The Dr. Henry Kissinger Assignment | Or, How I stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Radio

right photo by imaginative

At the OC radio depot our main task was repairing handheld two-way radios for security agents and personnel at U.S. missions abroad. We also supported Office of Security (S.Y.) details, both domestic and overseas (more on that later). There were odd jobs, too. My first “solo” assignment materialized after radio manager Kevin had surprised by taking me out to lunch—at a topless bar in Springfield.

<feature photo by Wikimedia Commons

Topless Bars and Clandestine Meetings

At the Lazy Susan Bar & Grill (real name CLASSIFIED!), Kevin, emboldened by a few beers, placed two one-dollar bills in dancer Monika’s bikini bottom and said to me, like we were spies, “I’ve got a job for you at Dr. Henry Kissinger’s residence.”

Kevin went on to surprise me again, this time with his knowledge of history. He intimated that a 1972 poll of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy bunnies selected our boss, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as the guy they would most like to go out on a date with. This seemed strange until Kevin named a string of celebrity girlfriends in Dr. K’s younger days, including sexy stars Candice Bergen, Jill St. John, and even Shirley Maclaine. Kevin wrapped up lunch by writing Kissinger’s address down on a Lazy Susan napkin and said, with a wink and a nod, “The subject’s communications device is not functioning.”

I thanked Kevin for his keen briefing on the Kissinger assignment and left him pulling out a fiver for dancer Monica…

Dr. Henry Kissinger’s Residence

As I stood outside Dr. Kissinger’s townhome in Georgetown the next morning I couldn’t help but compare Dr. K. to the equally famous Dr. Strangelove from the movie. I chuckled at Dr. Strangelove’s plan for post-nuclear war survival that involved living underground with a 10:1 female-to-male ratio. Dr. Strangelove explained that it would be a challenge for the men and the women would have to be selected for their sexual characteristics “of a highly stimulating nature” (you have to watch the movie to appreciate Peter Sellers brilliance).

Two years ago Kissinger had married so I assumed his “tom-catting days” were over. The reason I mention all of this is that I was about to go up to Dr. Kissinger’s master bedroom.

The Georgetown structure in front of me looked more imposing than the State Department. The maid, perhaps a Latin American, answered the door with a frightened look. When I showed her my State Department badge she scampered upstairs while repeating, “Don’t break no thing.”

No one was home. The maid left me in the Kissinger’s bedroom, which had been designated as a fortified “safe-haven area” (more on this concept ahead). I don’t remember much about the bedroom other than it was “ornate.”

My job was to fix the VHF two-way radio that the Kissinger household would use in the event of an emergency. A quick test isolated the problem to the antenna on the roof. Under a lot of peer pressure, failure was not an option. The spare antenna in my Jensen tool case would solve the problem.

I crawled out the bedroom window. It required some major stretching to balance on the narrow ledge and reach up to unscrew the antenna mount. I managed the process very slowly—I couldn’t screw this up.

After thirty minutes or so I finished the job. The new antenna was in place. I sighed a relief and slowly I backed into the bedroom clutching a handful of tools.

Just when I thought I had this caper tied up the unexpected happened. As I crawled back through the window I lost my balance.


I had nudged one of Kissinger’s precious objects.

A Chinese vase (a gift to Dr. K from Premier Chou En-Lai?) toppled over. It began rolling toward a hard-as-lead mahogany table…

“Don’t break no thing!”

I dropped my tools and dove on the floor. The vase wobbled toward its destination—sure to cause irrepairable damage.

I lurched forward, and with the mightiest of stretches, my subtle “technician” fingers extended just enough to contact the vase. It caused Chou En-Lai’s vase to change trajectory. The projectile veered off course before it potentially put an end to my fledgling Foreign Service career. It finally came to rest atop a sexy red “nightie” abandoned on the floor next to Dr. K’s prodigious bed (actually, the “nightie” might have been a bath towel).

Lying supine on the wood floor, I laughed as I imagined Dr. Kissinger chatting on the hot line to Chou En-Lai (in Dr. Strangelove’s voice),  “Chou, can you send me another one of those Ming  vases? You’ve got your monsoons and, unfortunately we’ve got earthquakes… and clumsy hired help.”

I regained some of my chutzpa with a radio test call to the dispatcher at D.O.S. (the U.S. Department of State): “Hello test… Enchanted Castle, this is Doc, over.”

“Doc, this is Enchanted Castle. I have you five-by-five.”

“Roger that,” I replied with a smile. “Doc out.”

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