Although all Presidents are asked to begin planning their funeral as soon as they leave office, the Reagans and their alumni have long worked to prepare an event suitable for "the great communicator." Today's WSJ (A1, sub. req.) reveals the work of a small group of former Reagan aides charged with the advance planning for a week-long funeral:
... 'We need every opportunity to show the media, who might be skeptical, that this is the way America feels about the guy,' says Jim Hooley, 53, who was ... head of White House advance in Mr. Reagan´s second term, and is staging the West Coast part of this week´s events. 'This is a legacy-building event.' ...
Apparently, twenty years can really shine up the positive experiences and repress negative memories:
...The Reagan White House was the golden age for political advance men, the team of about 20 aides who handled the logistics -- from arranging traffic routes to podiums -- for all presidential public events. ... 'We went from being seen as the guys blowing up balloons and getting cars for the motorcades to senior, respected members of the team,' Mr. Hooley recalls.
He even had an office in the west wing of the White House. Mr. Reagan set the tone. 'He was an actor, and he understood there was somebody who planned the lighting, somebody who built the set and wrote the script,' says Mr. Hooley.
Planning has been on-going, to the point that the advance team was expanded years ago to bring in additional TV expertise:
[The advance team] met twice a year to walk through some of the events, including drives to California´s Point Mugu Naval Base, where the casket would depart for Washington. As far back as 1997, Mr. Hooley brought in Ray Cullen, a retired NBC producer, to sketch out how to accommodate camera crews at the Reagan library and to plot different angles. He also had a California event logistics firm figure out how to set up stages, platforms, carpeting and chairs.
Back in their White House days, they talked of the desired 'HPS' -- headline, picture, story. Planning the California events this week, Mr. Hooley said the HPS is to reinforce the image of 'Ronald Reagan as a man who won the Cold War, who brought back America´s faith in itself.' To that end, he arranged for 50,000 small flags to be distributed to crowds along the procession route.
Check out this local impression of a Clinton advance team.