Henry Kissinger: West Wing Playboy, or Overworked Diplomat?

American diplomat Henry Kissinger and actress Jill St. John attend a party at the Bistro in Hollywood, California, circa 1970.
Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images

Living to 100 is an impressive feat for anyone. But for a man who worked as much as Henry Kissinger, it’s even more so. Kissinger, born in Germany in 1923, made a name for himself as a diplomat and politician who served as the US Secretary of State and was the national security advisor under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

Considered by many to be a war criminal, and by others to be a self-hating Jew, Kissinger was undoubtedly a polarizing figure. A Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany in 1938 and went on to graduate from Harvard, the man played a very key role in US foreign policy during the 1960s and 1970s, winning the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam and helping to negotiate peace agreements in Israel during and following the Yom Kippur War later that year and into 1974.

THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE, Henry Kissinger, Robert Evans in the 1970s, 2002

Courtesy of Everett Collection

According to some, Kissinger was also quite the ladies man, at one point labeled a ‘West Wing Playboy’ due to an article in The Post. Between his marriage to his first and second wife, a span of about ten years (1964-1974) during which he was one of the most prominent political figures in America, Kissinger was going out to dinner with Hollywood starlets like Jill St. John and Marsha Metrinko, making the rounds at the Playboy mansion, and was even set up with Zsa Zsa Gabor by Nixon himself. The date ended abruptly, however — as they were about to kiss, Nixon called him back to work via beeper message.


Everett Collection

Zsa Zsa Gabor forgave his abrupt leave of absence, and invited him out for another date, but Kissinger canceled at the last second, again because of work. Metrinko said of their relationship that she was “always home by midnight,” because work always came first, and there was always some emergency calling for his attention. (When your job involves national security, this is probably a good thing!)

PICTURE MOMMY DEAD, Zsa Zsa Gabor, on-set, 1966

Courtesy of Everett Collection

I don’t doubt that the man got around — like Kissinger once said of his popularity with women: “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac” — but a playboy? Unlikely. His first marriage lasted 15 years, and his second marriage was nearing its 50th anniversary before his death on Nov. 29. Plus, the man was busy. You need more free time to be a true playboy.

Those close to him have a very different take than the media.

MOYNIHAN, Henry Kissinger, US National Security Adviser, 1969-1975; US Secretary of State, 1973-77. Served with Moynihan under both Nixon and Ford presidencies, 2018.

First Run Features /Courtesy Everett Collection

“That swinger stuff is bunk. He never was a good mixer,”  Kissinger’s mentor Carl Friedrich told The Post in 1974. “Nixon said, ‘My God, Henry, you’ve got to have a human quality.’ He went along with it because he was obedient.”

“Henry’s so square,” his widow Nancy said of him, also in The Post. “He’s always been square.”’

What’s the truth? We may never know, but I trust the opinions of those who knew him over a newspaper any day! One thing we know for sure is he lived a very full (and probably very interesting) life.