Below is the article that appeared
in the Chicago Reader, it was published May 31, 2002. The
following weekend my wife and I were in Chicago at The Briar
Street theater to see Blue Man Group and they had already picked
up a copy of the paper. It was "Autographed" by all three
performers of "BLUE MAN GROUP"
CONFESSIONS OF A PEPSIHOLIC
IF YOU ASK ANDY P.
REYNOLDS, WATER IS OVERRATED
Back in Wyandotte, Michigan, when Andy Reynolds was just nine
an old lady who lived on his street used to send him to the Max
Pac for six-packs of Pepsi a couple times a week. She drank it
Then one day she told Andy she wouldn't need him to run her
anymore. Her doctor had told her she needed to quit. This
mind, but now he's haunted by the memory. It's one reason he's
Reynolds is now down to about a six-pack of Pepsi a day. Some
some days more. He knows people who drink twice that, but he
he and his doctor have come to verbal fisticuffs because she
wants him to
exercise even more restraint. She'd like to see him completely
himself off Pepsi.
"It will never happen," he says.
"Well," said his doctor, "switch to Diet Pepsi."
"I don't want to do that either."
How about mixing half regular Pepsi and half Diet until he got
used to it?
OK, he said. Didn't last three days. Bottom line is he doesn't
drink Diet Pepsi. In this life, he says, there are only so many
Dairy, for instance. He's lactose intolerant and already had to
cream. He also had to give up hot peppers. He's not about to
Pepsi. "I smile a lot and nod my head," he says. "We both know
Besides, in his opinion it's not such a problem. Except once in
while-when he's at a barbecue, or during the dog days, or when
he's had a
rough day at work, or whenever else he drinks too much and ends
up with an
upset stomach. Sometimes he just doesn't feel right. Sometimes
hurt. And he knows he's overweight. That's why he's cut back.
Recently someone asked him how long it had been since he'd drunk
of milk or water or for that matter anything other than Pepsi?
on him that he had no idea. Ten years? He couldn't nail it down.
been a conscious decision. Like a lot of things in life, it just
He finally decided it was probably in the mid-80s that he "kind
everything else out."
At any rate, he no longer has any desire for other liquids-milk,
anything that isn't Pepsi. A year ago his doctor persuaded him
reintroduce water to his diet, and he accepted the challenge of
per night. Now, Reynolds has taken on lots of challenges-an army
Vietnam, two tours in Germany, four marriages-though to date he
taken the Pepsi challenge because that would entail drinking
Coke, and he
never voluntarily comes in contact with any Coke product.
Drinking water was tough. He didn't last a week. "Water," he
basically pretty worthless. I mean, I'm sure it's fine to shower
other than that I don't really have any use for it. It does
nothing for me."
This has always been the case. Back in Wyandotte he grew up in a
house across the street from the Coca-Cola bottling plant. He
friends played ball in the street, and when they were lucky they
pop from the guys who loaded the Coke trucks. This was wonderful
everybody but Reynolds, who turned down the free Cokes. He said
rather walk three blocks to the store and spend a dime-half of
allowance-on Pepsi. The way he saw it, the best use for Coke was
the rust off his bike.
In those days Reynolds's claim to fame was a talent for
16-ouncers in rapid sequence. The other kids would surround him
stoop and cheer him on as if he were a sword swallower or a
champion guzzler. Then he would chug down the ice-cold brews one
after the other. "Just drop one and go to the other and shotgun
both," he says. "It would just about burn your throat out, but I
In 1997 Reynolds moved to Indianapolis to take a job at General
a sub-subcontracted computer tech and to marry a woman he'd met
Jan Buhler, a labor-and-delivery nurse. For the first few months
they met she thought the Pepsi thing was just a big goof. "It
took her a
while," he says, "to realize that I was dead serious."
As a health-care professional, Jan tends to side with Reynolds's
but she doesn't get on his case too much. Reynolds thinks this
because people in something other than their first marriage
energy correcting their mate's personality. From the beginning
her, "This is what I do. This is what I am." And he informed her
certain ground rules. If they go to a drive through and she
wants a Coke,
she knows better than to ask him to pass it to her. She's got
can reach for it. Or if they're out somewhere and she's drinking
needs to get something out of her purse, she knows not to ask
him to hold
her can or cup or bottle. And when her damn brother-a Coke
addict who will
occasionally break down and drink a Pepsi if he's thirsty
over with that other stuff he can damn well sit on the porch
finished. It's happened. One time his brother-in-law rubbed a
Coke on the
seat of Reynolds's car, and later he was insensitive enough to
try to come
inside Reynolds's house with one. Reynolds says, "I told him I
that crap in my house."
Work is different. At work Reynolds can't completely cut himself
non-Pepsi influences, so he tries to keep a sense of humor. One
particular, Chuck, gives him a really hard time. "He'll
into work and hide my bottle," says Reynolds. "He'll stick it in
drawer or someplace. It's a joke. I can live with it. I spend a
looking for it, and if I don't find it I go buy another." Most
of the time
Reynolds brings lunch to work, but occasionally the office
takeout-somebody will come around and say, "You fly, I'll buy."
As a rule,
Reynolds prefers to be the one who buys; he'd rather not be the
errand boy because inevitably somebody orders a Coke. When that
either asks a clerk to place the sodas in a bag for him, or-if
he must do
it himself-"I have to get a Kleenex or something in order to
pick up the
bottle." If he can't find a Kleenex or a napkin he'll use his
search his truck for a rag. He says he's not sure he wouldn't
pick up a turd with his bare hands.
When he's dead, Reynolds's children may stand in his office on
floor of his home and gaze around, sure that he knew who he was.
was more to me," he says, "than 'I put beans on the table. I
In this room, surrounded by his Pepsi clock, his Pepsi blimp,
magnets and Pepsi keychains and Pepsi telephones and his first
check for 42 cents from his three shares of Pepsi stock-which is
above his desk (a Christmas gift from his brother)-Reynolds
surfs the Web,
trolling for more Pepsi merchandise, Pepsi commercials, Pepsi
Pepsi logos. He drags items he wants to save or link to his Web
Andy's Pepsiholic Haven, with his Pepsi cursor and dreams about
some ad exec for the Pepsi corporation stumbles across his site,
he's struck gold, and gives Reynolds a call.
He doesn't want to be knighted or anything, but if they just
signed his guest page, acknowledged his existence, maybe wrote
to say hi,
that would be OK. And he wouldn't want them to change anything
drastically-he likes the product pretty much the way it is. But
that if they wanted to pick his brains, he could give them some
good stuff. He could tell them a thing or two about brand
if a fast-talking ad exec from the Pepsi empire called him out
of the blue
he wouldn't just run his mouth.
If there's a reason the Pepsi empire keeps its distance,
it's the way he railed on his Web page against the way Indiana
eight-packs. When he first moved to the state he was incensed to
that one couldn't go into a 7-Eleven or corner gas station and
buy a cold
eight. "They don't do that here," he says. You can buy a single,
you want an eight-pack you have to go to Krogers or one of the
supermarkets." And it's gonna be warm.
He likes it cold. He likes the way it looks when it comes out of
freezer "just this side of mush, where you just have the ice
starting to form and the bottle starts to sweat. For me, that's
And he doesn't like to wait for it to get cold. So he made a
stink on his
Web page, suggesting that the Pepsi corporation try to get
line with the rest of the world." There's a chance the empire
At least once a month the Mormons come over. Jan is a Latter-day
and Reynolds respects her faith. "It's quite similar to my own
respects," he says, though church isn't his thing. He'd rather
watch TV or
cut the grass on Sunday. Besides, Mormons tend to frown on soda
consumption. "When people from her church come around they know
am," he says. Anyone who walks into his house can see that it's
of a Pepsiholic. "In the front room on the sofa I've got a Pepsi
a Pepsi throw pillow, and then my pirate ship is up on the
mantel with the
little rickshaw made out of Pepsi cans."
He got these objects in Vietnam in '69, when he was posted at an
support communications brigade in Da Nang. His mom sent him care
with ketchup and Pepsi, even though he could readily obtain his
of choice from the local vending stands.
Whenever he went out on border patrol he'd sneak a couple
bottles into his
rucksack. To his thinking, Pepsi is an inherently patriotic
"They've always had the all-American commercials on TV," he
don't think about going down to the park for a Sunday picnic
taking Pepsi. You could, but why? When I was a GI it was one of
that I could equate with 'Here's a touch of home.' It's red,
blue-as opposed to those other guys with the commie cans."
The rare moments when Reynolds can't get Pepsi are dire. The
last time, he
was in the hospital getting a hernia repaired, and they kept him
overnight. He awoke drugged and dry-mouthed, but the nurse
urgent pleas for Pepsi. So he refused to drink anything. "We
come to an agreement," he says. "We fought until they let me out
morning. It was pretty rough." He got a headache that was like
an ice pick
in his right temple.
His addiction to Pepsi occasionally frightens even him. "From
time to time
I wonder, have I completely lost my mind?" he says. "Why do I do
He's left restaurants when waiters refused to let him imbibe his
Pepsi, even after he'd offered to pay the full drink price for
glass. The same thing has happened at movie theaters: "You can't
that in here." "Well, I'm sorry, all you serve is Coke." "Well,
you still can't bring it in." "Sell me one of them large cups
and I'll stick my bottle in the cup. I'll pay for it, but what
to tell you is, this is what I drink." If they won't play ball,
And when he goes to the movies now, he wears his leather jacket
extra big pockets.
He's had business cards made up for people who just don't get
it. He had
to whip one out recently at a Mexican restaurant for a waitress
couldn't understand that he didn't want water. Not even with
"There's no two ways about it," he says. "I'm definitely an
cannot imagine a day without it. It's almost like a narcotic for
it to be gone I would grieve for it." But being a true
doesn't blame the Pepsi corporation for his dependency. He's of
that one must take responsibility for the choices one makes in
smokes too, but he doesn't blame Big Tobacco. "It could have
been drugs or
alcohol. It could have been gambling or chasing women. Turned
out it was
There are lots of little disadvantages that come with Reynolds's
addiction. "The hardest part people have accepting is that I
anything else," he says. "That's what led to me carrying one
go. I don't want to put somebody on the spot-you know, they've
Coke. I don't want to be rude and tell them 'I'm sorry, but I
drink that.' I don't want to just assume that they're going to
have it on
hand because that happens to be my drink of preference. I don't
them to understand my addiction."
And of course they often don't. A year ago Reynolds, Chuck, and
coworker went to pick up some overstock computer parts at an
miles north of Indianapolis. On the drive back, Chuck asked
he'd noticed the Coke sticker on the Pepsi bumper sticker on the
"I told him, 'Well, I would hope somebody had better sense than
"Well, what if somebody didn't?" Chuck said.
"I said, 'Well then, I'm pretty sure we would have some serious
Chuck said, "What? Would you really get mad about that?"
"Yes I would really be mad about that."
"Well how mad would you be?"
"I said, 'Well, I'm not happy with this conversation, and if I
go back and
I find a sticker on my bumper sticker it's gonna be serious.'"
"C'mon, man, it's just a joke."
"I said it's not a joke. I take this serious." Reynolds says his
now bouncing on his knee. "You know I am a Pepsi fan. It's my
sticker. I put it on there for a reason. I don't want somebody
Chuck digested this. "Well, you know, but what if it's just a
"I'm tellin' you now, there had better not be a damn sticker on
"I don't know why you're taking it like this."
"Because it's a personal item. Anybody who knows me even
that that's one thing you don't mess with. Just leave it be."
The three rode on in silence until they got to the parking lot.
parked Reynolds told Chuck, "You get out of the truck and come
'cause I'm telling you, if there's one on there we're gonna
But when Reynolds got out, Chuck and the other coworker locked
inside. "They were grinning out the window at me," says
strode around to the back of the pickup, his face florid, his
clenching and unclenching. There was no Coke sticker.
If the Pepsi marketing bigwigs ever call, the first thing
tell them they should do is to immediately bring back glass
doesn't know what he would have done if they'd gone to just cans
phased out glass.
Because of course he drinks Pepsi only from a bottle. He won't
of a can. He won't quaff a fountain drink. He doesn't like the
bottles. He doesn't like his Pepsi in a tumbler. He doesn't like
in a stein. Only a few times in his life has he been desperate
accept a can. "I poured the can in the bottle," he says. "I've
to do that on occasion."
Sometimes when he's gone to somebody's home for a party it's
me fix you a Coke or a ginger ale.' 'No, I'm sorry, I really
that.' 'Well, we've got Pepsi here in the can.' 'No, I'm sorry,
don't do that either.'" He knows people have a hard time
"'You're just yanking my chain.' 'Well, no, I'm not. I really
anything but the bottle.'"
But at least he's not a baby about it. "I had a rough transition
from glass to plastic," he says. For a year, after work and on
weekends, he would drive around an ever-expanding circle from
getting glass bottles wherever he could. Finally he was down to
mom-and-pop 40 miles away. He bought the store out for a couple
bucks and stacked the soda in his closet. That held him for a
though the last of it went flat before he could drink it.
Still, he's never fully adjusted to plastic. He admits it
depresses him on
occasion. "But I try to concentrate on the positive. I like the
caps. Those are kind of handy." He also likes to think that this
will get the message across to those who've always thought he
And of course if one of those ad execs from the Pepsi empire
to hear the story they might understand something about true
then maybe they could acknowledge it, make a little gesture.
to have some cold eight-packs put on the shelves in the fine
Aug 18, 2005
note from Andy... For those of you who enjoyed the site,
many thanks for stopping by and for the many emails and guest
For the rest of you who believe I am seriously disturbed, before
you write me that nasty-gram you should know this.
I've decided to end my run.
always said if it interfered with my health in any way I'd give
it up. At my age arthritis and cholesterol can both be an
issue and while drinking nothing but Pepsi full time, I just
can't peel off the excess pounds I'd like. So while
my doctor has never suggested that I stop, or ever really been
concerned about my weight. I want to be very clear on that
After more than twenty years, I decided on my own that starting
today on my 55th birthday to reintroduce water, juices and the
rest back into my normal diet. "NOT" that I will
ever completely give up my Pepsi, but it will now become the
exception not the rule.
my heart and mind I will forever be "THE" Pepsiholic.
Honestly, I don't see that record being broken any time soon.
The only question that remains? After all these years,
what should I try first?