Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gatecrashers follow in a fine tradition

The news that an American couple managed to gatecrash a state dinner at the White House brought to mind a book I read a couple of months ago.

K Blows Top is a very amusing account by journalist Peter Carlson of a visit made to the US in the late 1950s by barmy Soviet dictator Nikita Krushchev. At the height of the Cold War, 'K' and his wife toured the Land of the Free for nearly two weeks and got involved in all kinds of outlandish escapades under the full glare of the media.

One incident involved a guy called Jack Christensen from Mason City, Iowa, who is described in the book as a 'swimming pool operator'. He decided to invite himself to a farm in Coon Rapids that Krushchev was visiting. Not only did Christensen somehow worm his way past an extensive security cordon, but he actually got chatting with the leader of the USSR. Photos of the two men were taken beside some harvesting equipment before K was led away towards a pig pen. The emboldened gatecrasher decided to follow and grabbed a five-year-old girl who was a relation of the farm owner's business partner. He handed the kid to Krushchev as a prop for another impromptu papping session.

By the time lunch was being served in a grand marquee, security guards were vouching for Christensen. After all, wasn't he the guy who'd been photographed with Krushchev earlier on? Once inside, the interloper started chatting to Governor Adlai Stevenson, who'd been defeated by Eisenhower in previous presidential elections.

He had to be rumbled at some point, I guess. According to Carlson, the moment came when the owner of the farm actually challenged Christensen and asked him who the hell he was. The game was finally up and he made a quick exit while everyone was munching on barbecued steak.

However much the media pundits may tut-tut about threats to security and so on, we can only tip our hats to people with the chutzpah to pull off this kind of stunt. All the minders and bodyguards in the world are no defence against someone with a winning smile, sense of self-belief and a reckless commitment to winning their Warhol window of fame.

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