spare me the bag inspection

Alexander Comstock Kirk (1888 – 1979) was a United States diplomat. I think he would have been rather a pleasure to hang out with…..

His family’s wealth was derived from America’s largest soap manufacturing concern. Its national brands were “American Family” for laundry and “Juvenile” for the bath.


image found here

At age 9, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago until his family decided he was too young to be drawing nude models. He was then sent to work incognito in a soap factory until his identity was discovered. 


Andy Warhol as a child found here

Kirk joined the American Diplomatic Service in 1915. He managed the State Department budget for a time in the 1920s, and later said he thought it “an obligation” to spend the entire amount in order to support the argument for additional appropriations. While posted to Cairo, Kirk kept one house in the city for lunch, another near the pyramids for dinner and sleeping, and a houseboat on the Nile.

houseboat on the Nile found here

While posted to Berlin, he lived in an enormous mansion in the swank Grunewald neighborhood. A visitor described it as “one vast hall after another, and he quiet and alone in the midst of it. Very funny; a little like the theatre.” His staff of servants spoke only Italian. He held “a large buffet luncheon every Sunday noon, as a means of revenging himself for such hospitality as his position required him to accept.

Karl Lagerfield designed the Schlosshotel in Grunewald

In 1945 he attributed “his excellent health to the fact that he has never worn himself down by any form of exercise more violent than scratching, which he only does when suffering from insomnia at 6 a.m.”

A few years after Kirk’s retirement, as Senator Joseph McCarthy launched a campaign against suspected homosexuals in government, one investigator’s report charged that certain State Department employees “were very close personal friends of former Ambassador Alexander Kirk who is not now in the service but who had a very bad reputation of being a homosexual and certainly protected a lot of homosexual people.

image found here

He was a carryover from an older day when to be rich entitled you to be eccentric, and he made the most of the privilege. As a gesture of defiance, and in the indulgence of a fine sense of the theatrical, Kirk presented himself as the sort of American career diplomat of which the American philistine has always been the most suspicious: elegant, overrefined, haughty, and remote. His conversation consisted largely of weary, allusive quips.

image found here

Kirk claimed he escaped from diplomatic functions by whatever ruse the situation required. At one embassy in Rome he found it necessary to leave by a door he could only reach by going under a grand piano. “In a case of this sort, Kirk recommends slow motion, which, he says, often prevents witnesses from even noticing a maneuver which, if executed fast, might horrify them.”

image found here

Retiring after his mother’s death, he disclaimed all further interest in the Foreign Service. He had entered it, he solemnly maintained, only to spare her having her bags inspected at frontiers.

Published in: on January 28, 2012 at 10:58 pm  Comments (49)  
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49 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Kirk’s soap needed on Mars?Their marketing division needs to be washed away.

    • they probably have been.

  2. I’m going to install a door under my grand piano RIGHT NOW. Oh. I don’t have a grand piano. Damn technicalities. Myabe a door under my theremin would substitute?

    • Oh yes, a door under your theremin would be an excellent substitute

  3. Good god! Lagerfeld should have been shot for that wallpaper alone!

    • And what’s up with the pink velvet monstrosity.
      I’d have nightmares in it.

      • I don’t hate the wallpaper and the chaise lounge on its own might be ok. But the bed…… oh my god, how hideous is that?

  4. Nursemyra,I have just posted a thorough answer for your question. I happen to be quite knowledgeable in this area.

    • Thanks Carl, I appreciate it

  5. Gosh, what could have been the contents of mummy’s bags (other than the bars of soap)?

    This also brings to mind another soapy nutsack named Dr. Bronner.

    What’s the deal with soapmaking people anyway?

    • Dr Bronner sounds like the Gimcrack’s sort of crazy

      • I lived in Heilbronn from 1968 to 1982. Wonder whether thy honoured him as one of the great sons of the city.

  6. I guess he washed his hands of it all…

  7. sounds like every queen i’ve ever met, including myself.

    • I think we’d get along very well indeed!

  8. If I had that kind of money, I’d probably be the exact same way as well. :P

    • Two houses would suffice for me.

  9. I have always been proud of my bag and welcome any inspection of it.

    • better unzip it now then, I have my magnifying glass handy.

  10. ‘he has never worn himself down by any form of exercise more violent than scratching’ … exactly!

  11. Wonderful man! From a different aera, fin de siecle produced a very special breed..
    McCarthy was a real piece of crap and I always stand in awe how this stupid bag of foul air mesmerized a whole nation.

    • What’s your opinion of Hoover?

      • I think he wanted to protect a kind of dreamland, a childhood all is well America of his imagination. And of course it was to be attacked by the badbad reds, while people like Lucania (alias Luciano) or “The Little Man” Lansky were hard working business men. I think he was as paranoid as Nixon and should have been removed from office at the beginning of the 1960s latest.
        But I have to confess that I have never devoted meself to his biography. I understood that the FBI is a means of oppression but for some reason I do not understand, I never looked closely at Edgar. And no, I will not go and see the fillum, simply because Mr. diCaprio makes me puke. He mostly plays the obligatory piece of wood, and he’s good at that. At least.

  12. Talk of soap always reminds me of prisons for some reason. I’m glad he wasted so elegantly, and I must try the slow motion trick myself at our next ball.

    Our servants only speak cat and dog, really must get on to that.

    The King

    • My servants speak cat and parrot. And they’re insolent in both languages.

  13. As professional slinkers, us coyotes can attest to the effectiveness of the slow motion sneak to keep people from noticing what you’re up to.

    But once you’re spotted, all bets are off. Hit the frickin’ gas and scamper… especially if firearms are in evidence.

  14. I would think sneaking out under a piano takes more energy than scratching oneself.

  15. Everyone, including myself, seems to be preoccupied with the grand piano exit…

  16. I like that houseboat on the Nile. I bet he saw some rock roaring sunsets.

    • a houseboat on the Nile sounds like the height of decadence.

  17. I entirely intend installing a grand piano above the front door.

  18. i have scratched myself to exhaustion on more than one occasion. definitely earns me a drink and a nap…

  19. How does scratching help insomnia?

    • Ask your husband. I seem to recall him being back-scratched to sleep some time ago. Was it in France?

  20. I’m still hung up on a wealthy family sending their 9-year-old to work in a soap factory. Illinois already had public schools and compulsory education when he was 9.

  21. I love the house boat, and the piano…
    Bless You
    paul

  22. We knew the State Department was infested with Communists, but gay Communists? I hadn’t heard that one.

  23. My husband joined the Foreign service for the self-same reason – although it was his wife’s rather than his mother’s bags that were his chief concern.

  24. Yanked out of the Art Institute…
    I wonder if the piano trick would have worked in reverse?
    Brutal.

  25. I like that idea of a “…buffet luncheon…as a means of revenging himself for such hospitality as his position required him to accept.”

    Hmm…what would I serve?? ;)

  26. *dreaming of a houseboat on the Nile*

  27. Wonder if he was the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s hopeful tale :)

  28. “He has never worn himself down by any form of exercise more violent than scratching.” Jenny would heartily concur. She has always held that exercise is bad for you.

    Indeed, what was in Mummy’s bags that had to be spared inspection? Bars of soap containing illegal drugs?

  29. From drawing nude models to being sent to work in a soap factory. I think that’s possibly the best way to describe life that has taken a really dull turn.

  30. For a little while I read “soap” as “soup.” I’m not sure what this says about me, but I’m fairly confident it’s quite profound.

  31. I always feel the need to revenge myself for acts of hospitality.


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