The Reagans on VF
Photographer Harry Benson, who has taken pictures of every president since Eisenhower, remembers the above photo this way: “When Vanity Fair asked me to photograph President and Mrs. Reagan for a cover story in 1985, I knew they would give us only a short time. As it turned out, they stopped by on their way to a state dinner and stayed exactly six minutes. Before they arrived, a backdrop of white no-seam paper was set up in a small room off the main ballroom, and as they entered, I put on a tape of Frank Sinatra singing ‘Nancy (With the Laughing Face).’ That brought smiles to their faces, and they started dancing. Their aides hadn’t expected all of this—in fact, they would have turned me down had I mentioned the concept beforehand—but once the thing was set in motion, they were afraid to interrupt.”
Click. Nancy kicks up her heels. Click. Print. The cover shot of the First Couple dancing—epitomizing the Hollywood panache that had swept over Washington. Before it came to epitomize Hollywood pop culture and fashion,Vanity Fair symbolized jazz age; its initial run from 1913 was ceased in 1935 after the Great Depression ended the Roaring Twenties. In 1981, Conde Nast revived the magazine but initially it wasn’t hugely successful. The Reagen cover, the start of a mix of politics and haute couture that VF stands for today, helped turn around the fortunes of the then fledgling magazine.