Mikhail Gorbachev: Pizza Hut Spokesman

Stacy Conradt
Mikhail Gorbachev.
Mikhail Gorbachev. / Bryn Colton/GettyImages

If you’re wondering what former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was doing hawking fast food, well, you’re not alone. The unorthodox 1990s career move raised the eyebrows of many who wondered why Gorbachev had turned to shilling subpar pizza. “The next step will be to advertise Tampax,” one Russian told CNN at the time.

The birthmarked bigwig claimed he appeared in the commercial to raise money for his Gorbachev Foundation, an international pro-democracy think tank. He wouldn’t have done just any commercial for just any company, he explained, and only accepted the Pizza Hut gig because of his firm belief that pizza is a food that brings people together: “It’s not only consumption, it’s also socializing. If I didn’t see that it was beneficial for people, I wouldn’t have agreed to it.”

The Pizza Hut ad, which co-starred Gorbachev’s then-10-year-old granddaughter, debuted in the U.S. during the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1998.

A version of this story ran in 2012; it has been updated for 2022.