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Albany, NY, Friday, September 11, 2009

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I Say Jeane, You Say Joan... and You'd Be Right

Seems we acted like the mainstream media here a couple of weeks ago, accidentally anointing Jeane Dixon as the astrological advisor to First Lady Nancy Reagan during her husband's tenure in the Oval Office. That advisor, of course, was Joan Quigley.

While we'd like to blame Wikipedia or the Hottentots or pretty much anyone for the error, it was ours alone, and so we offer a heartfelt apology to Planet Waves readers. The fellow who creates our news briefs, the Dogtown Writer (in a fun coincidence, yours truly also happens to be named Eric Francis, but is no relation to the earlier Eric Francis of Planet Waves), is a non-astrologer and well, that's what can happen.

But if there's a bright side to this coin, it's the opportunity to examine the remarkable relationship between Quigley and the Reagans – particularly the public hoopla that followed the revelation.

David Roell, a veteran astrologer who operates the Astrology Center of America in Maryland (and a longtime advisor to Planet Waves), was in a unique position to assess the New York media's reaction to the Quigley story: He was the guy answering the phone when they called.

"I was working for Henry Weingarten's New York Astrology Center," Roell recalled. "At the time, I knew all the astrologers in New York and ran charts for them all, but I didn't know the celebrity astrologers. Quigley was a celebrity astrologer, so she was unknown to me."

The problem, once the story broke, was that the journalists covering the story had no idea who to call.

"When this hit, all the news media in New York City responded, but not one of them had the name of a single astrologer in their Rolodexes," said Roell. "If you're a news organization and Patagonia blows up, you have an expert on Patagonia. What happened for astrology is no one [in the media] thought astrology was important enough to have in the Rolodex."

So those reporters consulted their phone books, and one name stood out: The New York Astrology Center – where Roell happened to be working the phones.

"I handled the phone calls for the first week. People phoned and phoned and phoned," he said. "After about a week, Henry Weingarten, who owned the place, figured out there was a flap going on." Up until then, Roell said, Weingarten hadn't been the least bit interested in taking calls.  "After a week, he said ‘you should be giving me all these phone calls!' And I gave him these phone calls, and two days later they stopped."

Roell has a theory for the media's quick loss of interest: His boss wasn't a good quote.

"I was having fun, I was playing with them, giving them the lay of the land," he said. "Henry was pompous. He was a Leo with Sag rising."

Still, Roell got what he called his "thirty seconds of fame in New York City" with interviews on Italian television and CNN. But he says the news media didn't learn any lesson then, and "they still don't have astrologers in their Rolodexes."

As for the Reagans, Roell credits them for recognizing the importance of astrology.

"Reagan had been using astrologers since the 1950s, straight through his governorship [of California]," he said. "One of his inaugurals in Sacramento was held at the stroke of midnight at the recommendation of an astrologer.

"Reagan was a reasonably smart guy who got what he wanted by following reasonably smart astrologers."

Finally, Roell also got a chuckle out of our Dixon/Quigley gaffe: "That's like saying John Glenn was the first man to walk on the Moon."


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