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TIME Magazine, May 19, 1958

Living It Up with Pepsi

 

Next to his wife, durable Screen Siren Joan Crawford, the personal pride of Pepsi-Cola Chairman Alfred Nu Steele is his gymnasium-sized Manhattan apartment, 13 stories above Fifth Avenue at 70th Street. Easily awed Broadway columnists have dubbed it "Taj Joan." But it's quite a place; Joan insists that visitors remove their shoes before entering lest they soil the quicksand-soft golden carpets.

Last week Steele, Joan and Taj Joan all hit the spot—the one marked X—at Pepsi's annual stockholders' meeting. Reason: a small note on page 6 of the annual proxy statement.

"During 1957, Mr. Steele had extensive alterations and structural changes made in the cooperative apartment. As Mr. Steele was absent from New York on company affairs for some 165 days in 1957, the Company paid for him, and charged monthly to his account, costs on this work. The largest aggregate amount of debt from Mr. Steele was $387,011.65.

This has been repaid in full. Interest at the rate of 6% was charged."

It was clear that $387,011.65 is a lot of Pepsi. Professional Corporation Baiter John Gilbert (no kin to the silent screen idol) asked if the apartment was finally finished. Steele replied that it was; he had revealed the loan because Securities and Exchange Commission rules state that company proxy statements must list and explain all financial transactions with officers or big stockholders.

The apartment had cost an additional $80,000 for decorating. The 18 rooms had been turned into eight, furnished with all of the comforts of modern civilization. Among them: a cavernous closet just for Miss Crawford's 304 pairs of shoes, another for her cosmetics and pills, a special shampoo and hairdressing basin with spray faucets, a massage table and whirlpool tub for Steele, a diamond-shaped dining-room table, a geranium-pink bedroom with wood-burning fireplace.

Critic Gilbert then said he had some questions for Miss Crawford, who had been sitting quietly in the back of the room.

Said she: "Make it brief, boy."

Gilbert said Miss Crawford would be a welcome addition to Pepsi's board.

"If I were," she replied, "we'd have long sessions but short speeches."

Persisted Gilbert: "May I ask how many shares of Pepsi-Cola you own?"

"It's none of your business," she snapped. "Besides, I owned them before I married Mr. Steele."

Then Steele cut in: "I let my wife run her business, and she lets me run mine."

But, as every Pepsi fan knows, behind every successful man (Pepsi's 1958 earnings are up), there is a devoted woman—one with more bounce to the ounce. This week, their apartment decorated and their debts to Pepsi paid, Mr. and Mrs. Steele were planning a six-weeks sales swing through Africa and the Middle East. Said he: "I hate to use my wife to help me sell, but let's face it—she does. On these trips most of our business is done through top officials of governments. At those high levels Crawford is fabulous."

[Thanks to Norman for this article.]