American embassy gets taste of Kosovo

GOOD MORNING: When you hear on radio the voice of the American Ambassador to China James R. Sasser, inside the U.S. Embassy building in Beijing, saying “We are basically being held hostage here,” and you see on television 10,000 Chinese marching on the Embassy, some throwing Molotov cocktails at the building and burning the American flag, you realize Kosovo is not just a foreign place anymore. And you no longer are only concerned about the fate of the Kosovar families, but the safety of a family representing this country. Coincidentally, Sunday night (May 9) we were having Mother’s Day dinner at BevHill’s La Dolce Vita restaurant as were John Gavin, wife Connie Towers and two daughters Maureen and Maria. Gavin had been U.S. Ambassador to Mexico from 1981-1986. I asked how a U.S. Ambassador is prepared for any such eventualities. Had the Gavins ever experienced any? Yes, they were indeed prepped for any eventualities. And Connie said the emergency security room at their Ambassadorial residence was in her sitting room where guns, communication equipment, etc. was hidden. (That has since been changed!) The Gavins had been briefed before taking their post by — Shirley Temple. As you recall, Temple had been our Ambassador to Ghana, 1974-1976 and later to the then-Czechoslovakia, 1989-1992. She also taught ambassadors-to-be and their wives at the State Department for eight years. Shirley told me “On the third day (of the instruction period) you teach them what to do in case of invasion or if you are taken hostage — what to do in terrorist attack.” She said, “When you are first appointed you read a book (about 30 pages) to tell you what to do in emergency. You have to make a plan — written. The only one who can call the Marines to free you is the ambassador and if he/she is incapacitated then his(her) deputy.” She said part of the training also involved teaching the newcomers how to handle themselves with the media, to be wary of “sound bite” reportage “It could be out of context,” she warned, “and get you in a lot of trouble.” Temple said she was very proud of Ambassador Sasser, but added, “I was a little concerned that they didn’t have any emergency rations and emergency water and power.” (They were eating Marine combat rations and sleeping on floors.) Temple said she had problems during her two tenures — and will tell about them in her next book, “The International Relations Years.” Her first book was “Child Star.” She said she is concerned about NATO segueing from a defensive to offensive force. “You do not bomb a sovereign nation,” she reminded. She has visited our Embassy in Beijing and she is also a member of the American-China Society chaired by Henry Kissinger with members also including Cyrus R. Vance, Warren Christopher, and George Schultz … The Gavins admitted they experienced minor problems outside the Embassy in Mexico City — like pickets during the drug investigations. John Gavin, now fully recuped from lung surgery with 100% AOK checkups, is heavily involved in private equity funding group$ like Global Crossing. Connie continues with her regular role as “Helen Cassadine” in “General Hospital” — while also touring in concertours, recently with John Raitt. Like I said, it’s a small world.

CATHERINE OXENBERG is retiring “Oxenberg” from her name for all time, she says. It’s now Catherine Van Dien. She and Casper Van Dien were married Saturday in the Graceland Chapel of Las Vegas. The wedding party consisted of her daughter, India, 7, and his children Bo, 5 and Gracie, 2 and best friend Garrett Warren. The Van Diens recently wound co-starring in “The Code” with Michael York … Lorne Michaels said Monica Lewinsky was paid “scale” (about $500) for her appearance on “SNL” Saturday. He complimented her performance, “She was wonderful” and the cast partied with her late into the night at Barolo. Michaels said Steve Tisch was helpful in getting her for the show. The season finale will topline Sarah Michele Gellar (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and the Back Street Boys. The “SNL” 25th anni show which launches the next season with a three-hour, prime time show, Sunday, Sept. 26 will hopefully include all those who have made the show successful … Sean Daniel, who produced U’s “The Mummy” with partner Jim Jacks, told me he believes 20th’s “Star Wars’ The Phantom Menace” “Put people in a movie-going mood.” But, thanks to 20th aside, he really thanks U’s Ron Meyer and Stacey Snider “for backing the event concept of our movie from the start.” And he admits, “The ideas for the sequel are getting good — and fast!”

NOT SO FAST — food for thought about Chasen’s: On the heels of announcements from the Sara Hallitex Corp. that they are initiating a $10 million equity financing and public launch of the “World Famous Chasen’s Restaurant and Jockey Club” comes word from the Chasen family and attorneys that they haven’t given “anyone that right.” Attorney Laura Ben-Porat of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher tells me they’ve put the operators of Chasen’s on Canon Drive in breach of agreement and their license agreement to operate the eatery will expire in 30 days. Grady Sanders, who has the license and who runs Chasen’s and the Jockey Club says his lawyers would be talking to the family’s lawyer. Stay tuned to learn what’s cooking.