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Gorbachev, to pay bills, makes pizza ad

Graphic December 3, 1997
Web posted at: 3:45 p.m. EST (2045 GMT)

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who helped preside over the downfall of Communism in his country, is learning first-hand about capitalism by appearing in a television commercial for the Pizza Hut chain. The money he earns will be used to pay the bills at a research foundation that bears his name.

Though the ad was shot at a Pizza Hut in Moscow, there are no plans to broadcast the commercial in Russia, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The newspaper said Pizza Hut officials would not disclose where or when the ad would air.

"Mikhail Sergeivich Gorbachev received a lot of proposals over the past few years to do these kinds of TV commercials," according to a written statement from the Moscow-based Gorbachev Foundation. "As a rule," the statement said, "these proposals were rejected."

But the foundation said Gorbachev agreed to star in the ad because the organization badly needs money to buy the building where his library and archive are housed. The foundation now rents space in the Moscow building.

The foundation "never had, does not have now, and is not asking for any financial support from the government," the statement said.

Pizza Hut logo

Gorbachev, 66, told the Times he was not sure how much he was being paid, but some reports indicate his fee is close to $1 million.

According to the newspaper, the commercial begins with Gorbachev being noticed by customers as he arrives by limousine at a Pizza Hut. An older man grumbles, "Because of him, we have economic confusion." A younger man disagrees, saying, "Because of him we have opportunity."

Customers continue to argue, until an older woman says, "Because of him we have things like Pizza Hut." Then, everyone gives a standing ovation to their former leader, holding slices of pizza above them in tribute.

Gorbachev responds with a smile but does not eat any pizza. Instead, he sips coffee while watching his 10-year-old granddaughter, Anastasia, enjoy a slice.

The commercial featuring the former Soviet leader, known for introducing the reforms that eventually brought down the Communist state, was shot last week.

But Sergei Tatosyan, the manager of the Moscow eatery, said the television ad will not be shown in Russia, where Gorbachev is still widely disliked and blamed for the 1991 Soviet downfall.

"I guess he's a very popular person in the West, so they wanted him for the commercial," said Tatosyan.

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