The Real Reason Mikhail Gorbachev Was In This '90s Pizza Hut Commercial

After leaving office, politicians can be found in any number of places doing any number of things. Sometimes they wind up making the rounds as speakers, or they may write books, while others, unfortunately, wind up in prison. You see them on currency, on cable news channels, and on monuments, but one place most people would never expect to find a politician — especially not one who led one of the most powerful nations in history — is in a commercial for Pizza Hut.

The final president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev was responsible for perestroika, a restructuring of Soviet political and economic policies in the 1980s (via Britannica). By the 1990s Gorbachev seems to have gone into full-fledged capitalist mode, because that's when Pizza Hut came knocking with an offer to appear in an advertisement in exchange for a nice chunk change. It's fair to say most people would take this offer, especially for the amount of money that Gorbachev was reportedly offered — according to Eater, it was around $1 million.

Mikhail Gorbachev's policies led to the end of the Soviet Union

Mikhail Gorbachev was the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the final days of the Union and served as the country's president in its final, final days, from 1990 to 1991 (via Britannica). Also according to Britannica, perestroika means restructuring, and that is simply what it was: a move from the communist policies of the Soviet Union to more democratic free-market policies that would eventually be employed — to a degree — by Russia.

Another pillar of Gorbachev's policy was decentralizing the power in the Soviet Union, thereby weakening the Communist Party's stranglehold and giving more power to local governments. Gorbachev also attempted to set up better relations with nations to both the east and west after years of frosty suspicion between the Soviets and the rest of the world, save for a few allies sprinkled here and there. His efforts would ultimately led to him being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

Mikhail Gorbachev shilled for Pizza Hut

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev found himself out of a gig, and a pretty good one at that. According to Foreign Policy, Gorbachev turned to fundraising for various causes and made an attempt at returning to Russian politics. A political return was a tall order, because while much of the world celebrated him, back in Russia, he was reviled by a large portion of the population for bringing about the end of the Soviet Union, per Brookings.

According to Eater, Gorbachev was working to raise money for a research institute when Pizza Hut came calling. The pizza chain was willing to fork over a reported $1 million for the former president's pizza shilling services, and he obliged. He had received other endorsement offers over the years but had turned them down. He told The New York Times why he accepted Pizza Hut's offer: "I thought that it is a people's matter — food," he said. "This is why if my name works for the benefit of consumers, to hell with it — I can risk it." (You can see the international version on YouTube.)

The ensuing commercial went on to be mocked just about everywhere. Time magazine included it on their list of the top 10 embarrassing celebrity commercials, while Thrillist called it one of the 11 most bizarre celebrity endorsements ever (which, in fairness, is tough to argue). Still, it didn't sour Gorbachev on doing more product endorsing; according to The New York Times, he went on to appear in an ad for Louis Vuitton in 2007.