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The current woes of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn released on 100,000 Euros bail this week after being charged with involvement in a prostitution ring in France, reminds me of an incident that took place in one of the suites of the Waldorf Astoria in 1979, which Kuwait’s current emir Sabah Al Sabah — then the country’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister — had rented for a party.
I first reported this story in 1991 during a radio broadcast of a panel: “Women and the Gulf War: Winners or Losers?” that Bella Abzug had put together with several Middle East experts she’d profiled in the Women’s Foreign Policy Council Directory.
I was one of the specialists invited to speak and had covered the war for The Economist and Newsday. I still remember Bella at the conclusion of the session practically in tears answering her own question by pounding her fist on the table and yelling: “Women lost! Women lost!”
It is worth repeating the Al Sabah incident in light of the charges of aggravated pimping now before DSK in the Carlton Affair, named after the hotel where the parties took place in France, and the ongoing sexual exploitation of women that goes hand-in-hand with politics and business.
In 1979, I had returned to journalism after my start at Hearst Magazines in 1970 followed by a detour onto the fashion runways of New York for a few years modeling for Beene, Blass, Sant Angelo and others. By the late 1970s, I was fascinated by Middle East politics having been on an official visit in 1976 to Iran and Kuwait, along with New York executives from Estee Lauder, modeling the clothes of America’s top designers on Iranian National Television and in shows at the Tehran Hilton (later headquarters for the Iranian revolution).
In Iran the shows were attended by the country’s prominent families — including the royal family and former CIA Director Richard Helms and his wife Cynthia. Helms was US Ambassador to Tehran after being ousted from the agency in 1973 by President Richard Nixon. We similarly presented collections in Kuwait, at the US Embassy and at the Equestrian Club (temporary Joint Information Bureau headquarters at the time of the Gulf War).
So I was delighted in 1979 when a close friend, a banker and former foreign service officer, asked if I’d like to chat with the man who brokered the clandestine meeting between the PLO and then-US Ambassador to the UN Andrew Young. His name was Abdullah Bishara, Kuwait’s UN ambassador, a Humphrey Bogart look-alike, who would later become the Gulf Cooperation Council’s secretary general. Ambassaor Bishara was visiting Sabah Al Sabah at the Waldorf.
My friend and I arrived at the emir’s Waldorf suite early evening for a drink with Bishara, who I would formally interview many years later in Riyadh at GCC headquarters for Newsday‘s editorial pages. Like Bogart, Bishara loved cigars and was smoking one at the time we met.
Curiously, there were aluminum take-out dishes of chopped raw liver, onions and others vegetables, hummus, etc. in a corner of the room. Not what I expected to see. The Kuwaiti foreign minister, a short man with a hooked nose and raspy voice was nervously dashing about the room. He was not part of our discussion and said nothing of note that I can recall.
After twenty minutes or so, my friend the banker turned to me and urged me to leave immediately: “Don’t ask why. Just leave — NOW!”
I didn’t understand why I was being pushed out the door. But I soon would.
As I exited the suite, the wooden panels opened and in streamed 75-100 women with some of the most tortured and depraved faces I had ever seen. That moment is indelible in my memory.
I was informed the following day by my banker friend that not only was there an orgy in the suite but that there was another one downstairs at the hotel also involving male hookers.
The case of DSK and the Carlton Affair is business as usual. The issue is why police and hotel security continue to look the other way, who is being paid off and how much.
SUZAN MAZUR’s reports have appeared in the Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, Archaeology, Connoisseur, Omni and others, as well as on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs. Her new book, The Altenberg 16: An Expose of the Evolution Industry, is published by North Atlantic Books. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org