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.


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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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