Nancy Bagley
by James Crotty
March 31, 1999

Babe of the Beltway

Washington, DC

ome to D.C. and you will immediately recognize Monica Lewinsky. She is everywhere. At Starbucks. At the Watergate Safeway. At the local political bar. There are Monicas all over this town. Young, impressionable, doe-faced girls, enamored with power, and with powerful men, with not enough hipness to make it in New York, not enough beauty to make it in L.A.., and not enough creativity to try something truly revolutionary. These are good women. Nice women. Not exceptionally bright women. With some vague ideas about public service. Eminently square women.

Nancy "Blush" Bagley is everything a Monica Lewinsky is not, though she has played around the D.C. scene since graduating Boston's Simmons College in 1990. Unlike the Monicas who descend on the nation's capital during the Congressional year, this Georgetown native has lived in Washington most of her life, creatively, if not brazenly, stretching the boundaries of what D.C. society will allow. The eldest daughter of a prominent Democratic fund-raiser and close Carter confidante, Smith Bagley, and leading D.C. socialite and businesswomen, Vicki Bagley (owner of Washington Life Magazine and Celebrity Service International), Nancy's sipped champagne, nibbled canapés, schmoozed and partied with Washington's rich and powerful, as well as sat yoga, slam danced and REALLY partied with their rebellious offspring. Her Grandmother is Nancy Susan Reynolds (of that itsy-bitsy tobacco company, R.J. Reynolds). Her step-mom of 15 years, Elizabeth Bagley, was Ambassador to Portugal from 1993 to 1997.

Through her family connections and own personal chutzpah, Nancy was able to secure a job in the early Clinton White House, working on the health care initiative. Before that, she was on the advance staff for the Clinton-Gore campaign of 1992, and was one of the event coordinators for the '92 Inaugural. She's also spent time in New York City working for Lorne Michaels of Saturday Night Live (if you wanted to get into the green room or coveted conference room, you had to go through Nancy). Quite simply, Nancy has enjoyed the kind of easy proximity to power and celebrity that the Monica Lewinskies of the world can only dream of. But she hasn't let it cramp her style.

While the ubiquitous Monicas prefer colorful dresses, Nancy prefers black leather. While the Monicas consider a thong undie a bit risqué, Nancy goes much further afield in taste and adventure. And yet because of her to-the-manor born savvy and discretion, Nancy manages to remain within the good graces of the town's power elite, editing articles for her mom's society rag, Washington Life, while serving as vice-president of ARCA ("Latin for "treasure chest"), her family's multi-million dollar charitable foundation. Though historically ARCA has backed projects for population control, toxics abatement and campaign finance reform, Nancy hopes to steer money to a few of her own pet causes, such as the abolition of the death penalty and the legalization of hemp. If anyone could pull that feat off, it would be the delightful Ms. B.

If you want to grasp the pedestrian dreams of the standard issue D.C. intern, think Monica Lewinsky. If you want that rare breed--a young, free-spirited, magnanimous Washington insider, who intuitively grasps that vital D.C. distinction between on and off the record--think Nancy "Blush" Bagley.

JIM MONK: What would you say are the elements of D.C. style----if there are any elements of D.C. style?

NANCY BAGLEY: As far as style goes, it's definitely more conservative. Not a lot of black like New York. A lot of suits. Hillary Clinton is the perfect example, to me, of Washington style. It's diplomatic. It's Washington. Here I know political people. I know congressmen, Senators, social people and White House people. People might not want to dress up in a coat and tie every day, but they do. I mean everyone here wears a coat and tie. You can't get away with not wearing one.

MONK: Is it an unwritten code that you cannot deviate? Are you ostracized if you do?

NB: I was told that I should tone down my style. I've been told that people will laugh. I go out sometimes a little hippie-ish or a lot of black. Working in the White House we were told absolutely how we should dress.

MONK: And what would that be?

NB: Well, not a lot of short skirts.

MONK: Do women who work in the White House talk? What do they say about Bill? I mean the guy is attractive.

NB: I definitely knew that this was a problem----that he's very flirtatious. But he's flirtatious with men and women. Very, very flirtatious. Honestly I wasn't surprised by this whole thing but the majority of my friends in the White House were surprised, which really surprised me. Maybe it was that they just didn't think he'd be that stupid. They might have known that he had a tendency but that he would have at least been honest with his staffers about it and not prolonged it. I just sensed his flirtatiousness, so I stayed away. He's a sexy man. But I never, never, never would have. Absolutely not. I mean, he has a family.

MONK: We've only been here a week and already see that there are Monica Lewinskies all over this town, that kind of innocent intern vibe. Kind of above-average intelligent person but kind of enamored with the scene.

NB: Power. Power drives this town.

MONK: You said women outnumber men in this town 6-1?

NB: Something like that.

MONK: Incredible. Are there congressmen getting involved with these interns?

NB: Oh yeah. Congressmen, Senators. I know there are a lot of them, and I'm not outing them like Larry Flynt. It would be nice to out some of the media types who are reporting it and going after it with a vengeance.

MONK: New York versus D.C. Which one really has more power?

NB: In New York money is power whereas here power is power.

MONK: If you were to pick five names that represent the pantheon of D.C. power, who would they be?

NB: Steve Case of AOL. My father, Smith Bagley. He's a top fund-raiser and if you're raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for congressmen and Senators, that's power. Catherine Graham is very powerful. Ben Bradlee. Media people are very powerful. The media runs this city, really.

MONK: In D.C. it really is about ambition and drive and not so much about looks, as it would be in L.A.

NB: It's not based on beauty. It's based on intelligence and drive and on getting the job done. It's all about ambition.

MONK: Right. So what you're saying is that to get the girl in D.C. you'd have to be a pretty driven, ambitious, witty, intelligent guy.

NB: Yeah.

MONK: Does the status quo culture of D.C. make people better behaved or do people just learn to hide things better?

NB: I think it makes them better people. I think people know how to hide it, but a lot of people that come here really are fairly straight. There's certainly not a drug culture here. It's not like in New York or L.A. where there's a real drug culture. Not with young people here. Not with young people in power, and because you're in the government, you get tested. I mean there might be a drug culture, if you weren't drug tested, but you can't. I know plenty of people who would love to smoke grass occasionally.

MONK: I'm going to name a name and you're going to give me a short one sentence aphoristic take on the person. Al Gore.

NB: Funnier than he seems. He's actually pretty laid back. He and Tipper were big Deadheads, and I think he smoked pot up until he was 30. They're more laid back than people think.

MONK: Chelsea.

NB: Smart. I just knew her during the campaign and she was really innocent and wide-eyed. Sheltered. Definitely sheltered. Her mother is very protective as anyone can tell.

MONK: Hillary.

NB: She's a lot more beautiful than people make her out to be. She's really a beautiful woman. She might not have the greatest ankles, maybe, but she's a beautiful woman. Warm on the inside. Tough on the outside.

MONK: If there was a place in town where you would have a stealth affair where would you have it?

NB: Watergate.

MONK: Still?

NB: (Laughs) Why not? I actually don't like the Watergate, but because of everything associated with it. Or the White House, if I could sneak in. But it wouldn't be with the President. The Capitol steps? I don't know. Though I'd probably go out to Middleburg. It's beautiful. Rolling hills. It's horse country. The thing is, it's hard to go any place in this town without running into someone. This is basically a very small town.

M: Is Monica a typical archetype for young women in D.C.?

NB: It's divided. There's a lot of really intelligent smart women in this town who don't want to take the easy route like that. But then there are plenty of people who come here looking for a wealthy man or a powerful man.

M: And there's plenty of powerful men looking for those young women. How is Nancy Bagley different from Monica Lewinsky?

NB: The only thing that differentiates me from Monica is that I can keep my mouth shut.

M: In other words, you may have done the same things, but you can keep your mouth shut.

NB: Yeah. I also exercise an hour a day.

M: (laughs) What do you think of Monica?

NB: I think she's a sad girl. I think it's sad when people are interested in her because she's got nothing going. She's a wannabe.