Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, former leader Mikhail Gorbachev found himself adrift. Political jockeying with a new regime had resulted in his pension barely amounting to $2 a month. His Russian Federation was in desperate need of funding to keep the lights on. For Gorbachev, the answer to his problems came from an unlikely source: Pizza Hut.
In a longform piece for Foreign Policy, author Paul Musgrave details the bizarre marriage of a former world superpower and an American pizza chain that resulted in Gorbachev briefly turning into a spokesperson for the brand.
In 1997, Pizza Hut’s advertising agency BBDO began pursuing a directive from the company to execute a campaign that presented the franchise as having global reach. Through intermediaries, it became apparent Gorbachev’s money woes allowed him to consider an appearance. For an undisclosed fee—reportedly in the seven figures when adjusted for inflation—the onetime world leader would appear in the spot but not eat the pizza. (A family member did, however. Gorbachev’s granddaughter, Anastasia Virganskaya, took a bite.)
You can watch the spot above, which was shot at an actual Pizza Hut in Moscow and features Gorbachev as more of a supporting player. The real conflict is between two men—possibly a father and son—arguing over Russian ideals. But the hook was clearly the novelty of seeing one of the most powerful figures in the world joining the ranks of Mr. Whipple and Flo from Progressive Insurance.
While Gorbachev did refuse to eat pizza onscreen, he had no such reservations during the shooting of the commercial. Everyone in the cast and crew had pizza for lunch that day.
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The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a devout champion for feminism and civil rights, and her influence stretched from the halls of the Supreme Court to the forefront of popular culture, where she affectionately became known as the Notorious RBG. Though there are plenty of public tributes planned for Ginsburg in the wake of her passing, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum has a new RBG bobblehead ($25) available for pre-order so you can honor her in your own home.
There are two versions of the bobblehead available, one of Ginsburg smiling and another with a more serious expression. Not only do the bobbleheads feature her in her Supreme Court black robe, but eagle-eyed fans will see she is wearing one for her iconic coded collars and her classic earrings.
RBG is far from the only American icon bobblehead that the Hall of Fame store has produced in such minute detail. They also have bobbleheads of Abraham Lincoln ($30), Theodore Roosevelt ($30), Alexander Hamilton ($30), and dozens of others.
For more information on the RBG bobblehead, head here. Shipments will hopefully be sent out by December 2020 while supplies last.
If you watch enough movies, you’re bound to spot Samuel L. Jackson. The 71-year-old star (he'll turn 72 on December 21, 2020) is one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood, appearing in Oscar-winning films like Pulp Fiction (1994) as well as blockbuster franchises like Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From his background as an activist to the origin of his R-rated catchphrase, here are some things you should know about the Oscar-nominated actor.
1. Swearing helped Samuel L. Jackson manage his stutter.
Before he was one of Hollywood's most accomplished actors, Samuel L. Jackson had trouble speaking in front of others. He was bullied for his stutter as a child, and he avoided talking in school for nearly a year because of it. He eventually took the initiative to treat the issue on his own by researching breathing techniques at the library. He also came up with a unique anchor word: motherf***er. The expletive that helped him manage his speech impediment would also become his professional calling card later in life.
2. Samuel L. Jackson was an usher at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral.
The assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968 thrust a young Jackson into the Civil Rights Movement. Jackson, who was a sophomore at Morehouse College at the time, flew from Atlanta to Memphis a few days later to march in support of a garbage workers' strike. Back in Atlanta, he agreed to be an usher at MLK’s funeral when he heard they needed volunteers. In 2018, he wrote about the experience for The Hollywood Reporter, saying, “I remember seeing people like Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. People that I thought I'd never see, let alone have a relationship with later on in life. The funeral was pretty much a blur.” He later staged a lock-in at his college that got him suspended.
3. Samuel L. Jackson almost became a marine biologist.
Jackson attended college in the 1960s with the intention of becoming a marine biologist. After he held the lock-in at Morehouse, he saw a performance by the Negro Ensemble Company that inspired him to pursue acting. When his suspension ended, he switched his major to drama and joined the theater group that inspired him.
4. Samuel L. Jackson was a stand-in on The Cosby Show.
Before he made it big in Hollywood, Jackson worked as a stand-in for Bill Cosby during tapings of the sitcom. "I was the right height, and I was the right skin tone," Jackson told Vulture in 2012 about the gig. "We did the blocking, while they did the camera choreography because it was a three-camera show. For two to three years, they would put his crazy sweaters on me."
5. Samuel L. Jackson's famous Jurassic Park line was inspired by another film.
Not long before he found a permanent place on Hollywood's A-list, Jackson played a small part in Jurassic Park (1993). John “Ray” Arnold wasn’t the star of the film, but he did say one of its more memorable lines: “Hold onto your butts.” Jurassic Park screenwriter David Koepp recently revealed that he borrowed the line from director Robert Zemeckis, who uttered it before watching reshoots of his film Death Becomes Her (1992).
6. Samuel L. Jackson asked for a purple lightsaber in the Star Wars prequels.
Jackson is such a big Star Wars fan that he immediately accepted the role of Jedi Mace Windu when George Lucas offered it to him. He did, however, make one request regarding the part: He wanted a purple lightsaber. Traditionally, lightsabers come in green for Jedi and red for Sith, but Lucas reluctantly agreed to make an exception for Mace Windu in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002). Jackson recounted the origins of his unique weapon on The Graham Norton Show: “We had this big arena, this fight scene with all these Jedi and they’re fighting or whatever. And I was like, well s***, I want to be able to find myself in this big ol’ scene. So I said to George, ‘You think maybe I can get a purple lightsaber?’”
7. Samuel L. Jackson is the highest grossing actor of all time.
Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in more than 150 movies, including blockbuster franchises like Star Wars and several of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including The Avengers series. So it’s not surprising that the actor has earned the distinction of being Hollywood’s highest-grossing actor. The combined box office earnings of all his films—which includes Avengers: Endgame, the biggest money-maker of all time—add up to more than $13 billion worldwide.
8. Samuel L. Jackson has his own wig consultant.
Jackson is bald in real life, but he has sported many iconic hairstyles over the course of his movie career. His ‘dos have become such a big part of his on-screen personas that he employs his own personal hair stylist and wig consultant. Robert L. Stevenson has used Jackson’s head as a canvas on dozens of films.
9. Samuel L. Jackson appears in Kill Bill Vol. 2.
After first collaborating with director Quentin Tarantino on Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown (1997), Jackson made a brief cameo in his Kill Bill series. The next time you watch Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004), pay close attention to Rufus the wedding piano player—he’s played by a familiar face.
10. You can hear Samuel L. Jackson on Amazon’s Alexa.
Jackson is known for his distinctive voice and colorful vocabulary. In 2019, the actor lent his vocal talents to Amazon’s Alexa. The Samuel L. Jackson Alexa option has many of the same capabilities as regular Alexa, including playing music, setting your alarm clock, and singing “Happy Birthday.” You can even let the feature use swear words for a more authentic experience.