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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Score one for Skouras! Of course, Khrushchev was not willing to concede anything.

"Mr. Tikhonov, please rise," the premier ordered.

At a table in the audience, Nikolai Tikhonov stood up.

"Who is he?" Khrushchev asked. "He is a worker. He became a metallurgical engineer....He is in charge of huge chemical factories. A third of the ore mined in the Soviet Union comes from his region. Well, Comrade Greek, is that not enough for you?"

"No," Skouras shot back. "That's a monopoly."

"It is a people's monopoly," Khrushchev replied. "He does not possess anything but the pants he wears. It all belongs to the people!"

Earlier, Skouras had reminded the audience that American aid helped fight a famine in the Soviet Union in 1922. Now, Khrushchev reminded Skouras that before the Americans sent aid, they sent an army to crush the Bolshevik revolution. "And not only the Americans," he added. "All the capitalist countries of Europe and of America marched upon our country to strangle the new revolution. Never have any of our soldiers been on American soil, but your soldiers were on Russian soil. These are the facts."

Still, Khrushchev said, he bore no ill will. "Even under those circumstances," he said, "we are still grateful for the help you rendered."

Khrushchev then recounted his experiences fighting in the Red Army during the Russian civil war. "I was in the Kuban region when we routed the White Guard and threw them into the Black Sea," he said. "I lived in the house of a very interesting bourgeois intellectual family."

Here he was, Khrushchev went on, an uneducated miner with coal dust still on his hands, and he and other Bolshevik soldiers, many of them illiterate, were sharing the house with professors and musicians. "I remember the landlady asking me: ‘Tell me, what do you know about ballet? You're a simple miner, aren't you?' To tell the truth, I didn't know anything about ballet. Not only had I never seen a ballet, I had never seen a ballerina."


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