years of your history. You can’t deny that.”
Absolutely, I think, as I start to crave a nap of my own back in the luxury of the Reagan suite.
Westlake Village Inn, 31943 Agoura Rd., Westlake Village; (818) 889-0230 or westlakevillageinn.com.
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