At these receptions, every American or Czechoslovak guest eventually made it to the drawing room, where the ambassador’s Oscar statuette sat on a bookshelf. I often sat and watched as one person after another grabbed the Oscar, felt its heft and held it high, sometimes giving a very short acceptance speech. And the ambassador would often take a photo next to the new Oscar “winner.” This was the type of cultural diplomacy that money can’t buy.
Guests sometimes wanted to linger, but the ambassador usually made it clear when the party was over. She would stand in the foyer, kick off her sky-high heels, light up a cigarette and open up the garden door to let in her dog, a boxer named Gorby, named after Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorby’s latent herding instinct kicked in and moved guests slowly toward the exit.
Now that she has headed off-stage, it’s time to raise a glass of grenadine and 7-Up and bid a fan’s fond farewell.
Markos Kounalakis is a research fellow at Central European University. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. Readers may send him email at email@example.com. He wrote this for The Sacramento Bee.