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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The audience laughed.

"I did not know what sort of dish it was or what you ate it with."

That brought more laughter.

"And I said, ‘Wait, it will all come. We will have everything—and ballet, too.'"

Even the tireless Red-bashers of the Hearst press conceded that "it was almost a tender moment." But of course Khrushchev could not stop there. "Now I have a question for you," he said. "Which country has the best ballet? Yours? You do not even have a permanent opera and ballet theater. Your theaters thrive on what is given to them by rich people. In our country, it is the state that gives the money. And the best ballet is in the Soviet Union. It is our pride."

He rambled on, then apologized for rambling. After 45 minutes of speaking, he seemed to be approaching an amiable closing. Then he remembered Disneyland.

"Just now, I was told that I could not go to Disneyland," he announced. "I asked, ‘Why not? What is it? Do you have rocket-launching pads there?' "

The audience laughed.

"Just listen," he said. "Just listen to what I was told: ‘We—which means the American authorities—cannot guarantee your security there.' "

He raised his hands in a vaudevillian shrug. That got another laugh.


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