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The Night I Dined with Henry Kissinger in the Woodlands

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Henry Kissinger. Photo by David Shankbone.

By: Kurt F. Stone

As one enters the Woodlands County Club in Tamarac, one of the first homes on the left is a large white residence with a stone front and a brown-shingled porte cochère. For many years it was the home of Harold and Claire Oshrey. Harold (1918-2002) was an immensely successful businessman, who in 1955 created one of the first auto-leasing companies. 
 
The Oshreys were both philanthropic lions who sat atop the Woodlands social totem pole. To be invited to their home for dinner was a mark of “having made it.” I reached that enviable rung in 1984, when Harold called, asking me to don my “soup and fish” (tuxedo) and come over to their manse for dinner.
 
“And by the way Kurt,” he said, “Did I tell you we’ll be dining with Dr. Henry Kissinger? Come early so you can get through security.”

Having been involved in national politics for nearly 15 years, I was accustomed to running security gauntlets. But nothing I had ever experienced could compare to the number of uzi-toting men surrounding the Oshrey residence. That evening, outside of the White House at 5304 Woodlands Boulevard was probably the most secure residence in America.
 
Harold had invited Dr. Kissinger to come as Guest of Honor at a fund-raiser for one of his pet causes, which one now escapes my memory –  they had so many. Upon being introduced to Dr. Kissinger, I told him that years earlier I had worked with a reporter named Gary Franklin (nee Frankenstein), who claimed to have known him since boyhood. Kissinger confirmed what Gary had told me: that the Kissinger’s and the Frankensteins had come to America on board the same ship in 1938.
 
Then Dr. Kissinger asked, “They tell me you’re a rabbi. What kind?” “Jewish,” I said, in a febrile attempt at humor. Dr. Kissinger was not amused. Sensing that perhaps I should be a bit more serious, I said, “I assume you mean whether I am Orthodox, Conservative or Reform?” “Yes,” he replied. “What are the differences between the three?”
 
Pausing for a moment’s reflection, I responded. “Do you want it long and academic, or something short and sweet?”
 
“The latter,” he said in his famous drone.
 
“Well,” I said, warming to my material, “The Orthodox are crazy, the Conservative are hazy and the Reform are lazy!”
 
Dr. Kissinger pondered my response for no more than five seconds, which felt like an eternity. From the puzzled look on his face I could tell he hadn’t grasped my pun.
“Mr. Secretary,” I said somewhat sheepishly, “It was meant to be humorous.” Mulling it over, he deadpanned, “Ah yes, very funny.”
 
He still didn’t get it.
 
The one thing I learned that night long ago while dining at 5304 Woodlands Blvd. was that Henry Kissinger – Harvard professor, Secretary of State, Nobel laureate – had absolutely no sense of humor!

About Kurt F. Stone: Longtime Woodlands resident Kurt F. Stone is a political historian, author of two mammoth biographic works on Congress, and the eponymous blogger of the internationally-read “The K.F, Stone Weekly.” He teaches at FAU, FIU and Nova.

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