Sydney Omarr, The Reagans, and Astrology
"I refer to it as the world's worst-kept secret that President Reagan relies on astrology." Astrologer Sydney Omarr 1988
As the world remembers the passing of Sydney Omarr, a prominent astrologer whose column appeared in more than 300 newspapers across the country including the Washington Post, it is interesting to look back to the days of the Reagan Administration, and the use by the President and First Lady of astrology to guide in the making of important decisions in the White House.
The 1988 astrological revelation caused a massive stir in the press, and hundreds of political cartoons were drawn mocking the Reagans. The Reagan Library in Simi Valley California, in fact has 2800 pages of files that detail the media attack. It was during this fire storm of controversy that Sydney Omarr took to the air giving a number of interviews in the Reagans defense. He praised Nancy Reagan for consulting an astrologer before making major decisions, and he stated that "only the ignorant" would laugh at the First Lady's awareness of astrology.
In one interview, done with the Wall Street Journal, Omarr made a stunning revelation. He stated that the Reagans were not the only high level Washingtonians to have looked to the stars.
Omarr told the Journal that both President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were also "gung-ho" on astrology. " I don't want to reveal my sources at this time," he added. "My background is in journalism. It is unimpeachable. I know this for a fact."
As for Ronald Reagan, like Calvin Coolidge, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt before him, astrology appeared to be tied into life itself, and important decisions required at least a quick glance to the stars. The Philadelphia Inquirer, for example, insisted that "the signing of the U.S. Soviet treaty eliminating medium-range nuclear missiles" had been signed at 1:30 p.m. on December 8, 1987 based on advise from an astrologer. In addition, many papers reported the story that Ronald Reagan had postponed his inauguration 9 minutes as governor of California till 12:10 a.m. on January 2, 1967 based on astrology calculations.
Reagan became noted as being one of the few governors to actually sign astrology legislation when on August 30, 1974, as Governor of California, he signed legislation which became Chapter 583, and added Section 50027 to the government Code, relating to astrology. The legislation removed Sacramento licensed astrologers from the category of fortune tellers, thus allowing them to practice their trade for compensation.
According to Reagan's former Chief of Staff Donald Regan, the prime source of astrological direction inside the Reagan White House was being provided by San Francisco star gazer Joan Quigley. In his book "For the Record" Regan stated that Nancy Reagan planned almost all presidential travel, press conferences, and even the president's cancer surgery based on information she was receiving from Quigley.
Regan made his stunning revelation concerning the use of astrology after being forced out of the White House by Nancy Reagan. It was a revelation that upset many inside and outside the White House including another prominent astrologer Jean Dixon.
Dixon, an astrologer who became nationally prominent for her prediction of the assassination of President John Kennedy, was once an astrological advisor to Reagan.
Dixon had gained the favor of the future president by predicting in 1962 that he would become Governor of California, and later President of the United States. "She was always gung ho for me to be President," said Reagan.
She was dropped by Nancy in 1976, when she stated that Reagan would not gain the presidency that year. Nancy figured that Dixon had lost her powers of prediction. Joan Quigley was quickly picked up by Nancy as the next seer, even though she too predicted that 1976 would not be the year for Reagan.
In 1988, when the astrology scandal broke at the White House, Dixon sent Reagan a copy of an New York Times editorial she had just written supporting the use of astrology. "I would shoot a few people if I were you for talking," she wrote in an attacked handwritten note to the President.
The astrology news was announced, mysteriously and coincidentally, on almost the same day as the death of Carroll Righter. Righter, a prominent Hollywood astrologer, was rumored to have been President Reagan's favorite astrologer during a long 45 year relationship. Reagan even admitted in his 1965 autobiography "Where's the Rest of Me" that he and Righter were friends, and that he and Nancy read Righter's column "regularly."
Other astrologers rumored to be connected to the Reagan White House included Joyce Jillson, who told the Associated Press that the Reagans regularly consulted astrologers, and that it was this counsel that led to Reagan doing things like having news conferences during the full moon. Jillson stated that "she had been to the White House" and "spent a lot of time there after the assassination attempt on Reagan."
Most importantly, Jillson claimed she had originally been employed by Reagan insiders, and paid $1200, to help pick Reagan's Vice President from a list of seven candidates. The Jillson claim actually backed up the same Bush-astrology allegation that had been made five years earlier by Democratic Rep. Larry McDonald. On April 30, 1983 McDonald speaking to the John Birch Society stated,
"One of my jobs," wrote Jillson, "was to review the charts of all Vice Presidential candidates. I told Reagan that George Bush was the only choice. The rest is history." The basic astrological sign involved in the decision was that "George Bush, a Gemini, was the most compatible with Reagan, an Aquarian."
In his first reply to reporter questions about the Reagan's use of astrology, and the story that he might actually have been picked as Vice President by an astrologer, Bush actually defended the practice. "I don't know about that," he said. "But I will tell you one thing: There are two edges to this sword. There are a helluva lot of people across this country that read these columns. Otherwise they would not be in the papers." Later after many more astrology questions, Bush then running for President himself, reconsidered his position declaring that he never read an astrology column and wouldn't know where to find one in a newspaper.
Astrology was only a part of Reagan's interest in things unseen. He was openly known to be very interested in anything occult including UFOs, lucky numbers, astrology, lucky coins, and ghosts. Even small things bothered Reagan such as a house that Reagan friends purchased for the Reagans at 666 St. Cloud in Bel Air, California. When Reagan found out the address, paperwork was immediately started to change the address to 668 St. Cloud. He was, according to Reagan's Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver, "incurably superstitious. If he emptied his pants pockets you would always find about five good lucky charms that people had sent him."
To protect the administration from potentially damaging leaks about the Reagan obsession with the occult, a team of officials worked together to cover up things up. Deaver, always the loyal Reagan team player, was the official who took the bizarre timing requests made by astrologer Quigley, and made changes in the Reagan schedule while keeping secret the source of the information.
On the other hand, Reagan's last national Security advisor General Colin Powell, had as part of his job to keep "the little green men" references out of Reagan's speeches. Reagan, as his speeches clearly show, was fond of the 1950 space-invader movie analogy that the world would unit if faced with an extraterrestrial invasion force. Powell feared that if Reagan kept raising the issue people, would actually start to believe aliens were invading.
Reagan actually managed to get a few of the references into speeches and Q&As about his fascination of aliens coming to earth and uniting all nations before we destroyed ourselves. Every time he raised this scenario (which Reagan called my " fantasy") in planning sessions, Powell reportedly rolled his eyes and would say to his staff, "Here comes the little green men again."
Other Reagan staffers had the jobs of protecting the White House from disclosures the President might make while answering questions from the public, particularly from children. The staffers had learned that Reagan, the consummate story teller, tended to let strange things slip out. As one staffer said, "The god-damnest things would come out of his mouth."
Reagan was known to be very open with children that he would meet after speeches given at various schools, or to groups of students touring the White House. Fearing he would disclose his interest in the paranormal, efforts were made to protect Reagan from young students who tended to ask questions about these subjects. Mike Deaver was known to veto Q & As with high school "on the theory that Reagan would be 'too loose' and speak too freely."
There was even a special role for the handlers to keep the students away from the president. Former White House presidential aide Judi Buckelew described this role,
The efforts to hide the paranormal and other strange beliefs of the president went as far as to clean up "his oral meanderings" before a text was released for public consumption." This practice, however, had to be cut out when the White House writers were caught altering an interview Reagan had given with the Wall Street Journal.
In this interview, done in 1985, Reagan began to talk about thoughts he had earlier in the morning concerning Armageddon, and how he agreed with many theologians who believed the prophecies were coming together. This idea of an impending upcoming Armageddon being spoken of by a leader with his finger on the nuclear button was too much for the White House handlers.
When the White House transcript of the interview was released publically, the references to Armageddon were gone. The Wall Street Journal quickly exposed the omission, and the White House publicity people scrambled to explain that the writers had "accidentally" omitted the references to Armegeddon Reagan had made.
It was, however, astrology for which Reagan will be remembered by the main stream press, because the White House could not contain the secret. They did however try, such as the time when a letter of congratulations was requested for Sydney Omarr two years prior to the media discovering the secret of Reagan's astrological counselors.
Omarr was celebrating 25 years of service as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. Larry Speakes, the President's Press Secretary requested that the congratulatory letter go out, so a draft of a letter was prepared in the White House by "LBK." The original draft was stunning in its acceptance of the practice of astrology, and may have tipped off Reagan handlers that the letter had to be stopped. The main paragraph of the letter read,
Prior to the letter being mailed the letter was stopped, and Omarr, although perhaps admired by the President, would not be publically congratulated. In a handwritten note found at the Reagan Library, a person by the name of Dan clearly spelled out what would happen next.
As far as the official government record went, that was the end of the Reagan public association with Sydney Omarr. That is until the 1988 astrology story broke and Omarr was interviewed.
Then the true story emerged. Although Omarr's people were told that a public statement would not be forthcoming from the White House praising Omarr for his 25 years with the Los Angeles Syndicate, Omarr was in fact congratulated by none other than Larry Speakes, who had according to the handwritten note from Dan agreed to go along with the plan to reject the Omarr request without explanation. The Associated Press story of May 4, 1988 told the story,
I guess it goes to show that no secret can be kept forever.