Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev arrived in Los Angeles on September 19, 1959 for a two-week visit to the United States during the height of the Cold War.
In one of the biggest diplomatic coups in history, a Greek immigrant named Spyros Skouras convinced the Soviets to let him show Khrushchev the lighter side of America.
President of Fox Films, Skouras organized a studio tour and lunch for the Soviet premier, and the two exchanged barbs back and forth while addressing each other during speeches.
Short, stocky and bald, the 66-year-old Skouras had a gravelly voice and thick accent.
“He had this terrible Greek accent — like a Saturday Night Live put-on,” recalled Chalmers Roberts, who covered Khrushchev’s U.S. tour for the Washington Post. “Everybody was laughing.”
Khrushchev listened to Skouras for a while, then turned to his interpreter and whispered, “Why interpret for me? He needs it more.”
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