My Surreal Moment with Mr. Reagan


You can visit Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland by dodging the trolley, forgoing Goofy’s autograph, and hanging a hard right. As the curtains draw back, Mr. Lincoln rises painfully (you would too if your feet were bolted to the floor) and begins to speak, his warm baritone emanating from a hole in a desk several feet away. It’s stirring, but also kind of weird.

Just like my moment with Mr. Reagan.

I was an intern for a movie company located near the top of the skyscraper (or rather a replica of it) that they blew up in Diehard. One day I arrived earlier than usual and found myself standing next to two Men in Black. Between them was an older man sporting an instantly familiar auburn-grey pomp.

The elevator dinged and all three stepped inside. I hesitated. The MiBs gestured for me to take another elevator. But Ronald Reagan smiled and said in that famous half-whisper, “It’s OK.” I hesitated just long enough for the portal to begin to close, then hurried in. The brushed aluminum doors bumped my foot, scooted politely back, allowing me to slip inside, then shushed to a close again, and the elevator started it’s upward glide.

I broke the silence with a devilishly clever, “It’s an honor to meet you, sir.” (Bet he’d never had that one before!) More silence. And then, to my astonishment, Mr. Reagan began telling a story:

“Well,” (he really did say that), “when I was a young man like you just getting started, I landed a job at a radio station in Davenport, Iowa. And they had an elevator that—well, back in those days elevators had two sets of doors, you see: the wooden ones on the elevator itself and those big cast iron scissor doors on the cage around the elevator…” He smiled at the memory.

“Yeah?” I chuckled. Ronald Reagan was telling me an elevator story…in an elevator! I was in the elevator and in on the joke! I’d be repeating it for the rest of my life: “Say, here’s a funny story my buddy Ronald Reagan once told me; you know, Ronald Reagan the President?”

“You never wanted to hesitate when entering an elevator like you did just now,” Mr. Reagan explained.

“Why?” I asked with a chuckle. Me and the Gipper just shooting the breeze!

“Because, well, one day I’d just stepped into the elevator when this fella leaped in after me.”

“Yeah?” I grinned. And what happened then, Ron?

“But then those scissor doors, they closed on his foot and the wooden doors closed on his leg…”


“And, well, that elevator starting going up. And you know what?”

“What?” I chortled.

“It ripped his leg off.”


“Well, good-bye,” Mr. Reagan said as the doors to my floor glided open.

The MIBs gestured for me to step out. I obeyed, then turned and said, “Good—” But before I could finish, the doors slammed shut.

“—God!” I finished.

What had just happened? Had what I thought was a humorous anecdote turned out to be a cautionary tale? Some kind of metaphor? Or was the Gipper merely—pardon the pun—pulling my leg? (“It was great, Nance. You should have seen the look on his face!”) Ronald Reagan Laughing

How had my great moment with Mr. Reagan become my surreal moment with Mr. Reagan? I’ll never know. But it’s a moment I cherish, nevertheless. Like the Mr. Lincoln version, it was stirring…

But also kind of weird.

Note: This incident really occurred. It is not intended to make a political statement. It was simply a weird, wonderful moment.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir, Movies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to My Surreal Moment with Mr. Reagan

  1. Pingback: A Filmmaker’s Journal | Mitch Teemley

  2. Trev Jones says:

    Wow, great story, Mitch.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Victoria says:

    My two favorite things in one post — weird and wonderful! Thanks, Mitch! 😉

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Anonymous says:

    What an incredible story! Thank you for sharing… I have to wonder, too, if he was pulling your leg. 🤔

    Liked by 4 people

  5. You’re not going to believe this but when I’m interviewed on WHO-Radio her in Des Moines (about the “Leora books,” five brothers served, only two came home), it was Reagan’s station during the 1930s!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Mr. Ramdolfi says:

    That’s incredible! I would have loved to meet Reagan, let alone share a lift and have a conversation! Interestingly enough, when I was an intern in DC many moons ago, I ran into John McCain (I kid you not) while waiting for an elevator! He was being interviewed by reporters with tape recorders, so I did not get to say hi, but still. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I had a surreal moment in an elevator with John Maxwell. I got on and realized who was in the elevator with me and I had the following conversation:
    “I know who you are! You can’t escape me now!” Silence and confusion on his face…Then I took a picture so badly you can’t tell who it is, and it looks like I got the coveted Sasquatch award for photographs.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. rwfrohlich says:

    Incredible story!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Christie Ciccarelli says:

    That’s a cute story!! One you might expect from such a great man.. Your reaction was exactly what he was expecting to see as well I’m sure too..

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Rhonda says:

    What a great story! I suspect he was “pulling your leg”.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A great anecdote! An elevator story about an elevator 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The Hinoeuma says:

    Now, that was a shock to a young man. An elevator ride with a US Prez. I bet those MiBs (SS) had a minus 20 pucker factor going on. Ronnie had already been shot at that point (I am assuming…no date offered).

    He was a likeable guy, at ease with himself and others and, what a sense of humor. It sounds like he was jerking your chain.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Todd R says:

    I trust you that this really happened, but still want to verify it somehow.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Gina Cash says:

    You just keep outdoing yourself with these stories, Mitch! I am looking forward to more!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I think my chin would have hit the floor at the ending of Reagan’s anecdote.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. murisopsis says:

    Yes, surreal is the right word!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. leendadll says:

    Timely retelling… I saw a headline today about someone dying from something similar (the doors, not mtg Reagan) but the details don’t align.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. JC home says:

    A great story. Kind of the type of person I thought he was.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Ah, Ronald Reagan was my favorite president. Great story, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. An Audience of One says:

    I was just fixing to ask if that really happened, then I saw what you put at the end. What a crazy and fun story!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Wynne Leon says:

    That’s a good one, Mitch! I got into the elevator early one morning from the parking garage at Microsoft and Bill Gates was on there by himself. All I managed was one high-pitched squeak of “Oh, Hi!” and he never said anything… 🙂

    So I really appreciate Reagan’s warmth and charisma in your story. Not a political statement either… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Pam Webb says:

    Sounds like an outtake scene from a movie who have yet to make.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. jboelhower says:

    I love these kinds of moments… because life is not a simple story, it is deep and filled with moments that leave us wondering what we are suppose to learn from it… thanks for a great read today!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. He was on my “list of people living or dead I’d like to have lunch with.”

    Ambiguity is fun, huh?

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I loved this story. You certainly captured the impression I had of President Reagan without ever having met him.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Jennie says:

    Weird, yet definitely wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. gpavants says:


    He had a sense of humor too. Reagan was a very down to earth man for sure.

    Thanks, Gary

    Liked by 1 person

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