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Gossip-Lovers Snapping Up Juicy Bio

April 9, 1991

Undated (AP) _ Bookstores couldn’t unpack the juicy new biography of Nancy Reagan fast enough Monday as gossip-loving buyers just said yes to allegations of the former first lady’s affair with Frank Sinatra and her penchant for recycling gifts.

″I sold 50 since I got them in a half-hour ago and I haven’t even had time to take them out of the box,″ said Perry Haberman, owner of the Madison Avenue Bookshop in New York City.

C.C. McClure, store manager at the Downtown Book and Toy in Jefferson City, Mo., said she was fending off calls for Kitty Kelley’s ″Nancy Reagan, the Unauthorized Biography″ while waiting for a shipment.

″It doesn’t necessarily mean everyone wants to buy it, but they all want to look at it for sure,″ she said.

″Just about every other call is for Nancy Reagan,″ said Carol Allin, owner of Capitol Bookstore in Little Rock, Ark. ″I’m afraid I didn’t order enough. ... I didn’t expect this kind of turnout.″

Reagan said the book contained ″flagrant and absurd falsehoods″ that ″clearly exceed the bounds of decency.″ He denied allegations of marijuana use and marital infidelity.

″I have an abiding faith that the American people will judge this book for what it really is: sensationalism whose sole purpose is enriching its author and publisher. Neither I, nor my wife Nancy intend to have any further comment on this matter,″ Reagan said.

Sinatra spokeswoman Susan Reynolds said: ″We are not going to dignify this type of writing with a formal response.″

Kelley attended a publication party Monday night in Washington.

″I love this,″ she said as she signed autographs in a congratulatory throng.

She posed for photographs next to a nearly life-sized image of Mrs. Reagan.

″No, there is no misrepresentation,″ Kelley said of the book. ″Everything is documented and it’s all there in the back of the book. I spent four years doing this book and I talked with 1,000 people to write it.″

She added: ″It’s been like a terrible four-year pregnancy.″

Interest in the book was huge.

″We had reorders for 90,000 books by 11 a.m.; by the end of the day we had reorders for 150,000 copies,″ Charles Heyward, president of Kelley’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, said at the party. ″It’s the greatest number of reorders in one day for any book I have ever been associated with.″

At a Barnes & Noble store in mid-Manhattan, 300 copies of Kelley’s book arrived in early afternoon; 200 were gone within a few hours. The book sells for $24.95.

″I’ve never seen anything like it in my publishing career,″ said Jack McKeown, vice president of Simon & Schuster.

According to the book, Mrs. Reagan started an affair with Sinatra while Reagan was governor of California and they continued meeting in the White House. It also said she once smoked marijuana with her husband while he was governor, abused her children and lied about her background.

″We knew it would be found very newsworthy, but I don’t think anyone would have predicted front-page coverage nationwide,″ McKeown said. ″There’s a new focus on ethics, a revisionist approach to the ’80s. I think the book is entering the culture as a must-read.″

But nothing quite so intellectual crossed the lips of those rushing to buy.

″My wife hates Nancy Reagan with a passion and this is full of all the things she would like to hear about her,″ said I. Philip Sipser, who was part of a small crowd around the Barnes & Noble display in New York City.

Yvette Curran said she was eager to read about ″this Miss Goody Two-Shoes with the adoring gaze. And she’s so cheap, you can die. Can’t she spring for $20 for her own grandson?″

She was referring to Kelley’s anecdote that Mrs. Reagan once sent her grandson Cameron a birthday present that turned out to be a teddy bear he had left at the White House some months earlier.

In line at Barnes & Noble, Terrence Collins waited to pay for a copy his boss sent him out to buy. ″She’s editor of a fashion magazine and I guess she’s got to keep up on these things,″ he said.

″People are buying them every minute,″ said Renee Wortendyke, a clerk at a Barnes & Noble in West Orange, N.J. ″They can’t get enough. We got about 30 copies and they were sold out in hours ... We haven’t had this much attention on one book in years.″

Phones were ringing at Borders Book Shop, the largest bookstore in the metropolitan Kansas City area, which expected a delivery at midweek.

″I expect once we get it in the store, it will fly out of here,″ general manager John Williams said. ″Given the players involved, Nancy Reagan and Ronald, that’s what’s making it really popular, finding out that Ronald really dyed his hair.″

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