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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
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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
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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