Kenneth Taylor was known as one of the best hosts in Tehran. The Canadian ambassador and his wife, Pat, frequently invited guests to their home. So it was nothing unusual when they welcomed some visitors last November.
But these guests stayed an unusually long time -- almost three months.
Taylor thinks that when he gets to Washington, possibly in May, to receive a unique, congressionally authorized gold medal in gratitude for giving sanctuary and an escape route to six U.S. diplomats, he will arrange a reunion with his long-term house guests.
"If they ask how long we plan to stay," the bushy-haired ambassador said with a grin during a weekend visit to New York, "maybe I'll say we thought we'd settle for a while."
At 45, Taylor was already a rising figure in the Canadian Foreign Service when he went to Tehran.
He came back a hero both at home and in the United States for pulling off the "Canadian caper," which was the only moment of joy for months in the agonizing prolonged holding of the U.S. hostages in Tehran.
The Taylors were making their first trip to the United States since the dramatic Jan. 28 exit of the six Americans and the remaining Canadians from Tehran. The ambassador received the keys to New York City, the first of many awards he will collect in the next few months.
We are slowly attempting to build up some sort of wardrobe," Taylor said of shopping he and his wife did. All their personal possessions were left in Tehran when they made the decision to fly the Americans out and temporarily close the Canadian Embassy.
The guest who came to dinner and stayed and stayed is a familiair joke, but the Tylors said that their long-term guests were extremely considerate. "Probably the pressure was greater on the house guests," Taylor said.
When the guests first arrived Nov. 10, everyone in Tehran expected the embassy siege would be over in a few days.After all, the U.S. Embassy had been invaded the year before and the crisis had been solved within a day.
"At first we would joke with them about our all being together for Christmas," Pat Taylor said. "I'd tell them that they would enjoy meeting our son Douglas."
Douglas, 15, who goes to school in France, came and went. So did Christmas. The two Americans living with the Taylors and the four staying in other Canadian residences remained without anywhere to go.
The Iranian servants presented an immediate problem. When Mrs. Taylor first learned the Americans were coming to stay, she told the servants that some friends of her husband's were arriving in Iran as tourists and would stay a few days.
When the tourists never made any effort to see the sights and stayed in their bedrooms late into the mornings, the Taylors offered various explanations. "I had to say that they were very tired," Mrs.Taylor said. She also had to explain that Canadian tourist often traveled light -- in this case with no belongings.
Whenever the Taylors had a dinner party, their house guests went out to dinner. After a while that became part of the household routine and the servants never seriously questioned it.
Ever since the Iranian revolution, many of the diplomatic missions had been asking the government for police protection.
To Taylor's dismay, in late November two or three policemen arrived in front of his residence. "I almost had to go to tell the Foreign Ministry that I didn't want the protection," Taylor said. But, in the unexplained fashion in which much has happened in Tehran during the last year, the policemen disappeared after a few days.
Having house guests brought an end to the Taylor's habit of spontaneous entertaining. Mrs. Taylor, a virologist, remembers getting a ride home from one of the laboratories where she worked up to the day she left Iran and, forgetting for a minute, suggesting her friend come in for coffee.
After a hurried withdrawal of the invitation, the Taylors and their house guests made up a code that could warn the guests to flee the living room.
"I always got the code wrong," Taylor said, with the result that people were sent scurrying for hiding places on false alarms.
On Jan. 19, Mrs. Taylor received a still unexplained telephone call from a man who insisted on speaking to one of the Americans, Joseph D. Stafford. aShe insisted she had no idea who he wanted, but that call spurred the Canadian government to get the Americans out of Tehran with phoney Canadian passports, and because of the unpredictability of the Iranian reaction, close down the embassy.
Taylor said they counted on the enormous turnover and reduction of the foreign community since the U.S. Embassy was seized Nov. 4 to make it unlikely that any non-Iranian would spot the Americans at Tehran's airport.
As for their fears that an Iranian would recognize someone, Taylor grinned and said they figured any Iranian would reason "all the Americans are either at the embassy or gone so that can't be who I think it is."
"You try not to think about the worset possible circumstances," Mrs. Taylor added.
The Americans played their role as tourists as best they could. They examined the remnants of the airport magazine stand. Some of them bought caviar. They looked at souvenirs.
"We've all been through a hundred airports," Taylor said, "but it's one thing to do with your passport and your own identity. It's something else to walk through with someone else's identity. The Americans all carried off their acts coolly," he added.
Several Iranians reacted to the Americans' rescue with anger. Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh attacked Canada for an act of deceit.
"I wouldn't win Ghotbzadeh's diplomat-of-the-year award," joked Taylor, who is still Canada's ambassador to Iran.
He said he has had no contact with any Iranian government official since he left Tehran, but he noted with interest that Ghotbzadeh recently proposed that Iran and Canada bury the hatchet.
In the near future, the Taylors will travel in the United States and Canada to receive several honors. One of the first is from the University of California, where they met as graduate students at Berkeley.
They also plan a short vacation in Australia, where Mrs. Taylor, who is of Chinese heritage, was born.
Eventually, the ambassador will be reassigned.
"Perhaps we can go somewhere where there is singing and dancing and good food," Mrs. Taylor said.