Nancy Reagan's Astrologer

When the news broke last week that Nancy Reagan regularly consulted a woman astrologer about the President's schedule, reporters immediately scrambled to discover the mysterious seer's identity. Who was this "Friend" from San Francisco who had so much influence in determining when the President of the U.S. would -- or would not -- hold press conferences, deliver speeches, journey abroad? Not even Donald Regan, whose new book tells of the First Lady's reliance on the seer, learned the answer during his two years as White House chief of staff.

It could not be the celebrated Jeane Dixon, since the Reagans lost faith in her powers some years back. Was it Joyce Jillson, a starlet turned celebrity astrologer who quickly let everybody know that she had "spent a lot of time at the White House" after 1981 and that her charts had recommended George Bush as Reagan's 1980 running mate? Neither the President nor the First Lady recalls ever meeting Jillson.

In fact, the First Lady's oracle is San Francisco Heiress Joan Quigley, author of three books on astrology, including Astrology for Teens (written under the pseudonym Angel Star). Her name surfaced in Friday's San Francisco Chronicle, which carried a brief item speculating that she might be Mrs. Reagan's astrologer. Interviewed Saturday aboard a New York-San Francisco flight, Quigley told TIME that she was first introduced to Nancy Reagan by TV Talk Show Host Merv Griffin in the early 1970s, and has provided the Reagans with suggestions about the timing of various political events ever since.

"I advise them when to be careful," she says. "I don't make decisions for them." It was on the basis of her readings, claims Quigley, that Reagan chose January 1984 as the time to announce his bid for re-election. "An astrologer just picks the best possible time to do something that someone else has already planned to do," she adds. "It is like being in the ocean: you should go with the waves, not against them."

Thin and well-coiffed, Quigley, sixtyish, is not unlike many of the First Lady's California friends. The daughters of John B. Quigley, a San Francisco hotelier and prominent Republican, Joan and her sister Ruth grew up in a penthouse suite overlooking Union Square. Although both were noted for their beauty, neither married.

Today the sisters reside in a luxurious cream-color apartment building atop exclusive Nob Hill. Both are fixtures at local theater openings and society fund raisers. "Joan is elegant, witty, articulate and strikingly pretty," says her friend Beatrice Bowles. But another acquaintance of 20 years who requested anonymity describes Quigley as "conservative, very private and a little wacky."

Quigley's interest in the stars began at the age of 15. As a lark, her mother decided to visit an astrologer. Upon hearing about the session, Joan marveled at the seer's prescience and was hooked. After graduating from Vassar in 1947, Quigley returned to San Francisco where the very same astrologer, an elderly Scotchwoman, took her under her wing. Quigley went on to write about astrology for Seventeen magazine and in books and to make regular radio and television appearances.

In her writings, Quigley likens astrology to medical diagnosis. A horoscope, she insists, "can tell you more about yourself than a psychiatrist can tell you after many hours of consultations on his couch." Bemoaning astrology's "lost respectability," Quigley once predicted that stargazing eventually "will be taught in the schools and colleges and will be considered a profession on a par with medicine and law."

Astrology for Adults, a primer for those new to the discipline, explains the traits associated with various heavenly configurations and contains several indirect references to Ronald Reagan. Quigley writes that Reagan, an Aquarian who was born with the moon in Taurus, would "tend to accept only ideas that . conform to . . . preconceived standards. And these are usually conservative." Since Reagan was born with Mercury in Capricorn, his "memory is excellent. Like the elephant, you never forget."

Several fellow astrologers are decidedly cool toward Quigley. Marion D. March, who prepares charts for many Hollywood stars, dismisses her as a "media astrologer" because of her many TV appearances. Others in the astrological community grouse that Quigley is too aloof. But Jayj Jacobs, another San Francisco practitioner, asks, "If she's doing astrology for the Reagans, what does she need with the rest of the community?"

Although the First Lady was intent on protecting Quigley's identity, the socialite did attend an April 1985 state dinner at the White House in honor of the President of Algeria. For the most part, however, the two women talked by phone on weekends, when the Reagans were relaxing at Camp David. Periodically, Quigley would place a collect call to the White House switchboard, and Nancy would scurry to a private room to take it. A White House aide recalls a time when the First Lady was on two phones at once -- Quigley on one line and a presidential scheduler on the other. Quigley says she has met the President once, at the state dinner, and talked to him once on the telephone. "I know his horoscope upside down, but I don't know him," she says. "I deal with Nancy."

No matter how much stock the First Lady put in Quigley's advice, the astrologer is certainly fallible. According to a friend, Quigley had been predicting for months that a major earthquake would rock San Francisco on May 5. She was out of the city on that day, which may or may not show that she takes her own forecasts seriously. But May 5 came and went with nary a tremble -- except perhaps on Quigley's personal Richter scale. That was the last day of blissful anonymity for the First Lady's astrologer. (5.16.1988),9171,967410-1,00.html

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