She was seen as a proper first lady, always elegant and serious. But this throwback photo, from a White House Christmas past, shows a lighter, funnier side to Nancy Reagan.
During the 1983 Christmas season, Reagan had invited the press to the White House for a tour, and, The Washington Post wrote, to “meet her eccentric guest of honor” who shared in her anti-drug messaging platform. The shocking moment that happened next was captured on film and created a lifelong friendship.
Try as he may, former pro wrestler and actor Mr. T could’t get anyone to sit on his lap, as he played “Santa Claus.” Adorned with his iconic gold chains around his neck, and with a bag filled with action figure dolls of his “A-Team” character, he made quite the interesting St. Nick.
Nancy Reagan with Mr. T in a Santa suit, 1980s. 🎅🏿 🎄 pic.twitter.com/Ae1Mrs3ez1
— Groovy History (@GroovyHistory) December 22, 2018
Reportedly, one male finally relented, but “Santa” quickly had an empty lap again, and his plea seemed to go unanswered. Then the poised and petite Mrs. Reagan saved the day.
In moves that were completely out of character, she walked over to the frustrated “Santa” and sat herself down on his lap for the entire press corps to photograph. Mr. T was quick to ad lib the moment with glee.
“All right, that’s right! Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds . . . eat your heart out.”
But her mischievous streak was not over. Reagan then gave them all something wild to write about.
Nancy Reagan y Mr. T. pic.twitter.com/5gbnjKrhOP
— Fede Acosta (@federaulacosta) December 22, 2018
The first lady leaned over and kissed Mr. T’s head. He was quick to ham it up for all it was worth, too.
“Oh wow! Now that’ll start some scandals.”
“Thank you Mrs. Reagan. Wow, she kissed me!”
“It’s like that commercial. She kissed me, and nothing seems the same.”
Years later, the actor paid tribute to his friend after she died in 2016. He even attended her funeral, which caused quite a stir. The Washington Post noted that her funeral was “invitation only.”
— sam (@lots_of_lolz) December 10, 2017
The New York Daily News wrote that after her death he tweeted, “That was the highlight of my career to be asked to work with the First Lady on such a great cause.”
“It wasn’t political because I am not a Republican nor am I a Democrat. But I am just a Christian brother from the hood trying to do some good. I will truly miss First Lady Nancy Reagan.”
Sheila Tate, the former first lady’s press secretary, told The Washington Post that it was not surprising that the two became lifelong friends. “Nancy Reagan, if you became her friend, you were her friend for life.”
“And that’s the way they were. They never lost contact.”
The article added that in one of his tweets following Mrs. Reagan’s death, Mr. T. vowed to continue the work that brought them together. “I will continue her work in trying to keep kids from the Dangers of Drugs. GOD Bless You First Lady.”
From one playful moment to a lifelong friendship that included a fight for America’s youth. This touching, fun photo truly is worth a thousand words.
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