|Born||May 3, 1935|
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
|Died||July 28, 2021 (aged 86)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign|
|Occupation||Inventor, infomercial salesman|
|Known for||Ronco, infomercials|
(m. 1956; div. 1963)
(m. 1981; div. 1988)
Ronald Martin Popeil (//; May 3, 1935 – July 28, 2021), was an American inventor and marketing personality, and founder of the direct response marketing company Ronco. He made appearances in infomercials for the Showtime Rotisserie and coined the phrase "Set it, and forget it!" as well as popularizing the phrase, "But wait, there's more!" on television as early as the mid-1950s.
Personal life and career
Popeil was born to a Jewish family in Manhattan in 1935. When he was six, his parents divorced and he and his brother went to live in Florida with their grandparents. At age 17 in 1952, he went with his grandparents to work for his father, Samuel Popeil, at his company's (Popeil Brothers) manufacturing facility in Chicago. His grandparents later returned to Florida and Popeil remained with his father.
After returning from college, Popeil continued to work and learn from his father, who was also an inventor and salesman of numerous kitchen-related gadgets such as the Chop-O-Matic and the Veg-O-Matic to major department stores. The Chop-O-Matic retailed for US$3.98 and sold over two million units. It indirectly spurred Ron Popeil's move into television, as it was so efficient at chopping vegetables it was impractical for salesmen to carry all they needed for their pitches. The solution was to tape the demonstration.
Popeil initially operated as a distributor of his father's kitchen products and later formed his own company, Ronco, in 1964. He continued as a distributor for his father and added additional products from other manufacturers. Ron Popeil and his father became competitors in the 1970s for the same retail store business.
Popeil received the Ig Nobel Prize in Consumer Engineering in 1993. The awards committee described him as the "incessant inventor and perpetual pitchman of late night television" and awarded the prize in recognition of his "redefining the industrial revolution" with his devices. He was a past member of the board of directors of Mirage Resorts, where he served for 22 years under Steve Wynn, as well as a past member of the board of directors of MGM Hotels for seven years under Kirk Kerkorian. He became the recipient of the Electronic Retail Association's Lifetime Achievement award in 2001 and he is listed in the Direct Response Hall of Fame.
Popeil was previously[when?] a member of the advisory board for University of California Los Angeles' Business, Management, and Legal Programs. In August 2005, he sold his company, Ronco, to Fi-Tek VII, a Denver holding company, for US$55 million, with plans to continue serving as the spokesman and inventor while being able to spend more time with his family.
In 1956, Popeil married Marilyn Greene, with whom he had two daughters; they divorced in 1963. He married Lisa Boehne sometime after this and has one daughter with her. He and Boehne divorced sometime before 1995, when he married Robin Angers, with whom he has two more daughters. Ashley Tisdale and Jennifer Tisdale were his cousins.
Popeil is noted for marketing and in some cases inventing a wide variety of products. Among the better known and more successful are the Chop-O-Matic hand food processor ("Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to show you the greatest kitchen appliance ever made ... All your onions chopped to perfection without shedding a single tear."), the Dial-O-Matic successor to the Veg-O-Matic ("Slice a tomato so thin it only has one side."), and the Ronco Pocket Fisherman. Popeil is also well known for his housewares inventions like his Giant Dehydrator and Beef Jerky Machine, his Electric Pasta Maker and his Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ. His Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ sold over eight million units in the US alone, helping Ronco's housewares sales exceed $1 billion in profits. After retiring, Popeil continued to invent products including the 5in1 Turkey Fryer & Food Cooking System which he had been[when?] developing for over ten years.
Popeil's success in infomercials, memorable marketing personality, and ubiquity on American television have allowed him and his products to appear in a variety of popular media environments including cameo appearances on television shows such as The X-Files,[a] Futurama,[b] [c] King of the Hill,[d] [e] The Simpsons,[f] Sex and the City[g], The Daily Show[h] and The West Wing[i]. Parodies of Popeil's infomercials were done on the comedy show Saturday Night Live by Dan Aykroyd[j] and Eddie Murphy and the "Veg-O-Matic" may have provided comedian Gallagher inspiration for the "Sledge-O-Matic" routine since the 1980s. The animated series "VeggieTales" once featured a parody of the "Veg-O-Matic" dubbed as the "Forgive-O-Matic".[k] "Additionally, the professional wrestling tag team The Midnight Express dubbed their finishing move the Veg-O-Matic.
Popeil has been referenced in the music of Alice Cooper, the Beastie Boys, and "Weird Al" Yankovic. Yankovic's song "Mr. Popeil" was a tribute to Popeil's father, Samuel (and featured his sister Lisa Popeil on backing vocals). Ron Popeil later used this song in some of his infomercials.
In Malcolm Gladwell's book What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, Popeil is interviewed and many of his products, most notably the Veg-O-Matic and Showtime Rotisserie, are discussed. Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker piece "The Pitchman" about Popeil won Gladwell the 2001 National Magazine award. The article was first published in The New Yorker in 2000.
- In the episode "Beyond the Sea", Special Agent Dana Scully is shown sleeping with her television on while Ron Popeil touts the wonders of his Spray-On Hair (Great Looking Hair Formula #9) for only $39.92. The ad continues for a few seconds, displaying the product's fabulous abilities before shifting to show Scully awakening to the ghost of her recently deceased father.
- In the episode "A Big Piece of Garbage", Ron Popeil is said to be the inventor of a fictional technology which allows heads to be kept alive in jars indefinitely. Popeil appears in the episode as one of the talking heads.
- In the episode "The Luck of the Fryrish", Fry keeps his lucky seven-leaf clover in a "Ronco Record Vault".
- In the episode "Won't You Pimai Neighbor?", Dale Gribble states that if Bobby Hill incorrectly chooses from among the items possibly owned by the late Lama Sanglung, Bobby Hill will win a cap snaffler and that the cap snaffler, "Snaffles caps of any size jug, bottle or jar... and it really really works".
- In the episode "The Perils of Polling", Dale Gribble asks if Hank got him a cap snaffler while Hank and Dale are being escorted to the polling place by the police.
- In the episode entitled "Radio Bart", Bart Simpson receives a "Superstar Celebrity Microphone" for his birthday. The toy and the TV advertisements for it were modeled after Ronco's "Mr. Microphone".
- Season 4 Episode 13 where the character Miranda is seen watching a Ron Popeil infomercial
- The famous line "Set it and forget it!", from the Showtime Rotisserie commercial, was used after showing the "catch phrase" discussions of the Senate debating over the War in Iraq.
- Season 4 Episode 15 President Bartlett is zapping through the TV program and sees a glimpse of Ron Popeil jumping on the stage in an informercial.
- The "Veg-O-Matic" was parodied as the "Super Bass-O-Matic '76". This parody is mentioned in the Biography episode on Popeil.
- VeggieTales: "God Wants Me to Forgive Them!?!". Released October 1994
- McGeehan, Patrick (December 11, 1994). "Profile: He's Back! The Amazing Human Selling Machine!". New York Times. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
- "Ron Popeil - Inventor, Television Personality". www.biography.com.
- Interfaith Families: "Interfaith Celebrities: Why Pink is a Mixed Bag" By Nate Bloom. 2015
- Mateja, Andrew (2013). The Rise and Fall of the First Popeil Gadget Dynasty. Mustang, Oklahoma: Tate Publishing. p. 33.
- "Lifetime Achievement Award". retailing.org. Electronic Retailing Association. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- 680 (January 12, 2009). "Interfaith Celebrities: Why Pink is a Mixed Bag". 18Doors. Retrieved July 29, 2021.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
- "Ron Popeil, Infomercial Tycoon, Dies At 86". The Huffington Post. July 28, 2021. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
- "Ron Popeil, inventor and king of TV pitchmen, dies at 86". The Associated Press. July 28, 2021. Retrieved July 29, 2021.
- "Ron Popeil Infomercial King Dead at 86". TMZ. Retrieved July 29, 2021.
- (September 25, 1982) Saturday Night Live commercial for the "Popeil Galactic Prophylactic".
- "ronco.com". Archived from the original on April 17, 2011. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
- Malcolm Gladwell, "The Pitchman"
- Timothy Samuelson (2002). But Wait! There's More!. Rizzoli. ISBN 0-8478-2431-4.
- Rob Popeil (1995). The Salesman of the Century. Delacorte Press. ISBN 978-0-385-31378-0.
- Malcolm Gladwell (2009). What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-07632-6.
- Synopsis of the Biography of Ron Popeil on A & E
- "Inventor Ron Popeil Biography". The Great Idea Finder. October 19, 2006. Archived from the original on October 30, 2006. Retrieved July 30, 2021.
- But Wait, There's More! from FreeEnterpriseLand.com
- He Invents! Markets! Makes Millions! at the Wayback Machine (archived December 13, 2005)
- But Wait! There's More! NPR coverage of a 2002 biography by that title
- Watch Classic Ronco Infomercials