Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Dinner of the Century: August 13, 1969
President Richard Nixon hosted a 'Welcome Home' dinner for the Apollo 11 astronauts on this date, forty years ago at The Century Plaza Hotel. It was the first state dinner held outside the White House in over a century, according to the the Los Angeles Times. The L.A. Conservancy has pictures and all the details here.
It was an intimate soiree for 1440 people, and of course, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were front and center, with their wives. They were flown in on Air Force One, after a ticker-tape parades and festivities in New York City and Chicago.
VP Spiro Agnew, Red Skelton, CA governor Ronald Reagan, all but six of the other state governors, other astronauts, senators, cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, Wernher von Braun, Billy Graham, diplomats from 63 nations, and movie stars like Rudy Vallee and Gene Autry all attended. And there were anti-war demonstrators outside the hotel.
Guess who declined their invitations? Howard Hughes, Charles Lindbergh, former presidents Harry Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson, and all the Kennedys. And California's Republican senator, George Murphy, was invited--but not our Democratic senator, Alan Cranston. Oooh, snap!
Don't you love trivia? Here's my favorite bit: the seven-course dinner (paid for by NASA, mostly) cost about $30 a plate. For that princely fee, guests dined on salmon poached in champagne with prawns, oysters, truffles, and crayfish butter, fillet of beef on a crouton and gooseliver pate and a truffle sauce. . . . I could go on (this is from the Los Angeles Times of the day) but why not check out the menu yourself at the CookedBooks blog?