Introducing him to flog a new book, Stephen Colbert admiringly cites the days when Henry Kissinger chased women in his “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac” days, an arresting contrast to the fate of Anthony Weiner for pursuing similar urges in our time.
In fact, by all accounts, Kissinger actually netted some of his quarry (“When I’m boring, they think it’s their fault”) while Weiner came up empty. Have Americans become more prudish in the intervening years?
One difference is that the 20th century diplomat, widely branded a “war criminal” (I prefer self-serving snake) for his lethal secrecy, was not furtive in sexual matters. Another was that the now 88-year-old gnome, thankfully in pre-Twitter days, did not transmit photos of his body parts.
In fact, Kissinger was proud of being “a secret swinger.” When I sent Nora Ephron, in her pre-“Sleepless in Seattle” days, to interview him, a staff member, while introducing her to the alleged Great Lover, remarked, “Another Hunebelle?” The reference was to a French journalist who had written a book about her infatuation titled “Dear Henry.”
In it, Danielle Hunebelle described him as “a species of monster.” Yet at first meeting she noted, “With his sloping forehead, aquiline nose and heavy, skeptical chin, he looked like a libidinous bird...Suddenly I realized that Kissinger’s skin color was yellow, a grayish ashen kind of yellow...I looked at him tenderly. What a poor lover he must be.
“Bound hand and foot by complexes, fraught with persecution mania...His contradictions make him a species of monster...From that moment...I began to love him...For the few seconds in which I held his hand in mine, the fatness of his sausage-like fingers, as the deformation of his face just a little earlier had surprised me.”
L’affaire Hunebelle ended badly. When she learned that Kissinger was in Paris for secret Vietnam peace talks and seeing another woman, she was so distraught that she wrecked her car at learning of the betrayal.
Nora Ephron, not similarly smitten, wrote a hilarious sendup of Kissinger’s alleged love life, which did him no harm, and he went back to subverting Vietnam peace efforts and eventually gave up his bachelorhood for a suitable soulmate he had met when they first worked together for Nelson Rockefeller, a potential President who faltered, leading Kissinger to sign on with Richard Nixon.
Ephron went on to marry Carl Bernstein (of Woodward and), who helped bring down Kissinger's boss but turned out himself to be a skirt-chaser of note, whom she eviscerated in her novel and movie, "Heartburn."
For all the nostalgia over seeing Kissinger again, looking like a puffed-up toad while pontificating for Colbert and other TV interviewers, it’s somehow sad to see Weiner, politically so much more attractive, having to “take a cure” for his rampant heterosexuality.
To quote a popular novel of Kissinger’s prime, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Apparently back then neither did lust, and Kissinger never did, but those days are long gone.