Diplomacy—and history—has taught Henry Kissinger a thing or two about knowing who your friends are. After detecting hostile vibes in a projected 60 Minutes report on his relationship with the deposed Shah of Iran, Kissinger refused to be interviewed for the program, which was broadcast May 4. Twenty-four hours earlier, however, he had cheerfully subjected himself to a “roast” by the New York Friars Club, a raucous gathering that in its stag days often featured jokes that would make a dock worker squirm. But with bejeweled ladies in attendance, this year’s Kissinger dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria evolved into an unabashed hymn to him. The crowd of 1,500 paid from $200 to $500 a seat to hear a celebrity-studded dais, including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Barbara Walters, turn the evening from roast to affectionate toast. As master of ceremonies Kirk Douglas began, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here tonight to honor a man who’s flown more miles than Jonathan Livingston Seagull…” Even 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace was on hand to pay tribute and hear Kissinger defend his stiff-arming the TV show because of its title: The Shah-Kissinger Connection. “Anything that gives me second billing is a hatchet job,” he quipped.
Despite minor rumblings from a few club members that the evening was too political and serious, Kissinger pronounced his own benediction to the nearly three hours of praise. “You have said nothing here,” he intoned, “with which any rational man could quibble.”