Lyndon Johnson’s daughter Luci had her wedding reception in the White House; her sister, Lynda Bird, got married there. So did Tricia Nixon. The Ford kids, male and female, were relentless bachelors. The Carters, alas, saw one of their sons get divorced while they were living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Now come the Reagans. They hold out prospects of multiple White House nuptials: After all, they have three offspring of marriageable age, Patti, Ron and Maureen.
Scratch Ron. Last week Ronald Prescott Reagan, 22, and his longtime roommate, Doria Palmieri, 29, took the plunge on a rainy Monday morning. The bride wore a bulky crewneck sweater, blue jeans and cowboy boots; the groom was in jeans, a red sweatshirt and running shoes. Without forewarning or fanfare, and with a Secret Service agent as one of their witnesses, Ron and Doria went to the chambers of Acting New York Supreme Court Justice Lester Evens and were quickly pronounced man and wife. Was the marriage a surprise to the family of the groom? It depends on who’s talking. Ron said he called his mother with the news the day of the ceremony; according to Nancy, it was the night before. The Rons père et fils couldn’t seem to get their stories straight either. “It was kind of an elopement,” proclaimed the President-elect. “How could it be an elopement?” his bewildered son inquired later. “Doria and I have been living together for a year and a half.”
Since early in his father’s campaign for the Presidency, young Ron has been regarded as a minor curiosity (and potential embarrassment): a ballet dancer with the prestigious Joffrey II company in New York who was openly cohabiting in Greenwich Village. The bridegroom angrily denies insinuations that his wedding is somehow politically expedient. “Why else do two people get married except that they love each other and want to?” he demanded.
Friends of the couple say Reagan and Palmieri have indeed been inseparable since they met in 1977 at Stanley Holden’s dance studio in L.A. Ron was a beginning student and Doria helped run the place. Her father, an Italian immigrant, is a retired scenic designer for Twentieth Century-Fox. “Ron and Doria were very attracted to each other,” Holden recalls. “It wasn’t the kind of thing where he had to chase her for six months. They just saw each other and had to be together.” When Reagan won a dance scholarship to the Joffrey last year, Palmieri soon joined him. “She came to me with tears in her eyes and said that Ron had asked her to live with him in New York,” Holden remembers. “I said, ‘Go as soon as you can.’ I hated to lose a girl who worked 14 hours a day, but Ron was the most important thing to her.”
For the junior Reagans, married life meant no immediate change in their routine. After the wedding Doria, a philosophy graduate of California State University at Northridge, hurried off to her job as a researcher at a Manhattan publishing firm. Ron headed uptown for his daily rehearsal (where, a friend says, he spent so much time making calls that somebody finally shouted, “Reagan, would you get off that phone?”). The couple will honeymoon in January on a two-day break during a Joffrey tour of Bermuda. When they returned to their one-bedroom apartment on their wedding night, they found the neighbors waiting to throw an impromptu champagne party. Another New York celebration may be in the works. “This is the first marriage in Joffrey II,” says troupe director Sally Bliss. “I’m sure we’ll do something once we all get over the shock.”