“Sex, Spies, and the 1960s”: Christopher Sandford

in AmCon, for those who would like a vivacious little primer on the Profumo affair:

Shortly before 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 1962, a 36-year-old Soviet naval captain, gourmand, and priapic man-about-town named Yevgeni Ivanov entered a low-lit restaurant in London’s fashionable South Kensington. Although dressed in the standard boxy dark suit and gabardine raincoat, Ivanov cut a striking figure even in that free-swinging era. There was a certain bustle about him, and he moved through the restaurant with a simian lope, all flashing gray eyes, crinkly dark hair, tufted mustache, and abounding predatory energy. He looked like a Russian spy out of central casting, as interpreted by Groucho Marx.

Ivanov was there to talk about the Cuban missile crisis, which had entered an ominous new phase that morning when 19 destroyers of the U.S. Second Fleet took up stations in an arc around the island, with orders to turn back ships found to be carrying offensive weapons. The world held its breath: “we all sat with our hearts in our mouths to see whether any of the Russian ships did turn around,” recalled David Ormsby-Gore, the British ambassador to Washington. About the time Capt Ivanov walked into the restaurant, President Kennedy picked up the hotline to call Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in London. The two leaders discussed possible Soviet reactions to that day’s embargo. Then, “rather unexpectedly,” recorded Macmillan in his diary, “President asked me straight out the 64 thousand dollar question—‘Should we take out Cuba?’”


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!