Humberto Fontova

“Fidel Castro could have been Cuba’s Elvis!” (Dan Rather.)

“Fidel Castro is one hell of a guy! “You people would like him!” (Ted Turner to a capacity crowd at Harvard Law School during a speech in 1997.)

“Fidel Castro is old-fashioned, courtly—even paternal, a thoroughly fascinating figure!” (Andrea Mitchell.)

“Castro has brought very high literacy and great health-care to his country. His personal magnetism is powerful, his presence is commanding.” (Barbara Walters.)

“Viva Fidel! Viva Che!” (Jesse Jackson while arm in arm with Fidel Castro himself in 1984.)

"Fidel Castro is very shy and sensitive, I frankly like him and regard him as a friend." (George Mc Govern.)

(Fidel Castro is) “Very selfless and moral. One of the world’s wisest men.” (Oliver Stone.)

(Fidel Castro is) “A genius.” (Jack Nicholson.)

“Fidel, I love you. We both have beards. We both have power and want to use it for good purposes. ”(Francis Ford Coppola.)

But on August 13th Fidel Castro’s birthday came and went precious few salutations from his friends. Cuba’s captive (literally!) and normally boastful media scrambled frantically but could only report three birthday salutations from heads-of-state or celebrities to the ailing and moribund Stalinist: presidents Viktor Yanukovich of the Ukraine, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua --not exactly A-listers.

In fairness, Castro’s famous American friends mostly hailed from Hollywood, Manhattan and Washington D.C., notoriously the capitols of fair-weather-friendships. “If you want a friend in Washington,” said Harry Truman, “get a dog.”

But back in January 1996 Fidel Castro’s visit to New York, New York saw him hailed as “King of the Hill, Top of the List, Head of the Heap!”—and then some.

“The Toast of Manhattan!” crowed Time magazine regarding Fidel Castro’s reception by Manhattan’s beautiful people on the mass-murderer’s visit. “The Hottest Ticket in Manhattan!” also read a Newsweek story that week, referring to the social swirl that engulfed Castro in New York by the media luminaries who barely escaped incineration by his hand.

Humberto Fontova

Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit