If You Knew Pinky …

Remembering Benazir Bhutto during her younger and more languid days on the Isis. Or was it the Charles?

Benazir Bhutto

I called her Pinky. She called me Pooh Bear. As Aspen Institute seminars droned on, we’d scribble anagrams of the participants’ names. “Had ingrain id,” I jotted during one particularly tedious lunch while Indira Gandhi extemporized about textile exports. “Rid hairy piranha disdaining,” Pinky replied in a flash, incorporating Mrs. Gandhi’s middle name, “Priyadarshini.” Had the press attaché seen, it could have been war.

We met freshman week at the Hayes-Bick in Harvard Square. Or perhaps during Michaelmas term at All Souls. No, it was a reception for the Shah at Harold Pratt House. I know we were thick as thieves at Davos, because I was her date to Sir Richard Branson’s river blindness buffet.


Wait, I’ve got it now. It was during an adolescent misadventure on Fishers Island involving—how could I forget?—a cigarette skiff, a tipsy debutante from Lower Merion Township, a future chairman of Manny Hanny, and an emu that we “borrowed” from the Brandywine Zoo. Pinky named him Fats.


Pinky and I were never lovers, but we were the best of friends. She had a key to my pied-à-terre in Bruges. Periodically she would use it for a weekend escape from that tiresome husband of hers. I, in turn, was her frequent guest in Larkana. Over breakfast one day in Karachi during her first term as prime minister, as she dropped my customary one lump of sugar into a mug of Earl Grey kept specially for me (it bore an Ernest Shepard illustration), Pinky batted those impossibly long eyelashes and said, “How would you like to write the constitution?” I stammered back that while I’d had a hand in revising the bylaws of the Century Club, I wasn’t sure I was up to crafting the ruling structures of a foreign nation. “Oh, nonsense,” she replied. “You wrote that great parody of the Raj Quartet for the Lampoon. This should be a cakewalk.” Such was her special grace.


The last time I saw her it was over drinks at the Pierre. I sipped a Tom Collins. She was feeling reckless, and downed three Jell-O shooters. “Oh, Pooh Bear,” she said. “Pakistan has such a long and troubled history. Maybe I should have listened to Charlie Rose and taken that job at Google.” Nonsense, I replied. The credit belongs to she who is in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat. Besides, the B-listers have overrun Renaissance Weekend.

I’d do anything to take back those words.

(With apologies to Peter Galbraith, Roger Cohen, Robert Novak, David Ignatius, Arnaud deBorchgrave, Arianna Huffington, Harry Shearer, Molly Moore, and Mark Steyn.)

[Update, Jan. 2: See also Harlan Ullman, Cal Thomas, Noel Irwin Hentschel, and Amy Spies. For a dissenting view, see David Warren.]