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People Top 5
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- June 08, 1992
- Vol. 37
- No. 22
The Juiceman Cometh
His Life Reads Like Pulp Fiction, but Jay Kordich Squeezes Millions from Fruits and Veggies
This is Kordich's recipe for long life and success: He is always either hitting the juice or pushing it. His in-your-face "infomercials," airing on TV long after Letterman has turned out the lights, show a vigorous 68-year-old—Kordich himself—singing the praises of the $289 Juiceman Automatic Juice Extractor.
Kordich tells you that juice cured his bladder cancer more than 40 years ago and that it has kept him in shape ever since. He tells you that drinking juice is the key to good health. His book, The Juiceman's Power of Juicing, has been on The New York Times how-to best-seller list since April. This year Kordich claims he will sell $100 million in juicers and accessories.
The Age of the Juiceman was a long time in coming. The only son of a fisherman and a homemaker, Kordich was born and raised in San Pedro, Calif. After a World War II stint in the Navy, he won a football scholarship to the University of Southern California and in 1949 was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. But before he got to play a single down in the pros, doctors determined he had bladder cancer. As Kordich researched the available treatments, he came across a New York City doctor who introduced him to juice. Kordich went on a regimen of 13 eight-ounce glasses of carrot-apple juice a day. He has no real proof that it cured him, but neither has he ever had a recurrence of his cancer.
Converted to juicing, Kordich went on the road as a juicer salesman—a nomadic lifestyle that he blames for the failure of three marriages. He didn't have much success selling machines either—a shortcoming that led to the souring of his relationship with his parents and his two sons from his first marriage. "The problem," he says, "was that I couldn't pay alimony or child support, because I wasn't making any money selling juicers."
In 1961 he was introduced on a Cincinnati talk show as Jay the Juiceman. The name stuck, but the Juiceman's moment had still not arrived. In fact, by 1967, Kordich, divorced from his second wife, had grown his hair, quit the juice business and become a hippie. It took the '70s, and the beginning of the health-food craze, for him to get back to selling juicers.
In 1981, a week after their first date, Kordich married Linda LeMire, wife No. 4, who is 33 years his junior. Linda quit her real estate job to go on the road with Jay. "We slept in the back of Jay's camper and had a big malamute named Eric for protection," says Linda.
Finally, in 1984, Mr. and Mrs. Juiceman got a break and appeared on a TV talk show in Phoenix. That led to a series of guest spots on a show in Seattle. The exposure brought bigger seminars and increased sales. In 1989, Kordich teamed up with entrepreneur Rick Cesari to market and promote juicers in return for a percentage of gross sales—a deal that has made him a multimillionaire. His partner came up with the idea of the infomercials, and last year the Juiceman took off, with sales of $30 million.
All of this success has enabled Kordich to settle down at last. He has a three-bedroom house on the outskirts of Las Vegas that he shares with Linda and their children, John, 8, and Jayson, 6—juiceboys since infancy. He has traded in the camper for two Mercedes-Benzes—and he has even made his peace with his parents, both in their 90s. "The marvelous thing is, I'm not the bum everyone thought I was," says Kordich. "Now, even my dad is proud. He says, 'My son, the Juiceman.' "
LORENZO BENET in Las Vegas
- Lorenzo Benet.
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