Newsmax’s Ronald Reagan Issue
January 26, 2011
My favorite magazine, Newsmax, is out with a great commemorative edition. On the cover is the benign face of the greatest president of my lifetime, Ronald Reagan. The special Ronald Reagan section includes 13 pages on Reagan’s life, including a private tour of Rancho del Cielo by his son, Michael Reagan, and reminiscences of Reagan by various politicians including Mikhail Gorbachev.
It should come as no surprise that when a famous person is being celebrated, everyone wants to be acknowledged as someone who was involved in some way with that person during his life. I know many of you who have been fans of the Bob Grant Show know that I gave Ronald Reagan his first radio interview in Los Angeles when he announced he was going to run in the Republican primary for governor of California.
I remember the interview like it was yesterday. My producer, a young fellow from Secaucus, New Jersey by the name of Gary Miller, asked me if I was interested in interviewing Ronald Reagan on my nightly radio show. I asked him if he scheduled Mr. Reagan. He said he left the scheduling open because as he told Bill Roberts of the political public relations firm, Spencer-Roberts, that I did not do show business interviews.
He said Roberts said, “Ronald Reagan does not want to come on the Bob Grant Show to talk about his latest movie. He doesn’t make movies anymore. He’s running for governor of California!”
I told Gary to call Spencer-Roberts immediately and book the man for a program as soon as possible. Gary was only doing his job and he was a loyal and hardworking young man. I told him not to feel bad because he fluffed off the request by saying, “Bob doesn’t do show biz stuff.”
The following week Ronald Reagan appeared at our KABC studios on La Cienega Boulevard. He was wearing a beautiful plaid sports jacket, a burgundy turtleneck sweater and gorgeous mahogany colored riding boots. He was very polite and when introduced to me, broke into a big warm smile. Immediately, I knew I would vote for him because he had the most engaging manner that made one feel as though he had known him all his life.
Reagan radiated sincerity and warmth and had the most sparkling eyes I had ever seen. But when we went on the air and began taking phone calls from that tough crowd out there who make up the bulk of my listening audience, Reagan not only looked flustered, he sounded flustered. I tried to warn him what he was in for, but nobody believes me when I tell them what they are in for.
But, because I was an immediate fan of his, I covered for him until finally in the second hour of his two-hour stint with me, a woman from Pasadena said, “Ya know, you two guys ought to change places. Mr. Reagan, you should be the announcer, and Mr. Grant, you should be running for governor!”
The lady had a point, in a way. But Reagan didn’t seem to mind. Indeed, he said to the woman on the phone, “Well, Ma’am, Mr. Grant has been very kind to me and if I win the primary and become the Republican nominee, I am going to kick things off on Bob’s program, if he’ll have me.
When Reagan left the studio, my program director, the legendary Jack Meyers, said, “Reagan can afford to make that promise. He’s not going to win. The funny thing is that there are seven men running for the nomination.”
Reagan was picked to come in sixth, according to a Los Angeles Times poll. Even I thought the winner would be George Christopher, who served as the 34th mayor of San Francisco. But, The Gipper won big and as they say. . . the rest is history.
There are other stories about Ronald Reagan I could share, but for now this is my contribution to the Newsmax commemorative on the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Happy Birthday, Mr. President. I will never forget the honor you gave me so many years ago!