The L.A. billionaire and chairman of Dole Food Co. (who spends much of his time in North Carolina) is aiming for 125, as he explains to Frank Bruni in this Sunday's NYT magazine. Already 87, Murdock is in exceptional health - and he's not afraid to proselytize on the importance of a good diet. When he's in a restaurant, writes Bruni, Murdock will push the butter dish toward the server and say, "Take the death off the table." He will ask employees or friends who are putting sugar in coffee or milk in tea why they want to kill themselves.
I experienced this during a visit in early February to his California ranch, where I joined him for lunch: a six-fruit smoothie; a mixed-leaf salad with toasted walnuts, fennel and blood orange; a soup with more than eight vegetables and beans; a sliver of grilled Dover sole on a bed of baby carrots, broccoli and brown rice. "How did you like your soup?" he asked me after one of his household staff members removed it. I said it was just fine. "Did you eat all your juice?" he added, referring to the broth. I said I had left perhaps an inch of it. He shot me a stern look. "You got a little bit of it," he said. "I get a lot -- every bit I can." He shrugged his shoulders. "That's O.K. You'll go before me."
There was dessert, too: flourless cookies made with dark chocolate and walnuts, both rich in antioxidants, and sweetened not with sugar but with honey. He quickly polished one off and then called out to the kitchen to say that he wanted the cookies to make an encore appearance after dinner, so he could have another then. Five minutes later, still cookie-struck, he walked into the kitchen to ask that a few be packed up for him to have handy through the afternoon.
Murdock's mania about health can be traced back to 1983 when his wife Gabriele was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. There was no effective treatment, but Murdock began doing extensive research on nutrition.
Because many cancers have environmental links and the one she got didn't run in her family, he suspects that lifestyle was a culprit, and is convinced that if the two of them had eaten better sooner, she would have been spared the surgery, the radiation, the chemotherapy, the wheelchair, the year and a half of hope and fear and pain. "If I had known what I know today," he says, "I could have saved my wife's life. And I think I could have saved my mother's life too." Gabriele Murdock died 18 years into their marriage, in 1985. She was 43.
Check out Murdock's die-later diet. Doesn't look half bad.