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5 Restaurants Where Spy Games Were Played

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Restaurants are ideal places for spies to ply their trade, as there’s plenty of ambient noise, a nice crowd to throw things off, and food to go around, which tends to alleviate stress. Here are five restaurants where tradecraft was the daily special.

1. Au Pied de Cochon, Georgetown


Vitaly Yurchenko was a 25-year veteran of the KGB who defected to the United States in 1985. It was quite a coup for the CIA—he was the fifth-highest ranking Soviet spymaster at the time, and the Kremlin was terrified at what he might reveal. Then he disappeared. Then he reappeared in the Soviet Union and was eventually given an Order of the Red Star.

So what happened? Because he was such an important figure, he had a CIA escort at all times. He and his American counterpart were having dinner at Au Pied de Cochon in Georgetown. According to Time, Yurchenko asked his guard, “What would you do if I got up and walked out? Would you shoot me?” The CIA man said, “No, we don't treat defectors that way.” Yurchenko replied, “I'll be back in fifteen or twenty minutes. If I'm not, it will not be your fault.”

He didn’t come back.

He excused himself to the restroom, climbed out a window, and bolted for the Soviet Embassy. The KGB proceeded to drug and interrogate him to make sure he wasn’t a double agent, and when he passed muster, the Soviets held a press conference and had a great time mocking the United States. There are a lot of theories about why, exactly, he defected and redefected. Maybe he was crazy. Maybe it was a love affair gone wrong. Maybe he was tired of the CIA following him around.

Today, the former spymaster is a security guard at a bank in Moscow; the Soviet Union collapsed and dissolved into fifteen states. And Au Pied de Cochon is a Five Guys hamburger joint.

2. Chadwicks, Georgetown

Some people go to Chadwicks for the burgers. Some go for the beer. Some go for—as Chadwicks itself proclaims—“casual dining at its very best.” CIA case officer Aldrich Ames went to destroy U.S. operations in the Soviet Union.

On June 13, 1985, Ames met with Viktor Cherkashin, the Soviet chief of counterintelligence at the Soviet embassy in Washington. As Cherkashin recounted in his memoir, “Intelligence officers might think they’re chiefly responsible for recruiting agents, but most of the work really consists of finding people who want to be recruited.” After careful prodding, it was clear that Ames was just such a man. He had financial problems and an ax to grind, and though he claimed to abhor communism, he admitted a respect for the Soviet Union. “Then began the second chapter in Ames’s spy career. He hesitated, then took out a notepad and paper and began writing down a list of names.”

Aldrich Ames revealed the identities of more than one hundred CIA agents in the Soviet Union. In the weeks and months that followed, when the agents started disappearing, the “fifth floor” at Langley grew alarmed. Then the executions began. Ames’s price was $4.6 million, and his actions were the single most devastating compromise in CIA history. He was caught after buying a half-million-dollar house in cash, driving to work in a Jaguar, and wearing tailored suits—while supposedly living on a $60,000/year salary.

Meanwhile, Viktor Cherkashin was just getting started. He later turned Robert Hanssen, who would become the worst compromise in FBI history.

3. Aragvi Restaurant, Moscow

Pyotr Semyonovich Popov was a master spy and member of the Glavnoye Razvedyvatel'noye Upravleniye (GRU), the intelligence branch of the Soviet military. He came to detest the Soviet Union and its treatment of peasants, and eventually approached the CIA in Vienna. He became the first U.S. agent in the GRU. Popov is regarded for his dauntless and unparalleled tradecraft—he regularly got vital and invaluable information to the CIA even while being monitored by the Soviets.

After he was transferred to the Transportation Corps and stationed near Sverdlovsk, the information provided by Popov began to decline in quality. This puzzled and worried the CIA, and Popov himself soon provided an explanation: the KGB had arrested him, and was trying to turn him into a double agent. With signature boldness, Popov informed the CIA of this at the Aragvi Restaurant in Moscow. While under constant surveillance by KGB officers, Popov slipped a note to his CIA handler in the restaurant restroom. The message had been written on scraps of toilet paper over the course of several months.

Before the Aragvi meeting, Popov cut open his hand, wrapped the wound with the note, and wrapped it with a bandage. In the message, he explained the situation fully, including what information he had revealed to the Soviets while under interrogation. The note read in part: “Because the KGB believed I had confessed fully, they are using me in this double agent game. I was told that if I cooperate, my sentence might only be fifteen years. Thus I beg you to act as if you know nothing of this trap. I will keep you informed about my situation and the KGB’s intentions... Do not take any chances.”

Popov was executed a few months later. Though details are hazy, it is thought that British double agent George Behar betrayed him.

Popov’s CIA handler was George Kisevalter, who was also responsible for Oleg Penkovsky, the Soviet military intelligence officer who warned the United States about missiles being sent to Cuba. This is better known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

4. Le Meurice, Paris

On May 14, 1989, Felix Bloch, the director for Canadian and European Affairs for the U.S. State Department, arrived for dinner at Restaurant Le Meurice in Paris. His dining companion was Reino Gikman, an agent of the KGB. Unbeknownst to either man was that across the room were French counterintelligence agents with the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire. They photographed Bloch arriving with a black briefcase and leaving empty-handed, and Gikman arriving empty-handed and leaving with a black briefcase. As The New York Times reported, “It was an expensive dinner. The Meurice always is. But the KGB picked up the check.”

The FBI was eager to put Bloch away, but never managed to prosecute successfully. This was in part because the FBI and the CIA got into a turf war. The Company wanted to snatch both men that night at the restaurant. The Bureau wanted to lure Bloch back to the United States, where he would be easier to arrest. Bloch, meanwhile, protested innocence. Inside the briefcase was a stamp collection, he said. (And in fairness, Bloch was an avid stamp collector.) Either way, once he got back to the United States, the trail went cold. Someone had warned Bloch by phone to lay low and cut off contact with his KGB friend. The FBI believes that Robert Hanssen was responsible for the call.

Bloch was fired from the State Department and stalked relentlessly by the press. After one interview with Time magazine that was conducted at a restaurant, he thanked the reporter, saying he hoped they could do it again, “providing I don’t defect to East Berlin first.” He then turned to the FBI agents spying on him from across the restaurant. “Just kidding,” he said.

Bloch eventually got a job as a checkout bagger at a grocery store. He was later arrested for stealing bags of groceries.

5. Chez Espionage, Washington D.C.

There’s nothing like plotting international intrigue to build up an appetite. When spymasters at the Central Intelligence Agency wanted to get out of the office and blow off some steam, they used to meet at a restaurant laughably codenamed Chez Espionage. The actual venue seems to have rotated, or maybe it’s been clouded by disinformation, but French restaurants La Niçoise and L’Escargot have been named as meeting places. (Last reports put it at an unnamed country club.) David Atlee Phillips, former CIA chief of operations in the western hemisphere, came up with the codename.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios

"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


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