by Philip Weiss, Spy Magazine, November 1989, pages 59-76
Monte Rio is a depressed Northern California town of 900 where the forest is so thick that some streetlights stay on all day long. Its only landmark is a kick-ass bar called the Pink Elephant, but a half-mile or so away from “the Pink,” in the middle of a redwood grove, there is, strangely enough, a bank of 16 pay telephones. In midsummer the phones are often crowded. On July 21 of this year Henry Kissinger sat at one of them, chuffing loudly to someone — Sunshine, he called her, and Sweetie — about the pleasant distractions of his vacation in the forest.
“We had jazz concert,” Kissinger said. “We had rope trick. This morning we went bird-watching.”
Proudly Kissinger reeled off the names of some of his fellow campers: “Nick Brady and his brother is here.” (Brady was the U.S. Treasury Secretary at the time.) “Tom Johnson is here.” (Then the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, who had copies of his newspaper shipped up every day.) “That Indian is here, Bajpai.” (He meant Shankar Bajpai, former ambassador to the U.S.) “Today they had a Russian.”
The Russian was the physicist Roald Sagdeev, a member of the Soviet Supreme Council of People’s Deputies, who had given a speech to Kissinger and many other powerful men too. George Shultz, the former secretary of State, wearing hiking boots, had listened while sitting under a tree. Kissinger had lolled on the ground, distributing mown grass clippings across his white shirt, being careful not to set his elbow on one of the cigar butts squashed in the grass, and joking with a wiry, nut-brown companion.
The woman on the line now asked about the friend. “Oh, Rocard is having a ball.” Kissinger was sharing his turtleneck with Rocard, for nights amid the redwoods grew surprisingly cool. The two of them were camping in Mandalay, the most exclusive bunk site in the encampment, the one on the hill with the tiny cable car that carries visitors up to the compound.
Meanwhile, Kissinger had been offering Rocard advice: “I told him, ‘Do anything you want, hide in the bushes — just don’t let them see you.’” Rocard was Michel Rocard, the prime minister of France, and this was a secret trip. No one was supposed to know he was peering up at ospreys and turkey vultures and hearing Soviet speakers along with former American secretaries of State and the present secretary of the Treasury. And David Rockefeller too. And Dwayne Andreas, the chairman of Archer-Daniels-Midland. Merv Griffin. Walter Cronkite.