With the exception of Madame Khrushchev and her daughter, it was strictly a "men only" affair. About 300 of us were bidden to attend, and Frank Sinatra and I were detailed to sit with the two ladies and jolly them along with the help of an interpreter. This proved to be no chore. Madame Khrushchev was a sweet-faced motherly lady with an almost totally square frame encased in a black tent. Her grayish hair was pulled straight back into a bun; she smiled benignly at one and all and, within a minute of being seated, delved into a voluminous black handbag and passed to me across the table photographs of her grandchildren.
Her daughter was a quiet, thirtyish, large-nosed blonde, and both she and her fleshy husband, the editor of Izvestia, were equally affable. I asked Madame Khrushchev what they were planning to do after luncheon, and she looked very crestfallen.
"We were so much looking forward to visiting Disneyland," she said, "but the police have told us they cannot be responsible for our safety."
I passed this information on to Frank, who reacted in typical fashion. "Screw the cops," he said. "Tell the old broad you and I'll take 'em down there, this afternoon--we'll look after 'em."
I tactfully rephrased and then, via interpreter, relayed this suggestion to Madame Khrushchev, whose face lit up at the idea.
She delved into her huge bag and scribbled a note to her husband, which was dispatched to the speakers' table. Khrushchev reacted angrily and signaled nyet to her with much wagging of a forefinger. When Spyros Skouras, the president of Twentieth Century-Fox, rose to make his address of greeting, he chose, with elephantine bad taste, to describe how he, too, had risen from being a workingman to become the head of a great enterprise and sought to draw a parallel between his rise and that of the guest of honor, who had gone from coal miner to become the most important man in the U.S.S.R.
When Khrushchev's turn came, he stood, obviously flushed with anger, and proceeded to rend the wretched Skouras. He also poured scorn on the perfunctory airport welcome he had received that morning from Mayor Norris Paulson of Los Angeles and ended by acidly observing that it must be a sad state of affairs if living in Mayor Paulson's city was so dangerous that Madame Khrushchev and his daughter could not be safe in a children's playground.