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LOS ANGELES -- Behind every strong man...<BR><BR>Nancy Daly strides into the tearoom of the Westwood Marquis looking like a blond Jackie Kennedy -- the shoulder-length bob, simple, expensive gray dress, gold jewelry, good handbag, terrific figure --...

LOS ANGELES — Behind every strong man…

Nancy Daly strides into the tearoom of the Westwood Marquis looking like a blond Jackie Kennedy — the shoulder-length bob, simple, expensive gray dress, gold jewelry, good handbag, terrific figure — all totally befitting L.A.’s First Lady.

“I hope this isn’t all about me and the mayor,” she says, smiling, wary of the press she’s already had in her hometown. “I have my own life. I do lots of other things. I always have.”

She orders Earl Grey, takes ladylike sips, but doesn’t touch the tea sandwiches or little cakes.

In fact, Mayor Richard Riordan couldn’t have a more appropriate other. Married to Warner Bros. ceo Bob Daly for 30 years, Nancy couldn’t be better connected or respected on the Hollywood scene, and is a powerhouse politico herself.

She sits on boards across the board and advises myriad committees that benefit disadvantaged children. She’s spearheaded the renovation of McLaren House, a home for displaced and abused children, and helped found the Children’s Action Network, which serves as the entertainment industry’s voice for children. She flies from charitable appointment to appointment with the greatest of ease. And on top of it, Daly has three grown children starting to make fine careers for themselves in politics and entertainment.

It would be hard to find anything wrong with this picture. Except for one little detail — Nancy Daly isn’t married to the mayor.

But then, this is the Nineties. It isn’t correct to be too politically correct. So what if they’re both still technically married to other people? Both are separated. Riordan’s been separated from his second wife for four years. Daly split from her husband over a year ago, after, she says simply, “we grew apart.”

And there isn’t a modicum of dish to be dug up in Hollywood on the pending Daly divorce — he is now the constant companion of Carole Bayer Sager, and Bob and Carole and Dick and Nancy all sang songs round the piano at the recent wedding of Bob Daly Jr.

Nancy Daly’s had an easier time with men than most women. She met her husband when she was a secretary in the business affairs department of CBS in New York and married him when she was 20. They moved to the West Coast nine years later, and he rose to the top of CBS and then of Warner Bros. Cut to 20 years later, when she’s just broken up with the ceo of Warner Bros. As a newly single middle-aged woman in Los Angeles — not an enviable position — she meets Richard Riordan, an extremely wealthy L.A. businessman and lawyer, and they start dating about a minute later.

“People have commented that it’s great, surprising even, that Dick is seeing a woman who’s not an actress or much younger than he is,” Daly smiles, admitting easily that she’s a comfortable 52. “But they don’t know him. He could only be with an equal, he could only be close to someone who’s as passionate about helping people as he is.”

Both are practicing Catholics, avid readers (he owns a 40,000-book library that he keeps in his home), skiers, ice-skaters and cyclists. They see each other “as much as possible,” she smiles, sometimes five times a week. He feels much more comfortable at social and public functions if she’s with him. They keep separate residences, hers in Bel Air, his in Brentwood.

Their only profound differences are political. She’s an outspoken Democrat and defender of the less fortunate; he’s a Republican and a friend of big business. In fact, many of Daly’s liberal Hollywood friends were all set to support the Democrat, Mike Woo, in last summer’s mayoral race until she talked them out of it and into the Riordan camp.

“These labels like ‘Democrat’ and ‘Republican’ aren’t as polar as they once were,” she says matter-of-factly. “I think Dick’s feelings, the things that mean the most to him, aren’t very different from mine. We couldn’t be together if that weren’t true. What are these labels? At first, my friends were wary of his politics — they didn’t know him like I do. Once you know him,” she says, her face starting to glow, “you really come to trust him. There simply isn’t anyone like him.”

Asked whether she sees anything ahead that would more formally link the two of them, she says only, “We’ll see.”