For a brief moment, the Happiest Place on Earth also became a flashpoint in the Cold War. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev kicked off a goodwill tour of the United States by strolling through Broadway, visiting a Pittsburgh steel mill, and marveling at the self-service cafeteria at IBM’s headquarters. Then at luncheon in Los Angeles Khrushchev was told his wife and children were free to attend Disneyland, but he himself could not be guaranteed safety (Disneyland may have been on the agenda, or someone – reportedly Bob Hope – suggested the Khrushchevs could visit the park). The event got uglier from there.
On this day, September 19, in 1959, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the other half of the world, was denied by the U.S. State Department a visit to Disneyland. The reason cited was that the Secret Service and LAPD could not secure the route and the park in time for his visit (although the police had previously escorted past Soviet dignitaries and former president Truman to the park.)
Famously short-tempered, Khrushchev exploded at the denial. “Just now I was told that I could not go to Disneyland. I asked ‘Why not? What is it? Do you have rocket-launching pads there?’ I do not know. And just listen—just listen to what I was told—to what reason I was told. We, which means the American authorities, cannot guarantee your security if you go there. What is it? Is there an epidemic of cholera there or something? Or have gangsters taken over the place that can destroy me? Then what must I do? Commit suicide?” Khrushchev never got to go, although much of his Soviet entourage did, and reportedly enjoyed themselves very much.