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Larry King on Reagans: 'Theirs was an absorbing love'

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(CNN) -- CNN's Larry King says he's closer to Nancy Reagan than any other first lady. He talks with her on "Larry King Live" tonight about the newly released "The Reagan Diaries," her years in the White House, and how she's managing almost three years after President Reagan's death.

Larry will also read excerpts from the book on the 9 p.m. ET show.

CNN.com spoke with him about his relationship with President and Nancy Reagan.

CNN.COM: When did you first meet Ronald and Nancy Reagan?

KING: I met them near the end of his first term, at an outdoor Marvin Hamlisch concert at the White House. I took my daughter and we sat right behind them. The Reagans kept turning around and smiling at us.

CNN.COM: Did you visit the White House when the Reagan was in office?

KING: Yes. He put me on the Council on Physical Fitness, even though I was smoking three packs a day and was 15 pounds overweight. They held a reception for members of the council. President Reagan comes over and asks me, "How did you get on this?" I told him, "You appointed me!"

I was also one of 30 invited guests when he returned to the White House to receive his Medal of Freedom.

CNN.COM: Are you close to Nancy?

KING: Yes we're close. She's been to our house and she loves my kids. ... We're going to have lunch next week.

CNN.COM: How close were you to the Reagans compared with other first couples?

KING: I probably know George and Barbara Bush the best, then Bill and Hillary Clinton. I am closer to Nancy then any other first lady. One funny story, shortly after President Regan got diagnosed with Alzheimer's, the three of us met for lunch at a Bel Air hotel. There was a wedding going on at the hotel at the same time. The wedding party couldn't believe they were there. We ended up posing for pictures with the couple and had a good time.

CNN.COM: In her 2001 appearance on the show, you said that Nancy and Ronald's love was "different." What do you think made it different?

KING: Theirs was an absorbing love; you don't see that in long marriages. Usually long marriages mix companionship and love. Theirs was a constant love affair. Some say it might have been to the detriment of the children, because the kids came second to the love affair. You could see the love as soon as you spend a second in the room with them.

CNN.COM: How do you think the first lady role has evolved since Nancy Reagan was in the White House?

KING: Every first lady puts her own stamp on it. Eleanor Roosevelt, whom I interviewed once, was an activist. Hillary Clinton was close to Eleanor in terms of being political. Barbara Bush was very forward but had to hold it back. Nancy was involved in White House policy, but she did it all behind the scenes.

CNN.COM: When was the last time you saw Nancy?

KING: On Valentine's Day. I hosted a red dress day for breast cancer. They had red dresses worn by six first ladies. It's a very nice crowd, and they're presenting first ladies and the dresses. As we're walking in she takes my arm and says, "Tell me about Anna Nicole Smith."


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Nancy Reagan looks at "The Reagan Diaries" with Larry King. Larry King will read from the book on tonight's "Larry King Live."

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