It slices! It Dices! But unfortunately, it dies in the end. Ron Popeil, TV’s consummate informercial pitchman, a persuasive hands-on salesman who could sell exercise bikes to dead people, passed away last week.
“The Pocket Fisherman”! Ron Popeil invented, manufactured and sold tens of millions of “The Pocket Fisherman.” Trust me, when you can reduce a rod, a reel and a tackle box to a piece of wood shaped like an “H” and wrapped in fishing line that fits in the back pocket of your jeans — you have created not just a tool but a legacy that will live forever. Plus the scars on millions of bums from those hooks — well, that just ensures that you can never be forgotten.
I suppose my admiration for these “As Seen On TV” carnival barkers stems from the fact I was a salesman for a few years after university during a time that I had not a clue as to what I wanted to do in life. First, I worked for Merrill Publishing selling textbooks to universities and colleges all across Canada. Later I worked for The 3M Company selling audio-visual equipment to corporate meeting planners. A great boss, an office in Burlington and a new company car every year — I hated it. Nagging at the back of my brain was the fact that I had to, with every skill and prop available to me, make people want to buy something they did not need.
So I have this twisted admiration for these shameless TV contraption traders who have people jumping off their couches with credit cards in hand, counting the days until some dumbass mostly useless thingamajig arrives on their porch.
Ron Popeil however, was a cut above the rest — “Wait, there’s more!” — honest, hardworking and likeable.
Think about it, without Popeil there’s no “Smokeless Ashtray” or “Inside-The-Egg Scrambler.” As a beacon of hope for other creators of widgets, without “The Pocket Fisherman Guy” there’s no “Sauna Pants” or “Pajama Jeans” or “Slobstopper,” a bib for men who spill and drive. Without these ingenious doodad designers there’s no “Potty Putter,” the only golf club in the world with which you can get you a hole-in-one, while going number two.
Without Popeil’s “Set It And Forget It”, Joseph Pedott does not market “The Clapper.” Without the “Clap On! Clap Off!” device, there’s no LifeLine medical alarm for frail seniors. Without that, there’s no joke in the world worse than: “What did the horse say when he heard the LifeLine alert go off? I have fallen down and I can’t giddy-up!”
There were other pretenders to Popeil’s “Veg-O-Matic” throne. Billy Mays preceded Popeil on TV with his “Orange Glo,” “Mighty Putty” and “Samurai Shark,” a home blade sharpener. There was Jay Kordich, “The Juiceman” who sold warehouses full of “The Juicer” though competitive models worked much better.
While Richard Simmons is still pitching “The Deal A Meal” to lose ‘quarantine weight’, Donald Trump is still successfully selling “The Big Lie” of a stolen election in much the same way he was hawking “How To Be Rich” lessons on 1980s TV. Can’t wait for the sequel, “How To Remain Rich In Prison.”
If Popeil was the king of TV pitchmen then Vince Offer (real name Vince Shlomi) was the court jester. A shifty looking charlatan, Vince may have been a smooth salesman with his “Slap Chop” plunger and a lint roller called “Schticky” but he wasn’t quite as “InVinceable” as his liquid cleaner advertised.
According to a Miami Beach Police report Vince was once arrested for beating up a prostitute who had his tongue clenched in her teeth during the entire altercation. I have no idea what it would do or look like but if anybody could sell a workbench tool called “The French Kiss Gripper”… it would be Vince, “The ShamWow Guy.”
Although all charges against the huckster and the hooker were eventually dropped, witnesses did hear Vince, yelling throughout the ordeal: “Wet go! Naw, weally, wet go!”
According to In vino veritas, I own Ron Popeil’s “Showtime Rotisserie” and his “Pocket Fisherman.” I’m also the not-so-proud owner of Vince Offer’s vegetable “Slap Chop” and his cheese shredder called “The Graty.” I’ve also purchased via 1-800 numbers “Gorilla Glue” and “The Tap Light.”
This is why I say it’s high time for our government to step in and protect us from these sorts of high-pressure sales scams that are popping up in Canadian living rooms every day of the week. I strongly urge our Office of Consumer Affairs to force all TV informercials to run a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen that warns viewers: “If you’ve had more than two glasses of wine, do not call this toll-free number.”
Ron Popeil died when the “The Incredible! The Amazing! The Home Cremation Oven!” he was demonstrating malfunctioned and… No, Popeil died of natural causes in Los Angeles at age 86 but he certainly did invent and promote a ton of clever contraptions. I do hope the pastor presiding over Ron Popeil’s funeral had the wherewithal to speak using “Mr. Microphone” and end the sermon with “But wait… there’s no more.”
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