My dear friend Henry Kissinger and Princess Diana flirted outrageously and he ... trends now
Henry Kissinger, who has died aged 100, will be publicly remembered as one of the most creative and controversial statesmen of the 20th century. But in private he was a charismatic and entertaining personality, as those of us fortunate enough to enjoy his friendship well know.
Although tubby and bespectacled, he was irresistibly attractive to women. I saw this first hand when I stayed for a weekend at his country home in Connecticut, where he seemed to be permanently surrounded by adoring ladies.
The same phenomenon was on display at a memorable private dinner party given in 1995 by the then Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd at his official residence, No. 1 Carlton House Terrace.
There I watched Henry deploy his twinkling charm and mesmeric basso profundo voice to captivate Princess Diana.
I recall that Diana's opening conversational gambit - accompanied by much fluttering of eyelashes - was along the lines of: 'I am afraid I am not an expert in foreign affairs, Dr Kissinger.'
To which, with guttural gallantry, Henry replied: 'Do not worry, Ma'am. This is a subject in which most of us students never finish their degree. But your charisma will persuade many foreign statesmen that you are capable of a First.'
Diana, Princess of Wales at Christies attending the gala party to launch the sale of her dresses with Henry Kissinger
Malcolm Forbes, Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Kissinger
Margaret Thatcher looks at the Capitol from a balcony of the State Department in Washington, in September 1975 with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
He was well practised in such flattery. Before his marriage to the philanthropist and socialite Nancy Maginnes, Henry dated a string of beautiful film stars, including Jill St John, Shirley MacLaine, Samantha Eggar, Liv Ullman and Candice Bergen.
This track record qualified him to coin a phrase for which he will long be remembered: 'Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.'
I first met Henry Kissinger soon after the publication of my 1992 biography of President Richard Nixon. He wanted to see me because, having described the two statesmen as 'the odd couple', I had - in his view - attributed too much of the credit for their joint foreign policy achievements to the President and too little to his National Security Adviser.
I was amazed by Kissinger's real, but well-concealed, insecurity about his historical reputation.
It did not take long to reassure him that I accepted he had made an equal contribution. But there was one sticking point. I had written (accurately) that Kissinger initially opposed Nixon's desire to make overtures to China, telling his then deputy Al Haig in early 1975: 'This crazy President really wants to normalise our relations with Beijing. He's nuts!'
I explained that Haig had told me this in a tape-recorded interview.
Kissinger was temporarily nonplussed and then retorted: 'I was expressing my astonishment, not my opposition.'
Henry mellowed in his later years. We became friends and I discovered that he could be a very generous host. He particularly enjoyed combining the roles of elder statesman and celebrity party-goer.
One of his favourite venues for letting his hair down was the Bohemian Grove in Sonoma County, California. One July, I spent a memorable five days there as Kissinger's guest.
Henry's 'Caveman' campers included the future president George W. Bush, George Shultz (former secretary of state), construction tycoon Steve Bechtel Jr, investment legend Charlie Munger and Ratan Tata (chairman of India's mighty Tata Group).
We slept under the stars and the Grove's majestic Redwood trees.
Given the nature of the company, there was plenty of serious conversation, but what I remember most was the revelation of Henry's lighter side. He clearly loved the male-bonding rituals of the Bohemian Grove, from the campfire sing-songs to skinny-dipping, hard-drinking party games and cabaret turns.
When it came to the latter, he excelled at doing hilarious impressions of other contemporaries on the world stage.
One of his best concerned an episode in the Oval Office when Kissinger mistakenly ushered in the president of the African state of Guinea instead of the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, whom Nixon had been briefed to expect. Diplomatic chaos ensued!