Fred Turner, McDonald's McNugget Father, Dies at Age 80

Fred Turner, McDonald's McNugget Father, Dies at Age 80

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The man who spearheaded the creation of this fast-food staple, not to mention McDonald's University, passed away January 7

Former McDonald's chief executive Fred Turner passed away Monday, Jan. 7, from complications from pneumonia. Turner was 80.

The former executive of fast-food giant McDonald's was often credited with helping create the Chicken McNugget, although the now-staple was first invented by Cornell University's Robert C. Baker, Slate reported last month.

McDonald's first released its McNuggets in 1980, after Turner ordered chef Rene Arend to create a new project from chicken. Slate reported that Arend first boned a chicken breast, cut it into small pieces, battered and fried them, and served the bits with sauce. After tinkering with the recipe for mass reproduction, McNuggets first appeared in 15 Tennessee locations, then rolled out nationwide in 1981.

Turner is also credited with upping the ante for McDonald's internationally, especially as he led the creation of McDonald's Hamburger University in 1961, where students can receive a degree in "Hamburgerology" and a diploma from the school "Universatis Hamburgerensis McDonald's." Turner was also a co-founder and life trustee of Ronald McDonald House Charities.

"Fred's contributions to McDonald's are immeasurable," Don Thompson, McDonald's President and CEO, said in a statement. "For more than fifty years, he was dedicated to operations excellence, training, and developing a great tasting menu."

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Bainbridge man has ties to many McDonald's staples of today, including television advertising his family still owns 23 restaurants in the area

JEFF PIORKOWSKI/SUN NEWS Nick Karos, shown at the Willoughby Hills McDonald's which he owns, looks back at the fast food history he's made and says, "When you're starting something, you just try a lot of things to see what will work."

Today, the corporation that is McDonald’s Restaurants is a global icon with over 32,000 stores in more than 100 countries throughout the world, including 14,000 in the U.S.

Everything has to start somewhere, however, and that start is usually as a seedling.

One local man was there almost from the start and, in fact, had a hand in some of the things we take for granted when we think of McDonald’s in 2011.

Take the chain’s television advertising, for example. McDonald’s ads on TV are as common today as the green grass around us. But it wasn’t always that way, as Nick Karos recounts.

Karos, who owns the Richmond Heights McDonald’s — set to reopen this week at 465 Richmond Road after being closed for remodeling — as well as the store at 4500 Mayfield Road in South Euclid, was working for the then-fledgling corporation in California in the early 1960s.

“We weren’t doing so well in California at the time,” Karos recalls. “We had a lack of identification. The customers didn’t know what we were selling from this funny-looking red and white building with the big arches. We had to go to television and let people know who we were.

“I told Ray that I needed $185,000 to get (TV commercials on the air). He provided the money and those were the first McDonald’s television ads. It worked, and we went on to do the same thing in San Francisco and Seattle. I was the one who sold him on the idea of television.”

The “Ray” to whom he refers is Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s Corp. Karos had access to him because he served as Kroc’s right-hand man, working as his director of operations.

Beginnings in the business

Born in 1925 in Joliet, Ill., Karos became familiar with the hamburger business beginning in 1943, when his father bought into the Wimpy’s Hamburgers chain.

“It was a nine-stool place that he opened in Joliet on Jefferson Street,” Karos said. Then 18, Karos helped his family make burgers. At that time, hamburger patties didn’t come delivered, ready to fry, as they do today.

“We had to de-bone the meat, grind it up and make patties,” he said. They were fortunate, he said, to have a primitive patty making machine that churned out one at a time.

Open six days per week, the restaurant served as a valuable training ground for Karos, who went on to earn a degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1948.

It was a case of being in the right place at the right time when, still interested in the hamburger business, Karos took the opportunity to visit Kroc’s first local McDonald’s Restaurant in nearby Des Plaines, Ill. Because of Karos’ experience, Kroc hired him in 1958, a year in which McDonald’s had already sold its 100 millionth hamburger.

Before starting the McDonald’s chain, Kroc had been selling paper cups used at fountains and coffee shops, then multi-mixers, the kind used to make milkshakes. Kroc was intrigued when the McDonald brothers, Dick and Mac in California, began ordering several mixers when those mixers were meant to last several years.

“He went to the McDonald brothers’ restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif. (in 1954) and saw the lines of people waiting,” Karos said. “He started asking the people in line why they were there. He did his own survey.”

Kroc learned the fresh food, quality service and cleanliness had people standing in line. Seeing the possibilities for more such McDonald’s Restaurants, Kroc entered into business with the brothers in 1955. Kroc bought out the brothers in 1968 for $2.6 million.

Seeing the country

Karos’ first job for McDonald’s involved traveling around the country, helping new franchise owners set up their stores in accordance with the burgeoning chain’s meticulous standards.

“Most of these guys had never been in the restaurant business before, so I had to teach them everything,” he said.

COURTESY OF NICK KAROS This photo shows Karos, left, with Ray Kroc, the man who built McDonald's into an international brand name.

In addition to instructing the new owners on how to keep the restrooms and kitchen sparklingly clean and about cooking techniques, Karos had to find in each particular town the top-quality ingredients needed to sell hamburgers, french fries and buns. This was at a time when wholesalers weren’t around.

“I’d spend a week with the guys (franchise owners), day and night shifts, and then go on to the next town. Then, I’d come back in three months to check on them.”

When in Los Angeles, trying to help business in that struggling market, Karos created the first exclusive McDonald’s supplier. Karos was having difficulty buying buns for the 22-24 cents per dozen needed to make a profit, as L.A. bakeries insisted on charging 44 cents a dozen.

Remembering the Freund Bakery he had worked with in St. Louis, Karos learned a Freund family member was starting a bakery in California. Karos convinced Freund’s to make buns exclusively for McDonald’s, and the problem was solved.

“It turned out well for (Freund),” Karos said.

McDonald's firsts

Karos, now a Bainbridge resident, has stories about many such developments in McDonald’s history.

Ask about how the Filet-O-Fish sandwich got its start and he tells a story from 1962, of Cincinnati franchise owner Lou Groen. Groen’s three stores weren’t doing well, particularly on Fridays in an age when Catholics weren’t permitted to eat meat on that day.

The Big Boy chain that was dominating the Cincinnati market sold fish sandwiches, so Groen experimented with devising a McDonald’s fish sandwich. Karos visited Groen and took the idea back to Kroc.

“Ray said he didn’t want fish,” Karos said. “He said fish and hamburgers don’t go together.”

With then-McDonald’s vice president Fred Turner on his side, Karos and Turner took Kroc to dinner at a fine restaurant and the three had a few drinks. Kroc remained adamant against the fish sandwich idea, but as the three left the restaurant, things suddenly changed.

“As we were leaving, I said, ‘Ray, we’re not selling fish, we’re selling tartar sauce,’ and he just said, ‘OK.’ It was very funny.”

As for the special sauce on the Filet-O-Fish, Karos credits a McDonald’s employee of the time, Al Bernardin, who knew a chef at Chicago’s Palmer House who had come up with the recipe. For years, that recipe was mixed fresh at each McDonald’s.

Ask about the start of the Big Mac, and Karos will tell about the Pittsburgh-area franchisee, Jim Delligatti, who wanted an answer in 1967 to the famous Big Boy sandwich. The Big Mac was sold nationally beginning the following year.

The Egg McMuffin? Karos said that was the brainchild of Santa Barbara, Calif., store owner Herb Peterson. It was introduced nationally in 1972.

Teaching others

In 1965, just before leaving McDonald’s Corporation, Karos traveled to West Germany, where he taught college students the McDonald’s way at a food fair and sold the company’s first hamburger in Germany. While there, one of his customers was West Berlin mayor and future West German Chancellor Willy Brandt.

By this time, teaching was something with which Karos was quite comfortable. In addition to having gone around the country teaching start-up franchisees, Karos was there in 1961 when McDonald’s began its Hamburger University in the basement of a McDonald’s Restaurant in Elk Grove, Ill.

“I was the first professor, or dean, of Hamburger University,” Karos said.

Today, located in more professional surroundings in Oak Brook, Ill., and offering actual college credits, the university features a room named in Karos’ honor.

Moving to Cleveland

COURTESY OF NICK KAROS Karos' brother, the late Gus Karos, opened his first McDonald's in Greater Cleveland in Maple Heights in 1960 and soon after opened this McDonald's on Mayfield Road in South Euclid, now owned by Nick's daughter, Margo.

McDonald’s was doing so well at the dawn of the 1960s that Karos advised his brother, Gus, to start one in the Greater Cleveland area.

“I saw Cleveland had a diverse group of businesses and thought this would be a good place for my brother to start,” Karos said.

Gus Karos opened the first Greater Cleveland McDonald’s in September 1960 at 5114 Northfield Road in Maple Heights. His second McDonald’s was the South Euclid restaurant.

Upon leaving the corporate world in 1965, Nick Karos moved to Cleveland and, with his brother, built or bought 22 more McDonald’s. The first restaurant the brothers built together was at 2200 Snow Road in Parma, which also holds a place in the history book as the first McDonald’s ever to be remodeled. Karos said he flew west to meet with Kroc when he noticed the restaurant needed a wider front aisle. All subsequent McDonald’s were built with that wider aisle.

Gus retired 11 years ago and died earlier this year. All but one of those 24 restaurants is still in the Karos family, as Nick Karos’ daughters bought all but two of the stores from him.

“They took the most profitable ones,” he said with a laugh.

His daughter Meloney owns eight of them, including the restaurants at 33560 Aurora Road in Solon and 2533 Aurora Road in Twinsburg.

Daughter Margo Karos owns the South Euclid store and five others, while daughter Paige owns five.

The Karos’ stores stretch from Middlefield to Parma, including stores in Chardon, Brecksville and Independence.

“To run a store today is much more complicated than it used to be,” Karos said. “We used to have maybe 10 employees, and now we could have 50, 60, 70. And there are so many more government regulations.”

After being around McDonald’s food for more than 50 years, Karos was asked if he ever has tired of its taste.

Smiling, he answered, “I just had a cheeseburger last night, made specially for me, and some (Chicken) McNuggets.”

Karos’ Director of Operations, Ken Hinkston, has been with him 30 years, beginning when Hinkston handled maintenance duties at the South Euclid store at age 19.

“It’s a privilege for me to work with him,” Hinkston said. “He’s so smart. He’s always thinking of ways to improve the stores. He always makes me think, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’”

Hinkston said he has often told Karos he should write a book, but Karos has no interest in doing so.

Still working at and visiting his stores often, cheerfully greeting employees, Karos said, “When I visit the stores, I like to spend most of my time in the kitchen, because it’s the food that matters most.

“The key to being successful at McDonald’s is consistent standards for quality, service and cleanliness. When any of us goes to a restaurant, we don’t like surprises.”

But, when talking with Karos about the history of perhaps the world’s most recognizable corporation and his role in its formation, be ready for plenty of surprises.

Once Upon a Time in Beverly Hills

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STYLISH TO THE END Janet in Mexico in 2009, the year she died, in the home of Gracie Covarrubias, her faithful housekeeper. Portrait by Jonathan Becker.

On March 20, 1990, in the middle of the night, paramedics were called to the de Cordova home at 1875 Carla Ridge Road, in the Trousdale section of Beverly Hills. Freddie de Cordova, the executive producer of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, and his wife, Janet, a leading local socialite sometimes referred to as the Duchess of Trousdale, were asleep in their separate bedrooms. The problem was downstairs, in the servants’ quarters, where Gracie Covarrubias, the longtime housekeeper, was trying to revive her husband, Javier, who was dying of a heart attack. When the paramedics arrived, they muted their sirens. Javier was removed on a gurney and driven to Cedars-Sinai hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Early in the morning, Gracie Covarrubias returned to the house, and at eight o’clock Freddie de Cordova appeared at the breakfast table. He began to go through a pile of newspapers and the Hollywood trades, in preparation for his ritual midmorning phone call with Carson, in which they discussed the headlines that might make fodder for Carson’s monologue that night. Gracie fixed de Cordova’s breakfast, then, according to a close friend of the de Cordovas’, “waited until after he ate to approach him, saying, ‘Mr. De, I have something to tell you.’ Freddie asked, ‘What’s that, Gracie?’ She said, ‘Javier is dead.’ Freddie was stunned. He said, ‘Why didn’t you call us?’ Gracie said, ‘I didn’t want to wake you up. I called the police, and I told them not to use their sirens.’ She added, ‘I didn’t want them to wake up my lady.’” Janet de Cordova, a late riser and a heavy user of sleeping pills, was still in bed. Gracie, as usual, took her her breakfast tray at precisely nine o’clock.

“Of course, Janet was very disturbed when she heard Javier had died,” the late Dominick Dunne, a friend of Janet’s, told me. “It got to the point where Gracie, after all those years working for Janet, was very well known to the Beverly Hills set. This is one of those stories where the servants become more than just the help.”

Michelle Phillips, the former Mamas & the Papas singer, who was a protégée of Janet’s, recalls, “Janet kind of freaked out. She kept screaming, ‘Where is he?’ But that was Gracie. She always kept the messy things away from Janet. She wanted everything to be like a flowery sweet bouquet for her. She took on the problems herself and kept Janet’s world running smoothly.”

According to Dunne, “In Trousdale, there is a kind of urban legend. If you say ‘Javier is dead,’ it’s like a code for a certain generation. They know exactly whom you are quoting, what you mean. It’s like something out of Trollope or Edith Wharton—a lady and her maid. Janet could be a very demanding and difficult lady, but there was something special about her bond with Gracie.”

“Attached at the hip” is how Nancy Reagan, another of Janet’s friends, characterizes it.

When Johnny Carson retired from The Tonight Show, on May 22, 1992, an era also ended for the de Cordovas. Freddie had produced the show for almost 25 years. Although he stayed on for a brief period as a consultant to Jay Leno, Carson’s successor, his importance in the Hollywood hierarchy—chief gatekeeper to the most revered man in the entertainment industry and executive producer of NBC’s most profitable late-night hour—was over. It was a tremendous blow to his ego. “Leno paid Freddie a pittance, maybe $500 a week,” Janet told me in 2009, shortly before her death, with bitterness in her voice. (An informed source says the network paid him more than three times that amount.) “Freddie started to dress in the worst way,” she continued, “ordering clothes from these horrible catalogues, wearing white shoes and black socks, even though he had closets full of Carroll & Co. suits. He was worrying about me—letting me spend on my clothes, and he would dress cheaply. It was getting pathetic.”

Carla Ridge, as they called their pavilion-like modern house, had been a glittering hub of L.A.’s social scene, and the thought of giving all that up was hard to take. “We were living high off the hog,” said Janet, whose spending was legendary.

“Everything with Janet had to be big and the best,” says her friend Betsy Bloomingdale. “If it was caviar, it had to be big caviar. She always had wonderful things—Lalique, Baccarat—and did wonderful things, always with Gracie behind the scenes, making sure it was the way Janet wanted it.”

“Janet was an absolute perfectionist,” says Joanna Carson, the third wife (1972–83) of Johnny Carson. “Everything in its place. If an ice bucket on the bar was one centimeter out of place, she would veer over, pass by, touch it back into place, and say something to Gracie or one of the other girls who worked there—I think there were always three girls, Gracie and two under her.” Anne Douglas, the wife of Kirk Douglas, recalls, “The dinners at that house were things of beauty. Janet did not slave in the kitchen, but she made sure everything was either brought in from Chasen’s or was the caviar pasta from Le Dome—her favorite because it had lots of vodka and lots of caviar.” Producer and director George Schlatter (The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In) tells me, “I think she single-handedly introduced Château d’Yquem to this town.”

For years, whenever Carson threatened to quit, Janet would make a play behind the scenes. “Every time,” Joanna Carson recalls. “If Johnny’s contract was coming up, which was every two years, he would say, ‘I’ll give up this show.’ He didn’t want any more money he just wanted more time off. Then the phone would ring. Janet: ‘Jo-aann-ah! What are we going to do?’ I knew it wasn’t going to happen—Johnny loved that show too much—but she always went behind Fred’s back to me to try to make sure it wasn’t going to end when it didn’t need to.”

“The de Cordovas’ raison d’être,” said Dominick Dunne, “was to live an A-list life. The A-crowd in Los Angeles was a mix of Hollywood and society, with the Reagans very much at the center of things.” The de Cordovas were among the very few TV couples allowed into that rarefied group. “They were untouchables,” in the words of George Schlatter, “in a group of all above-the-title people—the Gary Coopers, the Jack Bennys, the Frank Sinatras, the Billy Wilders, the Dean Martins, the Jimmy Stewarts, the Armand Deutsches, the Lew Wassermans, the Ray Starks, the Earle Jorgensens, the Gregory Pecks, the Jules Steins.”

What Janet did not know as the curtain finally rang down on Freddie’s career was that her husband had, in effect, already confronted the end of the road with Carson. According to several friends of Janet’s, Freddie was too ashamed to tell her that he and Carson had had a very ugly break at the studio a year previously. Author Bill Zehme, who is at work on a book titled Carson the Magnificent, says, “It was when Johnny returned to the air after his son Ricky died. I’ve studied that tape like the Zapruder film, where Carson did this tribute at the end of the show, talking about his son, a nature photographer, who had died when he was shooting on a mountain and his car rolled over him and took him down the mountain. So Carson goes through a normal show with no mention until the very end. He’s clearly going a little bit long with the tribute, but there are all these majestic nature shots, and Carson is talking about his son—heart-wrenching. Carson was never so naked on the air. And then his eyes start darting over to where Freddie is, and you can see a little register of annoyance. I learned later that Fred was over there actually giving him the ‘Wrap it up’ sign [to indicate that the show was running over]. That was July 1991, so what happened next was Johnny exploded in the after-show meeting in his office. He took Freddie off the floor, and he was never allowed back on. That was the deathblow.”

On September 15, 2001, at age 90, Freddie died at the Motion Picture Home, in Woodland Hills, California. The Kirk Douglases had pulled strings to get him into the retirement community for members of the entertainment industry. “He thought it was the chic-est thing to go there,” recalled Janet, who remained at Carla Ridge, despite Freddie’s desire that they sell the house and play out their nearly 40-year marriage together at the home.

There was another thing Janet did not know: for several years her husband had been in dire financial straits. Though Freddie had made about a half-million dollars a year at the height of his career, they had burned through most of their savings. According to Dunne, Freddie had been trying to signal Janet that she would have to sell Carla Ridge to survive, but she didn’t want to hear it. Jack Deamer, an interior decorator who had worked on the house and become close to Janet, told me it was clear to him that “the money was running out when Gracie taped pennies to the inside of the front door, a Mexican superstition to bring money to a house.”

“Freddie did not believe in banks,” Janet explained to me. “He had been the son of a con man during the Great Depression—they went from first-class hotel to hotel with all their clothes on their backs. He had also made a bad investment once on the advice of Alfred Bloomingdale, who was his best friend from when they worked for the Shuberts [the Broadway producers] in New York. So he was spooked by banks.”

According to Zehme, “The fear of banks was so acute that he did not deposit money. He kept it stashed all over the house. Alice Lassally [wife of Tonight Show producer Peter Lassally] and Fred’s assistant, B. J. Freebairn-Smith, went through the house after Fred passed, and they found cash almost literally stuffed in mattresses. He was a poor money manager, and I think they always feared for money, because they spent like drunken sailors. I don’t know whether Alice and B.J. scooped up close to six figures on the premises, but it was really a horrible embarrassment.”

The six figures were not enough, and Carla Ridge went on the market in 2001, selling for about $2 million, just enough to sustain Janet and Gracie in comfort at Le Parc, a French Regency-themed Century City condominium complex, where Janet had one wing and Gracie the other.

The big-caviar days had officially expired.

“Freddie was very fearful of her spending,” said Dunne. “He always, from the beginning, had her on a clothing allowance.” Deamer says the interior-decorating costs came out of the clothing allowance. “She had her own checking account under her maiden name, Janet Thomas.” Jolene Schlatter, George’s wife, says that when Janet told her the amount of the clothing allowance, “I almost fainted. I thought, Oh, my gosh! With that kind of money I’d have a diamond ring or three.”

She continues: “It used to drive Audrey Wilder [wife of director Billy Wilder], who was Janet’s closest friend, crazy. She used to say, ‘Janet’s going to wind up with nothing, the way she spends. Why isn’t she thinking about tomorrow? What’s wrong with her?’”

“When you spend it, people say how stupid you are,” Janet de Cordova told me, “especially later, when you don’t have it. If you don’t spend it, you don’t enjoy it, and I think it’s pretty stupid not to enjoy it. Believe me, I enjoyed it.”

‘It was a real blow to Janet to lose the house,” says *V.F.’*s Los Angeles editor, Wendy Stark Morrissey, a close friend. “It hurt her pride.” Things continued to get worse as Janet’s eyesight weakened and funds dwindled. She and Gracie looked at assisted-living facilities in the Beverly Hills area, and they were a shock to Janet, a bigger shock than the Motion Picture Home. Then the unthinkable happened. After 40 years with Janet, Gracie announced that she was retiring to her hometown, San Luis Potosí, Mexico, where she had built a house with her savings. That seriously shook Janet, who for years had declared as a joke, “When Gracie goes, I go, too.”

According to Janet, “When it came to the time when I knew there would be no Gracie, I had two lovely caretakers, but I was terrified to be alone when I was losing my eyesight. Oh, I had heard stories!” Gracie tells me that their search for a home for Janet upset her. “Oh, my God, it was not what I expected, and when she saw the conditions, she said, ‘Me neither.’ So the time comes when she said, ‘Gracie, you are all I have.’ And that’s understandable: I worked with her for 40 years. My children are very lovely and everything, but I didn’t feel them as close as she was with me. So I asked her, ‘Would you like to come to Mexico with me?’ She said no. I said, ‘Think about it.’ A minute later she put her hand to her head, closed her eyes, and said yes. And I said, ‘Think real good, because you don’t have a doctor there or your friends.’ And she said, ‘But I have you.’”

Janet made a series of phone calls to her friends, delivering the news. “I burst into tears,” says one Beverly Hills socialite. “None of us knew what to think. Poor Janet moving down there? But then we thought, Well, she will have Gracie, so it may be O.K.” In 2006, Gracie packed Janet’s Volvo and an S.U.V. and began the three-day drive to San Luis Potosí. Anne Douglas had advised Janet to send her favorite furniture ahead in order to re-create her master suite in Gracie’s house. Gracie arranged for Janet to have the main bedroom.

When Janet pulled up to the house, located on a street with other large houses, she must have been surprised. It was not just the bedroom that would transport her back to Carla Ridge Gracie’s house, a modernist box with double-height rooms and walls of glass, was “very similar, really based on the Carla Ridge house,” says Wendy Stark Morrissey. “I was so surprised—and I think Janet must have been, too—when I walked in to see so much of Janet’s furniture fitting in so well, and the architecture so much the same.”

Dominick Dunne heard from other friends who went to visit that “Gracie’s house was a replica of Janet and Freddie’s.” The grand staircase, the large seating area with the white, U-shaped sofa, and the indoor-outdoor California feel of the place were all unmistakable Carla Ridge. Janet’s objets were even placed around the house. Dunne told me, “When Michelle Phillips went to visit her, Janet made a grand entrance down the main staircase, with her signature flower, a gardenia, pinned to her shoulder.”

I happened to view the same grand entrance when I interviewed Janet in Gracie’s house, in 2009. Gracie had made a large Mexican dinner, and Janet, dressed in cream Armani, decked out in gold and diamonds with the gardenia in place, was helped down the staircase by Gracie’s grandchildren and presided at the head of the dining-room table. Nearby, mixed with some traditional Mexican décor, were a Baccarat crystal ashtray in which rested a matchbook from the Reagan White House and old, silver-framed autographed photos from Jack and Mary Benny, Johnny Carson, and Audrey and Billy Wilder. Next to them was a photo of Janet, inscribed: “To Gracie, All my best, Mrs. de Cordova.” Janet raised her glass in a toast: “To San Luis Potosí! My adopted hometown.”

The next day she received me in her bedroom, propped up on her Porthault-covered pillows, in a silk nightgown. She was no longer the flawless Mrs. De of 40 years ago, but at 89 she was still very elegant. Her blond helmet had been freshly shellacked by her hairdresser, Yuki, for the photo shoot for this article.

Gracie told me that Janet had not been out of bed for several years, with the rare exceptions of a few lunches and dinners. Her scores of Armani suits in Jordan-almond colors (with matching shoes) were sheathed in plastic and hung in an adjacent dressing room. She was very frail from osteoporosis, nearly blind from macular degeneration, but her mind was still quite sharp.

The first thing she showed me, as I took a seat in the slipper chair next to her bed, was a handwritten letter from Johnny Carson. “Here, read this. Read it to me,” she said, handing me the engraved notepaper.

Dear Janet, I am sorry for the loss of Freddie. I will always remember the great moments we shared. I know he would understand my not attending his funeral services, and I hope you will also. It is not out of any disrespect for him. I admired him greatly. I know Fred was not a great money manager, and you are no doubt encountering unexpected financial demands. Please look on the enclosed as a bonus for almost 25 years as Tonight Show producer. Right now I have this strange feeling that Fred is telling Saint Peter how to do his job better. Love, Johnny

“Johnny never went to services,” Janet said, “not even his own son’s. He knew it would be a circus if he came, and so did I. But he wrote me a letter and a very handsome check—a hundred grand. Now that he is gone, I can make it public. People should know what a classy guy he was.”

In our long conversations, Janet was somewhat cold and distant about her late husband. “He was very articulate, and he was very known for his good looks” was probably the most endearing thing she said. At one point, recalling a breakup letter he had written while they were courting, she referred to him as “the monster.”

“She was very proud of where she had landed with Freddie,” Alice Lassally tells me, “but it wasn’t a very good marriage. It was sort of an arrangement, really. He wasn’t very good to her. One day, in front of her, he said, ‘I never had a better housekeeper.’ I wanted to kill him. But I think they wanted to go to all the Hollywood parties, and they needed each other for those occasions.”

Freddie was known to be an affable charmer in the presence of a star or a V.I.P., but with underlings he would invariably get acerbic. “He loved to dress people down,” says Zehme. “You didn’t feel destroyed by it. You felt a little stung, because you were taking it half-seriously, but he had the amazing ability to insult you in the kindest fashion and then keep moving. It was almost like a [Don] Rickles effect.” Janet also had a sharp tongue, and as a couple they were known as the squabbling Bickersons, a reference to a man and wife in a 1940s radio show, played by Don Ameche and Frances Langford. “There is a famous Hollywood story about them fighting,” says Alice Lassally. “When Jack Benny was on his deathbed, a group of close friends gathered at the house and were sitting downstairs in the living room, waiting for it to happen. Janet and Freddie were among them, and they were fighting the whole time until they left. Moments later, the Bennys’ daughter, Joan, came down the stairs and said, ‘Jack is gone.’ The witty playwright Leonard Gershe responded, ‘And, thank God, so are the de Cordovas.’”

Hollywood’s Most Beautiful Blonde

Janet Thomas arrived in Hollywood from Kentucky in the early 1940s. “She had been sort of an orphan, raised, along with her sister, by an uncle, and not well off, but she was a petite blonde and a knockout with a southern drawl,” said Dunne, adding, “a glamour girl, who went out to Hollywood to make it in show business but got a lot farther as a kind of high-powered lady friend and wife.” According to Janet, after a few weeks in Los Angeles, as a good-looking 20-year-old, fresh out of Centre College, in Danville, Kentucky, she walked onto the Fox lot, made her way to casting director Thomas Moore’s office, and asked for a screen test. And she got one.

“It was the worst screen test in the history of Hollywood,” she told me. “They put me in a Betty Grable outfit with terrible hair and makeup.” Eventually, however, it led to a contract at Paramount. As a hopeful starlet—who ended up never making a movie—Janet was noticed by the powerful gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. “She put me in her column and talked about me on her radio show,” Janet said, quoting from memory: “ ‘Consensus of opinion is that the most beautiful girl at the party was young blonde Janet Thomas,’ and from that point on Hedda always referred to me as ‘Hollywood’s most beautiful blonde.’ Which was kind of a pain in the ass for Lana Turner and the rest of them. And not exactly true, but that is the way it went.”

Buck Henry, who was a student at the Harvard School for Boys in Los Angeles, and who had a summer job as a gofer at actors Charles Farrell and Ralph Bellamy’s Racquet Club, in Palm Springs, recalled in a story he wrote for Interview magazine about Hollywood during World War II, “The prettiest girl in the area was Janet Thomas, now the wife of Freddie de Cordova. … She wore a daring black one-piece bathing suit cut in a V shape up the front, causing … gents to gasp and little boys to remember it 45 years later.”

“The first time I went to the Racquet Club,” Janet told me, “William Powell [the star of the Thin Man films] was there, and he was very nice to me. My idol was Jean Harlow. I wanted to look like her. I had platinum hair like her, and when she died I cried. Powell took my ears, held on to the lobes, and said, ‘You have devil’s ears, just like a girl named Jean Harlow.’ I just about died, and from that point on we were best friends.” Powell had been engaged to Harlow.

According to Betsy Bloomingdale, “Janet was an icon of that time, when certain girls had a good time, when girls had different friends … well, you know what I mean—lots of lovers—and lots of fun, in the era when people would go to El Morocco or Mocambo. This kind of girl no longer exists in Hollywood. Today they all seem to get married and have three kids immediately and then divorce.”

“A dame!” is how Janet’s friend Gore Vidal describes her. Dominick Dunne added, “She was known for her many marriages—three before Freddie—but only the one with Freddie, for some reason, endured.”

There were, in fact, four marriages before Freddie—but to three men. The first, fleeting marriage was to a high-school sweetheart named Joe Lilly. “The most handsome man I ever laid eyes on,” Janet told me. She left him soon after they migrated to Los Angeles during the war. Lilly ended up with a contract at RKO. Husband number two was a prominent P.R. man for Howard Hughes known as Johnny “Pick Up the Check” Meyer. Their first wedding, in Mexico City in 1948, was kept a secret. Hedda Hopper broke the news of their divorce, in Mexico City, in the May 6, 1949, edition of the Los Angeles Times: “Janet and Meyer probably know more people and go to more parties than any other couple in town. And not one soul here but themselves knew their secret.”

“Johnny didn’t want Howard to know we were married,” said Janet, going on to explain that the richest man in the film industry would have been jealous. Hughes called on Janet at her apartment a few times while she was dating Meyer, she said, attempting to exercise his droit du seigneur.

“Pick Up the Check” was a nickname Meyer earned about the time of the Senate War Investigating Committee hearings of 1947, when he testified on Hughes’s behalf concerning government contracts to help build the “Spruce Goose,” an enormous flying boat intended for military transport. Janet had her own moment of infamy when senators questioned Meyer about some of his expenses, and he said that they were for Janet Thomas, a friend (secretly his wife), whom he had sent to Paris on an extended vacation so that she could avoid being called before the committee.

“I liked Johnny a lot,” Janet told me. “He was different than anybody I’d ever known. He was not good-looking. He was heavyset and bald, but he had a hell of a personality. They used to say that Johnny was either livid or laughing, and that was about the truth. There was a lot of innuendo around that he was a procurer for Howard, but nobody had to get ladies for Howard, believe me. But Howard used Johnny in such a way that it raised suspicion. When Howard was ‘busy,’ he would have Johnny take girls to Mocambo, because he had about six of them going at the same time. Johnny would take Lana Turner dancing when Howard was busy. ”

Janet also had a reputation as a procurer. “I was told by one woman that she was a madam of sorts,” says Jack Deamer. “She told me that when Janet was young she got the girls for the parties.” Janet may not have seen this as procuring but simply as part of the game of getting ahead in Hollywood. More than one friend of hers told me that she was often a go-between for Carson and potential conquests—“the one who would follow a girl into the powder room at ‘21’ and tell her that Johnny was interested,” according to one.

Husband number three was a Russian noble, Gogi Tchichinadze, who had a nightclub in New York called Gogi’s LaRue. That marriage lasted three years, and then, during the late 1950s, Janet was the paramour of the agent Irving “Swifty” Lazar and a hard target for Frank Sinatra, who, she proudly informed me, made a play for her on her 40th birthday. “I had a party and served a lot of stingers, and Frank had taken a lipstick and written ‘Ring-a-ding-ding’ on my mirror—which was his thing.” Then he called her to go out, but she declined. “I never, ever, ever went on a date with Frank Sinatra,” she said. “I just didn’t want to be one of those girls he engaged and then dropped. There were dozens of them.”

By the time Janet started to date Freddie, she was in her early 40s. He was in his 50s and still a bachelor. She had turned down a proposal from Lazar. “He made me a proposition,” said Janet. “ ‘We’ll get married, and you’ll take care of your hair and your clothes, and I’ll take care of the house and the expenses.’ Oh, he loathed how much I had my hair done! But I had some Polaroid stock which went sky-high, so I could take care of myself.”

“I think, at forty-something, she had stayed too long at the fair, and really needed to find someone for security,” says Alice Lassally. It was down to the tall, suave Freddie or the short, bald Irving. Irving was more successful. Freddie was better-liked. “Freddie was the one I was interested in,” said Janet, “but he had never been married. So everybody thought I had a fat chance and was very stupid to let Irving go.”

Freddie lived with his mother, and even many of his friends thought he was gay. “He joked about it,” says Lassally. “He called himself ‘the old queen.’ I think those days were behind him when he got into his 50s, but who knows? He would talk about his affairs with old movie stars like Joan Crawford—he was very proud of those stories. He was good-looking and very funny and entertaining. He was a walker in Hollywood for a long time.”

I asked Janet if she thought that either of her paramours may have been hiding a secret about his sexuality. “Nobody ever thought Irving was gay,” she said. “They may have thought that Freddie was, but you didn’t say that. You said ‘mama’s boy’ or something. But actually Freddie had a long romance with James Mason’s wife, Pamela. Pamela was a bitch to me, for no reason, because I think she’d already given Freddie the heave-ho.”

Janet and Freddie were married in November 1963, three days after the Kennedy assassination. “They moved into Freddie’s apartment, on Blackburn Avenue, which was part of a duplex, with Mama in the downstairs,” recalls Betsy Bloomingdale. “Perfectly nice, and she did the apartment over, but not really ideal.” Janet recalled, “You’d walk out the front door and see the supermarket carts at the end of the walkways. It wasn’t my thing.” Freddie’s mother was not a Janet fan she was well aware of her daughter-in-law’s reputation as an expensive lady to keep, someone who had been around. “We are not talking about a saint here,” says the actor Robert Wagner of Janet. “The blond dye job was not just on her head.”

At the time of their marriage, Freddie was directing Jack Benny’s TV program and making good money, but not the princely sum Janet aspired to spending. When Freddie’s mother died, Janet persuaded him to leave the Blackburn duplex, and she found a glamorous house in Trousdale, then the height of contemporary, flat-roofed chic in Beverly Hills. They bought Carla Ridge in 1968, and at last had the proper setting for her social rise.

“At that time, this town wasn’t social and Hollywood mixed,” recalls Jolene Schlatter. “It was mainly Hollywood. The Republican social group stayed by themselves, in Pasadena and Hancock Park. But Janet became very prominent with them, very active.” According to George Schlatter, “Janet went back and forth, pitching the Republican social group to the Hollywood group, helping to bring the two together. She really helped change the social structure of the town. She built a big power base, and she could do it because of the power of The Tonight Show, combined with Freddie’s old ties to the Hollywood studio system.” Freddie had directed feature films in the 40s and 50s, including Bedtime for Bonzo, starring Ronald Reagan and a chimpanzee, and he made sure to keep the relationship with the Reagans strong. Janet recalled, “When we were at the White House for a state dinner, in the Red Room after, the president said to a group of people, about Freddie, ‘This man is responsible for my being president. After I made Bedtime for Bonzo, there was no place for me to go in Hollywood.” Freddie’s autobiography was called Johnny Came Lately—Janet’s title.

Freddie’s social contacts got him his Tonight Show perch. “Mrs. Carson number two [1963–72]—Joanne—engineered Freddie’s ascent,” says Zehme. “After meeting Freddie and Janet at the Beverly Hills Hotel in the early 70s, she saw they were something of A-list royalty in L.A. It’s hard to believe, if you’re the director of My Three Sons—which was Freddie’s job at the time Carson tapped him—but I think the Jack Benny imprimatur is probably what elevated him above all, because Carson worshipped Benny, and their Reagan connection, certainly. Carson teased endlessly on the air about Freddie’s ‘exotic A-list weekends’—he would discuss how he had spent the weekend sorting his sock drawer while Freddie was out hobnobbing with the gods.”

“Freddie knew Hollywood,” says Bob Dolce, one of *The Tonight Show’*s talent coordinators. “The show was done in New York until we moved to Burbank, in 1972. Johnny had everything but social entrée in L.A., so Freddie was important.” In 1970, just after Freddie took over the show, to mark his ascendancy as chief producer, celebrate an L.A. visit for Carson, and telegraph to Carson that they wished he would relocate the show to Los Angeles, Freddie and Janet had a party at Carla Ridge, which was described by Dolce in a letter to his wife:

When we arrived the mammoth sized doors opened automatically, I thought. Actually, a butler had been waiting for us. The house has a foyer that’s about the size of the Metropolitan Museum’s lobby. … Janet, the king’s wife, is a Lana Turner type. Very attractive, very lean, flawlessly groomed, 50-ish and bra-less. Her boobs were worn around her waist. All her attention was directed to J.C., since he showed—a coup. We were so unimportant to her that I don’t know why they bothered. She is on her fifth, count them, marriage. She and old Fred have separate bedrooms and talk openly about leaving notes under each other’s doors. He said, “Janet buzzed me to see if I was watching the Cavett show.” They have three permanent servants and had hired a fourth for the festivities. There were tons of flowers, all perfect, and superb hors d’oeuvres. Tartar steak came from Chasen’s, and every time someone dug into the mold it disappeared and came back perfect again. They also served little salmon things with capers and onions—all one size, like they took one ring and threw the rest of the onion away for kicks.

There are probably 101 tales of Gosford Park, Trousdale-style. Certainly there are many stories of ladies who lived in the fast lane and became prominent Hollywood wives. There are also houses much grander than the one owned by the de Cordovas, with much larger staffs. There are few upstairs-downstairs tales in the annals of Beverly Hills history, however, that have reverberated as strongly as the story of Janet de Cordova and her devoted servant, Gracie Covarrubias.

In the best of days, Janet and Gracie could be seen gliding down steep Hillcrest Road, the route from Carla Ridge to the Beverly Hills shopping district, with Gracie at the wheel of Janet’s banana-yellow Mercedes 450 SL with its matching banana interior. (Janet so favored yellow that only sponges of that color were allowed in the house the pink and blue ones that came in the package with the yellow ones were stacked by the hundreds in the garage.) There were frequent missions to the Giorgio Armani store on Rodeo Drive, and to Il Piccolino for ladies’ lunches with Betsy Bloomingdale or Nancy Reagan. “She always said she had the best collection of Armani in Hollywood,” says Alice Lassally. Gracie was also well turned out. “She had all of Janet’s hand-me-downs,” recalls Jack Deamer. Janet was well known for never leaving the house without having her hair dressed by her stylist, Yuki, who made house calls, sometimes on a daily basis. “Janet and Jennifer Jones were the only two I did in their homes,” says Yuki, one of the masters of the “ram’s horns” helmet hairdo, which became Janet’s consistent look, starting in the late 1960s. When Janet hired Deamer to freshen the décor at Carla Ridge, she told him she wanted the job done by the time she got back from the hospital after her face-lift. “I thought, She’s now 82 and going in for a face-lift?” he recalls. “Her skin was already so paper-thin that you could see the veins in her forehead. She was pulled and waxed and peeled so much her face was like a child’s face.”

The bond between Janet and Gracie was cemented on September 15, 1969, the day after Janet’s 50th birthday, when Gracie and Javier had a baby girl, Selene. “Janet raised the daughter as if it were her own child,” says Betsy Bloomingdale. “She and Fred never had children, and Janet adored that child, but in a strange way Gracie became like Janet’s mother, even after that little girl was born. Gracie took care of her. Told her not to take a drink or she would take it away from her.”

Bloomingdale recalls, “This gal from Mexico was someone very special to Janet, and not really a maid as you and I would understand a maid, or a housekeeper. She did everything. She ran the house, and in Janet and Freddie’s time it was a very important house for social occasions.”

Janet and Freddie became the official godparents of Selene. They spoiled her with riding lessons and trips abroad. Joanna Carson taught her how to tap-dance. There are fading Kodachrome photos of baby Selene being passed between Janet and another grande dame of the period, Mary Benny, the wife of Jack Benny, who was Janet’s role model. The social columnist David Patrick Columbia recounts that the Bennys’ daughter, Joan, “told of the time back in the 1960s when marijuana had become inside-fashionable. The Bennys were at a dinner party at the Armand Deutsches’. After dinner, back in the living room for demitasse, Janet lit up a joint and passed it around. Mary Benny, who was then in her 60s and very square but famously insecure, took a puff when it was passed to her. Then she stubbed it out in an ashtray. A few minutes later the Deutsches’ butler came by to empty the ashtrays, and when he came to the one in front of Mary Benny, he held it up before her and said, ‘Madam, would you like your roach?’”

“I was no angel,” Janet confessed. “I used to be able to walk into a party and say, ‘I smell marijuana.’ Johnny Carson used to say, ‘They ought to bring you to the airport instead of the dogs.’”

Janet’s attachment to Selene made some guests ill at ease. One visitor recalls the child sitting with Janet and Freddie at cocktail hour, “while Gracie served everyone drinks. I thought, This is a bit strange. Then Janet would ball Gracie out because the ice wasn’t right. There was a thing about the ice. It had to be a very particular way. I think ‘particular’ is the best word for Janet.”

(Gracie’s recipe for ice at Carla Ridge: “You take the ice cube, a square one, and you crack it, so the ice is cracked but not crushed. You do it by hand with a special little metal hammer, one cube at a time. The hammer has a rubber tip and is bent. For me, it seems like uncracked ice would last a little longer, but she liked it that way.”)

‘When Janet was not entertaining or shopping, she was in bed most of the day, at least through lunch,” says Alice Lassally. “Gracie would ask her, ‘What do you want for lunch, Mrs. De?’ She would say, ‘I want a soufflé,’ and Gracie would go make it for her. She was on the phone all the time. That was a big part of her life.”

The beige rotary-dial phone next to Janet’s bed helped her monitor the latest gossip as well as people’s movements in the house, says Deamer. “There were lit buttons on it, so you could see who was on the phone in what room. Her bedroom had windows overlooking the double-story living room, so she could see and hear everything going on in the house. Everything was very precise. At nine o’clock the draperies would open—very special draperies, made from the heart of ostrich feathers, put on a loom, and woven into the fabric. They hung them upside down so that they were teardrop. Janet and her friends liked to watch the feathers fluttering in the air-conditioning. At five o’clock, Gracie would appear and close the ostrich draperies. The house was lit, always. It was lit like important company could come through at any moment, even when there was no one on the calendar for a social call, and at the end there never was. When I’d visit, she’d be in a towel, because Yuki would be coming up and doing her hair and makeup. Once, she was naked in bed with the sheet pulled up. She was still the showgirl, at 80, still acting the part.”

Michelle Phillips recalls, “One day I was sitting there with her at cocktail hour. At 4:30 p.m. every day she would say, ‘The bar is now open!’ Gracie was tending to her. She was having her vodka on the rocks, always Ketel One. I had scotch, and she would get so mad at Gracie because she poured me J&B. ‘No, Gracie, she likes Dewar’s!’ I’d say, ‘It’s O.K.!’ ‘No! Gracie, change her drink!’ Then Gracie would hover over her, and about 10 minutes into the conversation, she leans over Janet, inserts a handblown Murano-glass swizzle stick into Janet’s glass, and stirs her drink.”

Alcohol was not her only poison. “Are you going to mention drugs?,” Jolene Schlatter asks me. “We never could figure out how she got the joints rolled,” says Dani Janssen, the widow of the actor David Janssen. “She could never do it herself.” Deamer recalls, “Once, she and Mary Lazar [Irving’s wife—they ended up living directly across the street on Carla Ridge Road] were drinking absinthe during the afternoon, and to stay awake they would do lines. The funniest thing was when they heard that the cops were cracking down on drugs, and the two of them—in their 80s—took their pipes and stash up to the end of Hillcrest Road and threw it all into the ravine. They were panicked they would be raided and hauled off to jail.”

‘Everyone is six feet under,” said Janet when I asked her if she missed her life in Beverly Hills. “If you had asked me that 10 years ago, I am sure I would give you a different answer, but my life as I knew it was really over. I still hear from a few friends on the phone. Ginny Newhart [the wife of the comedian Bob Newhart] sends me the word jumbles from the L.A. Times. She clips them out for me. George Segal wrote me a nice letter. But the people and the way of life were all gone. To be honest, what I really miss is Nate ’n Al’s,” she said, referring to the venerable Jewish delicatessen on Beverly Drive.

“When Janet was with me, and being reflective,” recalls Alice Lassally, “she noted that they had never had children. She was talking about the long marriage and kids Peter and I have—all of the grandchildren. We were never part of the A-group. We never fiddled with that. Finally she said, ‘You two have done it right. I haven’t.’ I think she was looking ahead and seeing no one around to take care of her in her old age.”

Joanna Carson recalls checking in, with trepidation, on Janet in San Luis Potosí by telephone. “I was crying when I heard her voice, but then when we spoke, she said the most lovely thing. She said, ‘Joanna, for the first time in my life, I have a family.’ I cried more for her, but this time tears of joy.”

On September 1, 2009, Janet died. Her body was cremated in San Luis Potosí and taken to Los Angeles by Gracie and Selene. She was interred next to Freddie at the Holy Cross Cemetery, in Culver City. Only Gracie and Selene and Bob Dolce attended the private graveside service, which was unannounced. Some weeks later, Janet’s friends had a memorial service for her at Il Piccolino, near Beverly Hills. Michelle Phillips led Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, George Segal, Joanna Carson, Betsy Bloomingdale, Wendy Stark Morrissey, Dani Janssen, Shirlee Fonda, and dozens of others from the dwindling old Beverly Hills A-list in a toast.

“The story of Gracie saving Janet is a brilliant one,” says a socialite in the Reagan circle who knew Janet well. “But the real story is: where were all of Janet’s supposed friends when she was an old lady without her husband and needed to be saved? This just shows you who your friends are.”


Although she has been urged to drastically change her diet, she says she cannot give up the fast food.

Favourite restaurant: Miss Irvine outside her local McDonald's in Birmingham

Stacey, who is recovering at home on a high-dose course of vitamins, has been hooked on chicken nuggets since her mother let her try them in a McDonald’s restaurant at the age of two.

‘I loved them so much they were all I would eat,’ she said. ‘I just couldn’t face even trying other foods. Mum gave up giving me anything else years ago.’

The teenager, of Castle Vale, Birmingham, admits she will occasionally vary her food intake – by eating a slice of toast for breakfast or a packet of crisps.

Yet following her admission to hospital, she has conceded that the diet is having a negative impact on her health.

‘I am starting to realise this is really bad for me,’ she said. ‘My main meal is always chicken nuggets every day.

‘McDonald’s chicken nuggets are my favourite. I share 20 with my boyfriend with chips.

‘But I also like KFC and supermarket brands.’

A less serious consequence of her craving is that she is struggling to store all the free toys that come with the fast food meals, she added – they fill four bin bags.

Stacey’s mother, Evonne, is exasperated by her daughter’s refusal to eat a healthy and varied diet and wants her to see a specialist.

‘She’s been told in no uncertain terms that she will die if she carries on like this,’ the 39-year-old explained.

‘But Stacey says she can’t eat anything else. It breaks my heart to see her eating those damned nuggets.

‘I am at my wit’s end. I’m praying she can be helped before it’s too late.’

The beauty therapist – who says her two other children Leo, five, and Ava, three, both eat healthily – has even tried depriving Stacey of food in a bid to get her to eat something other than nuggets.

Nutritionist Dr Carina Norris said that, during her ten years of experience, she has not come across such an extreme case of food addiction.

She believes Stacey’s diet will have serious long-term health implications, as her body will be lacking iron, calcium, antioxidants, vitamins and good fats.

‘She should view her health scare as a warning – a wake-up call that she needs to drastically change her diet.

‘Fruit and vegetables are integral to long-term health. Without them, you greatly increase the chances of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer.

‘So the sooner you can get children eating them, the better. It is also important that you eat lots of different colours. Stacey’s diet is going to be very beige and high in saturated fat.’

Disgusting diet: Miss Irvine with her beloved McNuggets, fries and a soda

Toy store: Miss Irvine struggles to find room for all the free toys she's been given with her nugget meals

A 20-piece portion of McNuggets contains 58g of fat and 926 calories, which exceeds the recommended 56g daily fat allowance and is almost half of the adult guidance of 2,000 calories a day.

Jamie Oliver has scored a rare victory in the U.S. after convincing McDonald’s to change its hamburger recipe.

The chef had called on the fast-food giant to remove the filling he called ‘pink slime’.

Following his pressure, it is no longer using the mixture of ammonium hydroxide and fatty beef offcuts in the U.S.

Oliver, pilloried in the country for encouraging healthy eating, showed TV viewers how the ammonium hydroxide is added to cow parts usually used for cooking oil or pet food to eliminate E.coli.


A diet based solely on chicken nuggets and fries has dangerous amounts of fat and salt.

It also contains few vitamins and other nutrients that are vital for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Sasha Watkins, of the British Dietetic Association, said: 'Such a limited diet will be low in important nutrients like calcium, fibre, antioxidants and good fats.

'Parents should never force a child to eat something but always keep offering new foods.'

A junk food diet with few or no vegetables can raise blood pressure and weakens the immune system.

It can also lead to an increased risk of heart attacks or strokes, particularly as we get older.

The table below shows the nutritional values of both a small box of McDonald's McNuggets and a small portion of fries, and the recommended daily dietary allowances for women aged 18 to 29.

Also it shows how how many calories, fat and other nutrients there are in three nugget-and-fries meals.


Kroc was born on October 5, 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois, near Chicago, to Czech-American parents, Rose Mary [née Hrach] (1881–1959) and Alois "Louis" Kroc (1879–1937). [6] [7] Alois was born in Horní Stupno [cs] , part of Břasy near Rokycany. [8] Rose's father Vojtěch was from Ševětín and her maternal grandfather Josef Kotilínek was from Bořice. [9] [10] After immigrating to America, Alois made a fortune speculating on land during the 1920s, only to lose everything with the stock market crash in 1929. [11] He subsequently took as a job as a superintendent. [ citation needed ]

Ray Kroc grew up and spent most of his life in Oak Park. During World War I, he lied about his age and became a Red Cross ambulance driver at the age of 15 years old, unknowingly alongside Walt Disney. [12] The war, however, ended shortly after he enlisted. During the Great Depression, Kroc worked a variety of jobs selling paper cups, as a real estate agent in Florida, and sometimes playing the piano in bands. [13]

After World War II, Kroc found employment as a milkshake mixer salesman for the foodservice equipment manufacturer Prince Castle. [14] When Prince Castle Multi-Mixer sales plummeted because of competition from lower-priced Hamilton Beach products, Kroc was impressed by Richard and Maurice McDonald who had purchased eight of his Multi-Mixers for their San Bernardino, California restaurant, and visited them in 1954. [ citation needed ]

In 1955, Kroc opened the first McDonald's franchised under his partnership with the McDonald brothers in Des Plaines, Illinois. The restaurant was demolished in 1985. Recognizing its historic and nostalgic value, in 1990 the McDonald's Corporation acquired the stand and rehabilitated it to a modern but nearly original condition, and then built an adjacent museum and gift shop to commemorate the site called McDonald's #1 Store Museum. The museum closed in 2018. [ citation needed ]

After finalizing the franchise agreement with the McDonald brothers, Kroc sent a letter to Walt Disney. They had met as ambulance attendant trainees at Old Greenwich, Connecticut during World War I. Kroc wrote, "I have very recently taken over the national franchise of the McDonald's system. I would like to inquire if there may be an opportunity for a McDonald's in your Disney Development". According to one account, Disney agreed but with a stipulation to increase the price of fries from ten cents to fifteen cents, allowing himself the profit. Kroc refused to gouge his loyal customers, leaving Disneyland to open without a McDonald's restaurant. Writer Eric Schlosser, writing in his book Fast Food Nation, believes that this is a doctored retelling of the transaction by some McDonald's marketing executives. Most probably, the proposal was returned without approval. [15]

Kroc has been credited with making a number of innovative changes in the food-service franchise model. Chief among them was the sale of only single-store franchises instead of selling larger, territorial franchises which was common in the industry at the time. Kroc recognized that the sale of exclusive licenses for large markets was the quickest way for a franchisor to make money, but he also saw in the practice a loss in the franchisor's ability to exert control over the course and direction of a chain's development. Above all else, and in keeping with contractual obligations with the McDonald brothers, Kroc wanted uniformity in service and quality among all of the McDonald's locations. Without the ability to influence franchisees, Kroc knew that it would be difficult to achieve that goal. By granting a franchisee the right to only one store location at a time, Kroc retained for the franchise some measure of control over the franchisee (or at least those desiring to someday own the rights to another store). [16]

Kroc's policies for McDonald's included establishing locations only in suburban areas, not in downtowns since poor people might eat in them after the main business hours were over. Restaurants were to be kept properly sanitized at all times, and the staff must be clean, properly groomed and polite to children. The food was to be of a strictly fixed, standardized content and restaurants were not allowed to deviate from specifications in any way. There was to be no waste of anything, Kroc insisted every condiment container was to be scraped completely clean. No cigarette machines or pinball games were allowed in any McDonald's. [17]

During the 1960s, a wave of new fast food chains appeared that copied McDonald's model, including Burger King, Burger Chef, Arby's, KFC, and Hardee's. Kroc became frustrated with the McDonald brothers' desire to maintain a small number of restaurants. The brothers also consistently told Kroc he could not make changes to things such as the original blueprint, but despite Kroc's pleas, the brothers never sent any formal letters that legally allowed the changes in the chain. In 1961, he bought the company for $2.7 million, calculated so as to ensure each brother received $1 million after taxes. Obtaining the funds for the buyout was difficult due to existing debt from expansion. However, Harry Sonneborn, whom Kroc referred to as his "financial wizard", was able to raise the required funds. [18]

At the closing, Kroc became annoyed that the brothers would not transfer to him the real estate and rights to the original San Bernardino location. The brothers had told Kroc they were giving the operation, property and all, to the founding employees. In his anger, Kroc later opened a new McDonald's restaurant near the original McDonald's, which had been renamed "The Big M" because the brothers had neglected to retain rights to the name. "The Big M" closed six years later. [19] It is alleged that as part of the buyout Kroc promised, based on a handshake agreement, to continue the annual 1% royalty of the original agreement, but there is no evidence of this beyond a claim by a nephew of the McDonald brothers. Neither of the brothers publicly expressed disappointment over the deal. Speaking to someone about the buyout, Richard McDonald reportedly said that he had no regrets. [20]

Kroc maintained the assembly line "Speedee Service System" for hamburger preparation that was introduced by the McDonald brothers in 1948. He standardized operations, ensuring every burger would taste the same in every restaurant. He set strict rules for franchisees on how the food was to be made, portion sizes, cooking methods and times, and packaging. Kroc also rejected cost-cutting measures like using soybean filler in the hamburger patties. These strict rules also were applied to customer service standards with such mandates that money be refunded to clients whose orders were not correct or to customers who had to wait more than five minutes for their food.

By the time of Kroc's death, the chain had 7,500 outlets in the United States and in 31 other countries and territories. [21] The total system-wide sales of its restaurants were more than $8 billion in 1983, and his personal fortune amounted to some $600 million. [4]

Kroc retired from running McDonald's in 1974. While he was looking for new challenges, he decided to get back into baseball, his lifelong favorite sport, when he learned that the San Diego Padres were for sale. The team had been conditionally sold to Joseph Danzansky, a Washington, D.C. grocery-chain owner, who planned to move the Padres to Washington. [22] However, the sale was tied up in lawsuits when Kroc purchased the team for $12 million, keeping the team in San Diego. [23] [24] In Kroc's first year of ownership in 1974, the Padres lost 102 games, yet drew over one million in attendance, the standard of box office success in the major leagues during that era. Their previous top attendance was 644,772 in 1972. [23] The San Diego Union said Kroc was "above all, a fan of his team". [24]

On April 9, 1974, while the Padres were on the brink of losing a 9–5 decision to the Houston Astros in the season opener at San Diego Stadium, Kroc took the public address microphone in front of 39,083 fans. "I've never seen such stupid ballplaying in my life," he said. The crowd cheered in approval. [24] [25] In 1979, Kroc's public interest in future free agent players Graig Nettles and Joe Morgan drew a $100,000 fine from Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Frustrated with the team, he handed over operations of the team to his son-in-law, Ballard Smith. "There's more future in hamburgers than baseball," Kroc said. [26]

After his death, the Padres in 1984 wore a special patch with Kroc's initials, RAK. [27] They won the NL pennant that year and played in the 1984 World Series. Kroc was inducted posthumously as part of the inaugural class of the San Diego Padres Hall of Fame in 1999. [28]

The Kroc Foundation supported research, treatment and education about various medical conditions, such as alcoholism, diabetes, arthritis and multiple sclerosis. It is best known for establishing the Ronald McDonald House, a nonprofit organization that provides free housing for parents close to medical facilities where their children are receiving treatment. [4] [29]

In 1973, Kroc received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. [30]

A lifelong Republican, Kroc believed firmly in self-reliance and staunchly opposed government welfare and the New Deal. Kroc donated $255,000 to Richard Nixon's reelection campaign in 1972, and was controversially accused by some, notably Senator Harrison Williams, of making the donation to influence Nixon to veto a minimum wage bill making its way through Congress. [31]

In 1980, following a stroke, Kroc entered an alcohol rehabilitation facility. [32] He died four years later of heart failure at a hospital in San Diego, California, on January 14, 1984, at the age of 81, [4] and was buried at the El Camino Memorial Park in Sorrento Valley, San Diego. [11]

Kroc's first two marriages to Ethel Fleming (1922–1961) and Jane Dobbins Green (1963–1968) ended in divorce. His third wife, Joan Kroc, was a philanthropist who significantly increased her charitable contributions after Kroc's death. She donated to a variety of causes that interested her, such as the promotion of peace and nuclear nonproliferation. [29] Upon her death in 2003, her remaining $2.7 billion estate was distributed among a number of nonprofit organizations, including $1.5 billion donation to The Salvation Army to build 26 Kroc Centers, along with a $200 million donation to National Public Radio as she believed deeply in the power of public radio. [2] [33] In addition to that, she also donated to community centers serving underserved neighborhoods, throughout the country. [34]

Kroc's acquisition of the McDonald's franchise as well as his "Kroc-style" business tactics are the subject of Mark Knopfler's 2004 song "Boom, Like That". [35] [36]

Kroc co-authored the book Grinding It Out, first published in 1977 and reissued in 2016 it served as the basis for a biographical movie about Kroc. [37]

Michael Keaton portrayed Kroc in the 2016 John Lee Hancock film The Founder. The film's depiction of Kroc's franchise development, nationwide expansion, and ultimate acquisition of McDonald's, offered a critical view of his treatment of the founding McDonald brothers. [38]

Kroc is featured in the documentary series The Food That Built America on History. [39]

Kroc is featured in Tim Harford's BBC World Service radio show 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy in the episode, "Fast food franchise", which depicts the boom that his franchisee model provided for the fast food industry. [40]

The Big Mac was created by Jim Delligatti, an early Ray Kroc franchisee, [1] who was operating several restaurants in the Pittsburgh area. It was invented in the kitchen of Delligatti's first McDonald's franchise, located on McKnight Road in suburban Ross Township. [2]

The Big Mac had two previous names, both of which failed in the marketplace: the Aristocrat, which consumers found difficult to pronounce and understand, and Blue Ribbon Burger. The third name, Big Mac, was created by Esther Glickstein Rose, a 21-year-old advertising secretary who worked at McDonald's corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois. [3]

The Big Mac debuted at Delligatti's Uniontown, Pennsylvania restaurant in 1967, selling for US.45 (equivalent to $3.49 in 2020). [4] It was designed to compete with Big Boy Restaurants' Big Boy hamburger Eat'n Park was the Pittsburgh area's Big Boy franchisee at the time. [5] The Big Mac proved popular and it was added to the menu of all U.S. restaurants in 1968. [4]

The Big Mac consists of two 1.6 oz (45.4 g) beef patties, "special sauce" (a variant of Thousand Island dressing), iceberg lettuce, American cheese, pickles, and onions, served in a three-part sesame seed bun. [6] On October 1, 2018, McDonald's announced that it would remove all artificial preservatives, flavors, and coloring from the Big Mac. [7]

The Big Mac is known worldwide and is often used as a symbol of American capitalism and decadence. The Economist has used it as a reference point for comparing the cost of living in different countries – the Big Mac Index – as it is so widely available and is comparable across markets. This index is sometimes referred to as Burgernomics. [8]

Special sauce

The name "special sauce" was popularized by a 1974 advertising campaign featuring a list of the ingredients in a Big Mac. [9]

Big Mac Sauce is delivered to McDonald's restaurants in sealed canisters designed by Sealright, from which it is meant to be directly dispensed using a special calibrated "sauce gun" that dispenses a specified amount of the sauce for each pull of the trigger. [10]

In 2012, McDonald's executive chef Dan Coudreaut released a YouTube video revealing the recipe of the special sauce. It consists of store-bought mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish and yellow mustard whisked together with vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika. [11] [12] [13]

In 2018, McDonald's revamped the special sauce by removing potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and calcium disodium EDTA. [7]


The Big Mac, along with many other McDonald's products, was first served in a collapsible cardboard container that was changed to a "clamshell" style styrofoam container in the late 1970s. Styrofoam containers were phased out beginning in 1990, due to environmental concerns. [14]

The "Two all-beef patties. " slogan

A 1974 advertising campaign featured a list of the ingredients in a Big Mac: "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions – on a sesame seed bun." [9]

In 2008 McDonald's Malaysia revived the phrase. The revival includes the original prize of a free Big Mac if the customer is able to recite the phrase in under four seconds. It was released in May, along with the promotional Mega Mac, which has four beef patties instead of two. [15]

2005 advertising

In 2005, McDonald's began offering product placement rewards to hip hop artists who namechecked the Big Mac in their music, giving US$5 to the artist for every time a song mentioning the hamburger was played on the radio. [16]

2019 EUIPO trademark revocation

McDonald's sued the Irish fast food chain Supermac's for trademark infringement and claimed the name would confuse consumers in European markets. [17] On 11 January 2019, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) ruled in Supermac's favor in what has been called a "David vs. Goliath" victory. [17] McDonald's submitted a copy of the Wikipedia article about the Big Mac as part of its evidence, but the court found the Wikipedia page was not acceptable as "independent evidence". [17] [18]

In 2007, Danya Proud, a McDonald's spokeswoman, said that in the United States alone, 560 million Big Macs are sold each year. It means that approximately 17 Big Macs are sold every second. [19] [20]

  • The Mega Mac or Double Big Mac: four 1.6 oz (45.4 g) beef patties and an extra slice of cheese. Available in Canada, China, Egypt, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia (during promotional periods only), Turkey, Singapore, Pakistan, South Korea, Thailand, and United Kingdom. [15] It was introduced to the United States in early 2020. [21] In Australia it was discontinued and replaced by the Grand Big Mac. The Double Big Mac is the biggest regular hamburger the chain produces and it has 680 calories. [22]
  • Big Big Mac: a Quarter Pounder–like product sold in Europe (Finland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and Italy). Has been sold periodically in Sweden, there called "Grand Big Mac". [23]
  • The Denali Mac: made with two quarter pound patties. Named after Denali in Alaska, and sold only in that state. [24][25]
  • In India, where consuming beef is illegal in most states, the Big Mac is known as the Maharaja Mac and was originally made with lamb instead of beef however, along with the company's other items, it is now made from chicken. [26][27]
  • The Chicken Big Mac is a Big Mac with two breaded chicken patties sold in Pakistan, Egypt, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and other countries as a promotional burger. [28][29][30]
  • The Giga Big Mac, is sold in Japan. It is a larger version of the Big Mac with three times the meat of a regular one. [31]
  • Little Mac or Mac Jr. is a reduction of the standard Big Mac which uses a two-piece bun and contains only one beef patty. It has been available as a limited-time promotion in the U.S. since 2017. [32]
  • Grand Mac uses larger patties, at 1 ⁄ 3 pound (0.15 kg) combined. Available in the U.S. beginning in 2017 and was first made available overseas in the UK, Ireland and Australia as the "Grand Big Mac" in 2018 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original Big Mac. [32]
  • Big Mac BLT is a standard Big Mac burger with the addition of bacon and tomato. Released in Australia and New Zealand as a promotional item in late 2017. [33]
  • Big Mac Bacon was introduced in selected markets in 2018, as a limited-time option. It is essentially a Big Mac with added bacon. [34]

A Mega Mac burger with a large Coke and fries in Malaysia

A Chicken Maharaja Mac in India

A Grand Big Mac (left) and Mac Jr. (right) alongside a regular Big Mac (center), released for a limited time in the UK as part of the 50th anniversary of the burger.

On August 22, 2007, McDonald's opened the Big Mac Museum in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania to celebrate the Big Mac's 40th anniversary. The museum features the world's largest Big Mac statue (measuring 14 feet high and 12 feet wide) and has hundreds of historic artifacts and exhibits that celebrate the Big Mac. [35] [36]

Some Uniontown residents were unhappy with the selected location. [37]

The Big Mac is a geographically localized product. In the United States, the Big Mac has 550 kcal (2,300 kJ), 29 grams of fat and 25 grams of protein. In Australasia, the burger is slightly smaller with 493 kcal (2,060 kJ) and 26.9 grams of fat, but similar amounts of protein with 25.2 grams, [38] while the Japanese burger tops out the scales at 557 kcal and 30.5 grams of fat. Several McDonald's subsidiaries adapt the standard features of the Big Mac (from the USA) to regional requirements. [39]

El Salvador Edit

In 1996, McDonald's revoked businessman Roberto Bukele's franchise for his restaurants in El Salvador. McDonald's told Bukele the franchise he had operated for 24 years had expired and wouldn't be renewed. Bukele, who had a 1994 agreement that he believed extended the franchise to 2014, refused to close or rebrand his restaurants. [3]

McDonald's won in the lower courts, but appellate courts sided with Bukele and eventually in 2012 McDonald's was ordered to pay a $23.9 million judgment to Bukele. [4]

Bukele alleged that he never received the $23.9 million judgment and has filed a new demand in court for $21 million in interest on the award. [3]

McDonald's India – Vikram Bakshi partnership case Edit

On 30 August 2013, McDonald's published a public notice in select newspapers, declaring that McDonald's India partner Vikram Bakshi had ceased to be the managing director of Connaught Plaza Restaurants (CPRL) pursuant to the expiration of his term on July 17, 2013. CPRL was a joint venture between McDonald's and Vikram Bakshi, and was responsible for managing the over 150 McDonald's outlets in North and East regions of India. Bakshi had been the face of the company in India for almost two decades. After being ousted abruptly, Bakshi sought to fight for his stake and rights before the Company Law Board (CLB). Bakshi said he brought over ₹ 490 crore (US$83.62 million) worth of revenue for the American food chain. McDonald's sought to buy the 50% share in CPRL held by Bakshi and his wife for ₹ 120 crore (US$20.48 million), whereas Bakshi sought ₹ 1,800 crore (US$307.18 million) for the same. [5] Bakshi accused Amit Jatia, who manages the chain in West and South India under Hardcastle Restaurants, of instigating McDonald's. [6] McDonald's had sold their 50% share of the Hardcastle Restaurants joint venture to Jatia at a reported loss of 99% in 2011, making it a master franchisee.

The court is under the ambit of CLB with hearing beginning in early October 2013. [7] In 2017, the National Company Law Tribunal (the successor of the CLB) reinstated Bakshi as managing director of Connaught Plaza Restaurants. [8] In 2019, Bakshi and McDonald's reached a settlement where McDonald's would buy Bakshi share in CPRL for an undisclosed amount and become the sole owner. [5]

McLibel (UK) Edit

In 1990, McDonald's took environmental campaigners Helen Steel and Dave Morris to court after they distributed leaflets entitled "What's Wrong with McDonald's?" on the streets of London. The high-profile trial, which came to be known as the McLibel Case, lasted nearly ten years, the longest in English legal history.

Though a High Court judge eventually ruled in favour of McDonald's on some counts, John Vidal called it a Pyrrhic victory. The extended legal battle was a PR disaster, with every aspect of the company's working practices being scrutinised and the media presenting the case as a David and Goliath battle. Additionally, the damages received were negligible compared to the company's estimated £10 million legal costs because the court ruled in favour of a number of the defendants' claims, including that McDonald's exploited children in its advertising, was anti-trade union and indirectly exploited and caused suffering to animals. McDonald's was awarded £60,000 damages, which was later reduced to £40,000 by the Court of Appeal. Steel and Morris announced they had no intention of ever paying, and the company later confirmed it would not be pursuing the money. Steel and Morris went on to challenge UK libel laws in the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that the lack of access to legal aid and the heavy burden of proof that lay with them, as the defendants' requirement to prove their claims under UK law was a breach of the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression. The court ruled in their favour [9] and the UK Government was forced to introduce legislation to change defamation laws. [ citation needed ]

MacJoy (Philippines) Edit

In 2004, McDonald's sued Cebu-based fast food restaurant MacJoy for using a very similar trade name. In its defense, MacJoy insisted that it was the first user of the mark under the title "MACJOY & DEVICE" for its business in Cebu City which started in 1987, whereas McDonald's only opened its first outlet in the same city in 1992, although it had used the name in Manila since 1971. MacJoy stated that the requirement of “actual use” in commerce in the Philippines before one may register a trademark pertains to the territorial jurisdiction on a national scale and is not merely confined to a certain locality or region. It added that "MacJoy" is a term of endearment for the owner's niece whose name is Scarlett Yu Carcel. In response, McDonald's claimed that there was no connection with the name Scarlett Yu Carcel to merit the coinage of the word "MacJoy" and that the only logical conclusion over the name is to help the Cebu restaurant ride high on their (McDonald's) established reputation.

In February 2007, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the right of McDonald's over its registered and internationally recognized trademarks. [10] As a result, the owners of MacJoy, the Espina family, was forced to change its trademark into MyJoy, [11] which went into effect with the re-opening of its two branches in Cebu City on August that year.

McCoffee (US) Edit

In 1994, McDonald's successfully forced Elizabeth McCaughey of the San Francisco Bay Area to change the trading name of her coffee shop McCoffee, which had operated under that name for 17 years. "This is the moment I surrendered the little 'c' to corporate America," said Elizabeth McCaughey, who had named it as an adaptation of her surname. [12]

Norman McDonald's Country Drive-Inn (US) Edit

From the early 1960s to the mid-1980s, Norman McDonald ran a small "Country Drive-Inn" restaurant in Philpot, Kentucky called simply "McDonald's Hamburgers Country Drive-Inn", which at the time also had a gas station and convenience store. McDonald's the restaurant chain forced Norman to remove the arches and add the full Norman McDonald's name to its sign so customers would not be confused into thinking the restaurant was affiliated with the McDonald's restaurant chain. The restaurant is still open to this day (though it no longer has the gas station).

McChina Wok Away (UK) Edit

In 2001, McDonald's lost a nine-year legal action against Frank Yuen, owner of McChina Wok Away, a small chain of Chinese takeaway outlets in London. Justice David Neuberger ruled the McChina name would not cause any confusion among customers and that McDonald's had no right to the prefix Mc. [13]

McMunchies (UK) Edit

In 1996, McDonald's forced Scottish sandwich shop owner Mary Blair of Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire to drop McMunchies as her trading name. Mrs. Blair did not sell burgers or chips. She said she chose the name because she liked the word munchies and wanted the cafe to have a Scottish feel. The cafe's sign reflected this, featuring a Scottish thistle and a St Andrew's flag. But in a statement to Mrs. Blair's solicitors, McDonald's said if someone used the Mc prefix, even unintentionally, they were using something that does not belong to them. [14]

MacDonald's (UK - Cayman Islands) Edit

An often reported urban legend maintains that McDonald's filed a lawsuit against MacDonald's Family Restaurant, an actual fast food establishment located in Grand Cayman. This false claim alleges that McDonald's lost the case, and in addition, was banned from ever opening a McDonald's location on Grand Cayman. While it is true that no McDonald's locations exist on the island, the reason is not due to any lawsuit against MacDonald's Family Restaurant. [15]

McAllan (Denmark) Edit

In 1996, McDonald's lost a legal battle at the Danish Supreme Court to force Allan Pedersen, a hotdog vendor, to drop his shop name McAllan. [16] Pedersen had previously visited Scotland on whisky tasting tours. He named his business after his favorite brand of whisky, MacAllan's, after contacting the distillery to see if they would object. They did not, but McDonald's did. However, the court ruled customers could tell the difference between a one-man vendor and a multi-national chain and ordered McDonald's to pay 40,000 kroner ($6,900) in court costs. The verdict cannot be appealed.

McCurry (Malaysia) Edit

In 2001, McDonald's sued a small restaurant named McCurry, a popular eatery serving Indian food in Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. McDonald's claimed that the use of the "Mc" prefix infringed its trademark, while the defendant claimed that McCurry stood for Malaysian Chicken Curry.

In 2006, McDonald's won an initial judgment in the High Court. The judge ruled that the prefix Mc and the use of colours distinctive of the McDonald's brand could confuse and deceive customers. [17] In April 2009, however, a three-member Appeal Court panel overturned the verdict, saying that there was no evidence to show that McCurry was passing off its own product as that of McDonald's. The Appeals Court also said that McDonald's cannot claim an exclusive right to the "Mc" prefix in the country. McDonald's appealed the decision to the Federal Court, the highest court in Malaysia. In September 2009, the Federal Court upheld the Appeal Court's decision. McDonald's appeal was dismissed with costs, and the company was ordered to pay RM10,000 to McCurry. [18] [19]

South African trademark law Edit

Apartheid politics had prevented earlier expansion into South Africa, but as the apartheid regime came to an end in the early 1990s, McDonald's decided to expand there. The company had already recognized South Africa as a potentially significant market and had registered its name as a trademark there in 1968.

Under South African law, trademarks cease to be the property of a company if they are not used for a certain amount of time. McDonald's had renewed the 1968 registration several times, but missed a renewal deadline. The registration expired and McDonald's discovered two fast food restaurants in South Africa were trading under the name MacDonalds. Moreover, a businessman had applied to register the McDonald's name.

Multiple lawsuits were filed. The fast food chain was stunned when the court ruled it had lost the rights to its world-famous name in South Africa. However, the company eventually won on appeal. [20]

The real Ronald McDonald (US) Edit

The company waged an unsuccessful 26-year (as of 2001) legal action against McDonald's Family Restaurant, which opened in 1956 in Fairbury, Illinois and is run by a man whose real name is Ronald McDonald. [21] McDonald ultimately continued to use his name on his restaurant despite the company's objections. [22]

The McBrat case (Australia) Edit

In 2005, McDonald's tried to stop a Queensland lawyer, Malcolm McBratney, from using the name 'McBrat' on the shorts of the Brisbane Irish Rugby team. McDonald's claimed the McBrat name should not be registered because it was too similar to its McKids trade mark, since the word 'brat' is another term for 'kid'. McBratney argued that his family name had been used in Ireland since the 1600s, and that he had a right to use an abbreviation of that name. In 2006, the Delegate of the Register of Trade Marks held that McBratney could register 'McBrat' as a trademark and that McDonald's had no intellectual property rights over 'Mc' and 'Mac' prefixed words. [23]

McBratney, a solicitor specialising in trademarks and intellectual property, then brought a suit against McDonald's for its registration, in Australia in 1987, of 'McKids'. [ citation needed ] This trademark had never been used in Australia and can therefore be removed for non-use. [ citation needed ]

Cases brought against McDonald's Edit

H.R. Pufnstuf / McDonaldland Edit

In 1973, Sid and Marty Krofft, the creators of H.R. Pufnstuf, successfully sued McDonald's in Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions Inc. v. McDonald's Corp., arguing that the entire McDonaldland premise was essentially a ripoff of their television show. In specific, the Kroffts claimed that the character Mayor McCheese was a direct copy of their character, "H.R. Pufnstuf" (being a mayor himself). McDonald's initially was ordered to pay $50,000. [24] The case was later remanded as to damages, and McDonald's was ordered to pay the Kroffts more than $1 million. [25]

McDonaldland itself, as it was depicted in the commercials, was a magical place where plants, foods, and inanimate objects were living, speaking characters. In addition to being the home to Ronald and the other core characters, McDonaldland boasted "Thick shake volcanoes", anthropomorphized "Apple pie trees", "The Hamburger Patch" (where McDonald's hamburgers grew out of the ground like plants), "Filet-O-Fish Lake", and many other fanciful features based around various McDonald's menu items. In the commercials, the various beings are played by puppets or costumed performers, very similar to the popular H.R. Pufnstuf program.

McDonald's had originally hoped the Kroffts would agree to license its characters for commercial promotions. When they declined, McDonaldland was created, purposely based on the H.R. Pufnstuf show in an attempt to duplicate the appeal.

After the lawsuit, the concept of the "magical place" was all but phased out of the commercials, as were many of the original characters. Those that remained would be Ronald, Grimace, The Hamburglar, and the Fry Kids.

McSleep (Quality Inns International) Edit

In 1988, Quality Inns (now Choice Hotels) was planning to open a new chain of economy hotels under the name "McSleep." After McDonald's demanded that Quality Inns not use the name because it infringed, the hotel company filed a suit in federal court seeking a declaratory judgment that "McSleep" did not infringe. McDonald's counterclaimed, alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition. Linguist Roger Shuy testified for Quality Inn, that "the Mc prefix had become part of everyday English" David Lightfoot argued for McDonald's that in all those cases these meanings "were characteristics of McDonald's and its reputation". Eventually, McDonald's prevailed. The court's opinion noted that the prefix "Mc" added to a generic word has acquired secondary meaning, so that in the eyes of the public it means McDonald's, and therefore the name "McSleep" would infringe on McDonald's trademarks. [26]

Viz top tips (UK) Edit

In 1996, British adult comic Viz accused McDonald's of plagiarizing the name and format of its longstanding Top Tips feature, in which readers offer sarcastic tips. McDonald's had created an advertising campaign of the same name, which showcased the Top Tips (and then suggested the money-saving alternative - going to McDonald's). Some of the similarities were almost word-for-word:

"Save a fortune on laundry bills. Give your dirty shirts to Oxfam. They will wash and iron them, and then you can buy them back for 50p." – Viz Top Tip, published May 1989. "Save a fortune on laundry bills. Give your dirty shirts to a second-hand shop. They will wash and iron them, and then you can buy them back for 50p." – McDonald's advert, 1996

The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, which was donated to the charity appeal Comic Relief. However, many Viz readers believed that the comic had given permission for their use, leading to Top Tips submissions such as: "Geordie magazine editors. Continue paying your mortgage and buying expensive train sets . by simply licensing the Top Tips concept to a multinational burger corporation." [27]

Coalition of Immokalee workers (US) Edit

In March 2001, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group of South Florida farmworkers, began a campaign demanding better wages for the people who pick the tomatoes used by McDonald's and other fast food companies. [28] McDonald's was the second target after the group succeeded against Taco Bell. [29]

Strip search Suit (US) Edit

McDonald's is one of several businesses where someone claiming to be a police officer telephoned the business, and convincing the manager to conduct a strip search of an employee.

Happy Meals and Toys (Quebec, Canada) Edit

On November 14, 2018, the Superior Court of Quebec certified a class action on behalf of all consumers worldwide who purchased Happy Meals and Toys in the Province of Quebec (Bramante v. McDonald Restaurants, 2018 QCCS 4852). The Plaintiffs alleged - and the Court agreed at certification - that McDonald's violated section 248 of the Consumer Protection Act (Quebec) by unlawfully advertising Happy Meals using displays with toys (often related to the newest cinematic release) at children's eye-level inside McDonald's restaurants. Section 248 provides that: "Subject to what is provided in the regulations, no person may make use of commercial advertising directed at persons under thirteen years of age". The Court certified the case on behalf of the following class: "Every consumer pursuant to the Québec Consumer Protection Act who, since November 15, 2013 purchased in Québec for a child under 13 years of age then present inside a McDonald’s restaurant, a toy or Happy Meal, during an advertising campaign directed at children taking place inside the restaurant". [30] The Class Action seeks injunctive relief ordering McDonald's to cease marketing to children under 13 years old with its Happy Meal displays, reimbursement of Happy Meal and individual toy sales, as well as punitive damages in amounts to be determined. [31] The case was initially filed on November 15, 2013, by Quebec class action attorney Joey Zukran of LPC Avocat Inc. [32]

Fries advertisement (UK) Edit

In 2003, a ruling by the UK Advertising Standards Authority determined that the corporation had acted in breach of the codes of practice in describing how its French fries were prepared. [33] A McDonald's print ad stated that "after selecting certain potatoes", "we peel them, slice them, fry them and that's it." It showed a picture of a potato in a McDonald's fries box. In fact, the product was sliced, pre-fried, sometimes had dextrose added, was then frozen, shipped, and re-fried and then had salt added.

Beef content in fries Edit

Lawsuits were brought against the McDonald's Corporation in the early 1990s for including beef in its French fries despite claims that the fries were vegetarian. In fact, beef flavoring is added to the fries during the production phase. [34] The case revolved around a 1990 McDonald's press release stating that the company's French fries would be cooked in 100% vegetable oil and a 1993 letter to a customer that claimed their French fries are vegetarian. [35] McDonald's denied this. [36] The lawsuits ended in 2002 when McDonald's announced it would issue another apology and pay $10M to vegetarians and religious groups. [37] Subsequent oversight by the courts was required to ensure that the money that was paid by McDonald's: "to use the funds for programs serving the interests of people following vegetarian dietary practices in the broadest sense." There was some controversy in this ruling, as it benefited non-vegetarian groups such as research institutions that research vegetarian diets but do not benefit vegetarians. In 2005, the appeal filed by vegetarians against the list of recipients, in this case, was denied, and the recipients of the $10M chosen by McDonald's was upheld.

Further ingredient-related lawsuits have been brought against McDonald's since 2006. McDonald's had included its French fries on its website in a list of gluten-free products these lawsuits claim children suffered severe intestinal damage as a result of unpublicized changes to McDonald's French fry recipe. McDonald's has provided a more complete ingredient list for its French fries more recently. Over 20 lawsuits have been brought against McDonald's regarding this issue, which the McDonald's Corporation has attempted to consolidate. [ citation needed ]

"McMatch and Win Monopoly" promotion (Australia) Edit

In 2001, 34 claimants (representing some 7,000 claimants) [38] filed a class action lawsuit against McDonald's for false and misleading conduct arising from the "McMatch & Win Monopoly" promotion before Justice John Dowsett of the Federal Court of Australia. [39] The claimants had attempted to claim prizes from the 1999 promotion using game tokens from the 1998 promotion, arguing unsuccessfully that the remaining 1998 tokens may have been distributed accidentally by McDonald's in 1999.

Halal food lawsuit (Dearborn, Michigan) Edit

In 2013, McDonald's stopped serving halal food, which is consistent with Islamic dietary laws, at the only two locations in the US that served halal food, both located in Dearborn, MI [40] after a $700,000 lawsuit filed in 2001 where a customer alleged the menu items were not consistently halal. The case was brought to court by Michael Jaafar, [41] a Detroit lawyer of Fairmax Law who filed a consumer protection class action lawsuit against McDonald's for advertising halal foods.

United States Edit

Also known as the "McDonald's coffee case", Liebeck v. McDonald's is a well-known product liability lawsuit that became a flash point in the debate in the U.S. over tort reform after a jury awarded $2.9 million to Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who sued McDonald's after she suffered third-degree burns from hot coffee that was spilled on her at one of the company's drive-thrus in 1992. [42] The trial judge reduced the total award to $640,000, and the parties settled for a confidential amount before an appeal was decided.

The case entered popular understanding as an example of frivolous litigation [43] ABC News calls the case "the poster child of excessive lawsuits." [44] Trial-lawyer groups such as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and other opponents of tort reform sometimes argue that the suit was justified because of the extent of Liebeck's injuries, as the coffee in question was at a temperature too hot for human consumption which McDonald's failed to provide proper warning. Warning consumers of possible dangers of their products is strictly enforced by the FDA. Furthermore, McDonald's should not be serving substances that are potentially harmful to their consumers. [45]

China Edit

In July 2014, a reporter was able to secretly capture film from inside the Shanghai Husi Food factory (a subsidiary of the American OSI group) which showed factory workers violating various safety policies. [46] These included: handling meat with bare hands, picking meat up off the floor and returning it to the processing machine, processing expired meats, and repeatedly reprocessing products that failed inspection until the said products passed inspection. [47] After the video surfaced, Yum Brands (operator of KFC and Pizza Hut in China) discontinued its operations with Husi Foods (and thus OSI Group). However, McDonalds merely switched factories, preferring to continue their association with OSI Group as they believe the quality of meat is higher and this was an isolated incident. [46]

Accessibility Edit

Magee v. McDonald's is a United States federal class action lawsuit begun in May 2016 in the Illinois Northern District Court, case number 1:16-cv-05652, in which Scott McGee of Metairie, Louisiana is pursuing action against McDonald's due to the company being unwilling to serve people who are visually impaired when only the drive thru lane is open. [48] Because the drive thru lane is sometimes the only method of ordering food once the dining room is closed, this creates a situation in which people who are legally blind, and unable to operate a motor vehicle can not order food from the restaurant while other people are able to do so.

McGee's has limited vision, because of macular degeneration, which started at age 16, and has become progressively worse. He can walk without a cane, but his central vision is insufficient for driving.

McDonald's attempted to get the case dismissed, but in February 2017, a federal court ruled that Magee's lawsuit could proceed. [49] On May 8, 2018, the class was certified. [50]

In August 2018, McDonald's argued that the restaurant was operated by a franchisee, and that the McDonald's corporation did not control the locking of doors. In October 2018, McDonald's argued that the restaurant was accessible, because a blind person could obtain food "through the same UberEats delivery service that everyone else uses," even though it would cost $5.00 extra. [50]

On October 31, 2018, McDonald's filed a document with the court, arguing that because the restaurants forbid any pedestrian access to their drive-up window, they are not discriminating against the blind. McDonald's says a blind person has "the same access as the 13 million adults who are not visually impaired and do not have a car, and that therefore the ADA does not apply." In March 2019, arguments in court papers continued about the definition of "meaningful access." [50] As of October 2020 [update] the matter is still in litigation.

Meanwhile, on May 24, 2018, a law came into effect in Portland Oregon requiring multi-modal access to drive-throughs. [51] [52]

The McDonald's case was mentioned in a June 2019 article about a similar problem with Wendy's evening service. [53]

As of April 16, 2021 [update] , the last court filing was October 5, 2020.

Race Edit

On 1 September 2020, McDonald's was sued by 50 black owners for racial discrimination. According to the lawsuit, McDonald's steered black franchisees to stores which had lower revenue and higher security expenses than stores in more affluent areas. [54]

On 16 February 2021, franchise owner and former professional athlete Herbert Washington filed a lawsuit in Youngstown, Ohio alleging the McDonald's discriminatory practices prevented Black franchisees from buying franchises in affluent areas. The lawsuit read in part:

"By relegating Black owners to the oldest stores in the toughest neighborhoods, McDonald’s ensured that Black franchisees would never achieve the levels of success that White franchisees could expect. Black franchisees must spend more to operate their stores while White franchisees get to realize the full benefit of their labors."

Washington's lawsuit asserts that the number of Black McDonald's franchise owners in 2020 is 186, compared with 377 in 1998. [55]

McDonald's based an ad campaign around a song about a murderer

If you're of a certain age, you might remember McDonald's "Mac Tonight" campaign. It's the one with the moon wearing super-suave sunglasses, and singing about how McD's was for dinner, not just lunch. But here's the weird thing: the song they picked to parody was about a criminal and murderer.

The song was Mack the Knife, made famous by 1950s star Bobby Darin. It's catchy, sure, but it's also a song based on a German song from The Threepenny Opera. That was originally a pretty graphic, incredibly violent tale about a man named Macheath (who actually dates back to 1728, says The Concourse). While McDonald's "Moon Man" sung lyrics like "When the clock strikes/Half past 6, babe/Time to head for/Golden lights," Darin had sung lyrics like "You know when that shark bites/With his teeth, babe/Scarlet billows/Start to spread." There are also entire verses about someone being drowned at the bottom of a river with a pair of cement shoes, and the ladies of the night lining up for Mack and, well, that's about as far from slinging burgers as you can get.

The campaign disappeared abruptly, and that's largely because Darin's only son sued McDonald's for $10 million. The internet never forgets, though, and the Moon Man went on to have a post-mainstream ad campaign life as a racist meme created by YTMND, a Something Awful/4chan spinoff group.

Their Rumored Rivalry

It is widely believed that the duo had some sort of working rivalry, although both parties have denied such claims. Despite this, Ginger did suggest that she was the one who would find the great move or line to make their scenes perfect.

Their Rumored Rivalry

It seemed like Rogers and Astaire would never work again after The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle in 1939. However, they ended up reuniting ten years later in their first-ever color feature together, The Barkleys of Broadway.

The Legend Lives On

Right up until he died on January 14, 1984, Ray Kroc never stopped working for McDonald’s. His legacy continues to this day, providing McDonald’s customers with great tasting, affordable food crew and franchisees with opportunities for growth and suppliers with a shared commitment to provide the highest quality ingredients and products.

From his passion for innovation and efficiency, to his relentless pursuit of quality, to his many charitable contributions, Ray Kroc’s legacy continues to be an inspirational and integral part of McDonald’s – today and into the future.

Watch the video: Fred Turner - 1990 McDonalds Convention (June 2022).