On this day in 1959, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev is banned from Disneyland and explodes in characteristic anger. The pugnacious and portly leader had been touring Los Angeles, including a visit at 20th Century Fox.
This stop became the Hollywood event of the year, with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Gary Cooper, Elizabeth Taylor, Dean Martin, Ginger Rogers, Kirk Douglas, Jack Benny, Tony Curtis, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Bob Hope, Debbie Reynolds and David Niven, among hundreds more, packed into a lunch with the top communist.
It was during this fete at Fox’s elegant commissary, the Cafe’ de Paris, that Khrushchev’s staff learned the Disneyland visit was a scratch due to personal safety concerns of the LAPD, based on their 73-page security protocol for the protection of the Premier and his wife Nina.
After a 45 minute polemic of vitriol defending communism, Khrushchev voiced his disappointment, bellowing “Just now, I was told that I could not go to Disneyland. I asked, why not? What is it? What do you have there – rocket launching pads? Is there a cholera epidemic down there? Have gangsters taken control of the place? Your police are strong enough to lift up a bull; surely they are strong enough to take care of gangsters?” His fist punched the air above his red face. “That’s the situation I find myself in. For me, such a situation is inconceivable! I cannot find words to explain this to my people.”
Sitting in the audience, Mrs. Khrushchev told David Niven she truly was disappointed she couldn’t see Disneyland. Hearing that, Sinatra, sitting next to Nina Khrushchev, leaned over and whispered in Niven’s ear. “Screw the cops!” Tell the old broad that you and I will take ’em down there this afternoon.”
Notwithstanding his bellicosity, it was Khrushchev’s nuanced policies of De-Stalinization, “Reform Communism” and Peaceful Co-Existence which spelled his eventual doom; the failures in agriculture, the quarrel with China, and the humiliating resolution of the Cuban missile crisis had brought his reign to the tipping point.
In a plot befitting a Hollywood movie, On October 14, 1964, after a palace coup orchestrated by his protégé and deputy, Leonid Brezhnev, the Central Committee accepted Khrushchev’s request to retire from his position as the party’s first secretary and chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union because of “advanced age and poor health.” He was 70.
In the ensuing seven years, while under loose guard, Khrushchev recorded 180 hours of reminiscence, which were converted into 820 pages, smuggled out of the USSR and published as “Khrushchev Remembers.” Indeed, many observers cite this tome as the playbook for Glasnost and Perestroika, the pincers of the Eastern Bloc’s eventual undoing in 1991
And here, our story of the stout man with the noisy shoe endeth.