I learned later that this was not an official head of state visit to the USA but a private visit which Vaclav Havel had arranged in order to meet his friend Milos Forman and other artists, musicians and playwrights living in New York City who were friends or whom he admired. This absence of grandiosity confirmed Vaclav Havel's place - he was already someone I admired - in my pantheon of heroes. Here was the president of a state - one which was a symbol for democracy gained by peaceful means - on a private visit not seeking to promote or glorify himself but simply to meet friends and fellow artists. We were told later by Richard, a friend of Stanley the hotel proprietor, that Vaclav Havel had not asked for the level of security which surrounded his private visit. The New York City and USA authorities had demanded it.
Vaclav Havel, as well as taking a major role in leading the 'velvet revolution' against the communist regime in what was then Czechoslovakia, showed humility, dignity, insight and more than anything respect for the democratic wishes of the people when the Slovaks and the Czechs decided to take their own avenues and form separate states. This is what my late father in law would call "statesmanship."
How different this is from the tawdry, pompous two dimensional front bench prigs in the House of Commons who consider themselves our political leaders and who seek to score cheap points at "PMQ" - as the prime minister David Cameron now calls it - in an attempt to get their show higher ratings than the X Factor.
Well, Vaclav Havel, the politician, you were a dramatist too, but you were sincere, humble and one of us. You died today, and I didn't quite meet you, or did I ?
Jeremy Millar writes, "a lovely story Charles, not sure if I'm more impressed by the proximity of Havel or how you dropped in 'we stayed at the Chelsea.' I guess you were aware of his love of the Velvet Underground and that is probably why he was at the Chelsea too."
Charles Sharpe responds " I can see what you mean Jeremy but be assured what I've written is utterly about a man, Vaclav Havel.