Nikita Khrushchev Goes to Hollywood

Lunch with the Soviet leader was Tinseltown’s hottest ticket, with famous celebrities including Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin

The Soviet leader makes his entrance at 20th Century Fox on September 19, 1959. He would call Can-Can exploitive and pornographic. (Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images)
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That provoked the inevitable follow-up question: "Do you think Khrushchev wants to see you?"

"I hope he does," she replied.

The next morning, she arose early in her bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel and began the complex process of becoming Marilyn Monroe. First, her masseur, Ralph Roberts, gave her a rubdown. Then hairdresser Sydney Guilaroff did her hair. Then makeup artist Whitey Snyder painted her face. Finally, as instructed, she donned a tight, low-cut black patterned dress.

In the middle of this elaborate project, Spyros Skouras, the president of 20th Century Fox, dropped by to make sure that Monroe, who was notorious for being late, would arrive at this affair on time.

"She has to be there," he said.

And she was. Her chauffeur, Rudi Kautzsky, delivered her to the studio. When they found the parking lot nearly empty, she was scared.

"We must be late!" she said. "It must be over."

It wasn't. For perhaps the first time in her career, Marilyn Monroe had arrived early.

Waiting for Khrushchev to arrive, Edward G. Robinson sat at table 18 with Judy Garland and Shelley Winters. Robinson puffed on his cigar and gazed out at the kings and queens of Hollywood—the men wearing dark suits, the women in designer dresses and shimmering jewels. Gary Cooper was there. So was Kim Novak. And Dean Martin, Ginger Rogers, Kirk Douglas, Jack Benny, Tony Curtis and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

"This is the nearest thing to a major Hollywood funeral that I've attended in years," said Mark Robson, the director of Peyton Place, as he eyeballed the scene.


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