“And I say, I would very much like to go and see Disneyland. But then, we cannot guarantee your security, they say. Then what must I do? Commit suicide? What is it? Is there an epidemic of cholera there or something? Or have gangsters taken hold of the place that can destroy me?”
And thus did Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev cement his place in the hearts of the American people by throwing a hissy fit for the press after his exclusion from a tour of Disneyland on today’s date, September 19 in 1959. Krushchev had come to the United States to confer with President Eisenhower. Ike was very worried that an arms race would ensue between the United States and the Soviet Union which might bankrupt both countries if tensions between the two nations were not eased. With his presidency nearing its end, Ike was determined to do whatever he could to head this off. It was with this in mind that he had invited the gruff and blunt Soviet leader to the United States for a visit in 1959. But before coming to Washington, Kushchev was to stop first in California on a sort of good-will, get acquainted visit to the heart of Americas popular culture in Hollywood.
Marilyn Monroe Meets Nikita
A visit to the studios of 20’th Century Fox was arranged. The cream of what was then Hollywood’s elite lunched with the Soviet leader. Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, David Niven and even Marilyn Monroe met the odd-looking, and rather fat little man who had his finger on the other end of the nuclear red button. Monroe’s reaction was quite, well… quite Marilyn….
“According to her maid she later said, ‘ I could tell Krushchev liked me. He smiled more when he was introduced to me than for anybody else…. He squeezed my hand so long and hard that I thought he would break it. I guess it was better than having to kiss him.’ She could not see how someone ‘fat and ugly’ with ‘warts on his face’ could become the leader of so many people. ‘Who would want to be a Communist with a President like that? …. I guess there’s not much sex in Russia.’”
Mickey Bar the Door!!
Problems arose when the subject of a visit to Disneyland in Anaheim was raised. Accounts available on-line differ as to the genesis of the Premier’s request. Some say that Krushchev simply expressed a desire to see the amusement park. Other accounts say that a visit had been planned for Mrs. Krushchev all along, and that her husband decided to go along. Whatever the case, when security officials were consulted they said that there simply wasn’t the time to arrange the extensive security precautions that would be necessary for the Soviet Premier to visit the park in safety. So this man who clearly was not accustomed to hearing the “N” word had to be told just that, and he was furious. It was at a meeting with the press later that day that his temper boiled over, and he let loose with the regrettable tirade above.
So, Where Was Walt in All of This??
There was some talk that Walt Disney, a staunch conservative had torpedoed the idea. But Blogger Jim Hill has said that quite the contrary
– old Walt was actively looking forward to getting the publicity that Krushchev’s visit would certainly have brought to his Amusement Park which was then only four years old. As a matter of fact he even had some lines prepared to banter with Nikita:
“Disneyland’s PR staff envisioned creating a photo opportunity by having Walt and Khrushchev stand on the ‘Submarine Voyage’’s loading dock as all eight of the ride’s faux subs floated by. Disney’s gag writers even provided a quip for Walt to casually toss off at this photo op. As Nikita looked out at all of those subs, Disney was supposed to say: ‘Well, now, Mr. Khrushchev, here’s my Disneyland submarine fleet. It’s the eighth largest submarine fleet in the world.’”
Peter Ustinov as Krushchev????
According to Hill, Walt Disney even had a comedy film based on the incident in mind, and that he even had an “A – list” actor, Peter Ustinov
lined up and quite anxious to shave his head and play the role of a Soviet leader, who when denied his opportunity to visit this wondrous play-land, disguised himself, dodged his own security people and sneaked off to visit the place on his own. And of course, hilarity would ensue. Unfortunately, Walt Disney died in 1966, just as the project was nearing fruition. And the rather timid souls who took over in his place, considered the idea too risky and canned the project permanently. A pity, that!!
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“Mayday” by Michael R. Beschloss, Harper & Row Publ., New York, 1986