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What a Communist will do for money

How Pizza Hut landed an unlikely pitchman, the late Mikhail Gorbachev.

All these years later, the commercial is still a stunner: The onetime leader of capitalism’s archenemy, plugging a very symbol of the American free-enterprise system.

Yet there was Mikhail Gorbachev, the last premier of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, relishing a visit to Russia’s first Pizza Hut with his granddaughter. If that wasn’t controversial enough, much of the spot’s dialogue was a debate over Gorbachev’s controversial legacy.

The situation was unusual, if not bizarre. Equally as extraordinary was how it came about and the conditions Gorby set for becoming a pitchman.

This week’s episode of Restaurant Rewind, Restaurant Business’ retro-focused podcast, looks at the lead-up to the ad and how Russian politics served Pizza Hut’s global marketing agenda. In recognition of Gorbachev’s death last week t age 91, host and RB Editor At Large Peter Romeo leads a quick trip back to one of the strangest casting moves in restaurant history, Russian or American.

Download the episode and every installment of Restaurant Rewind from wherever you get your podcasts.

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