Ronald M. Popeil
May 3, 1935
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign|
|Occupation||Inventor, infomercial salesman|
|Known for||Ronco, infomercials|
(m. 1956; div. 1963)
(m. 19; div. 19)
Ronald M. Popeil (; born May 3, 1935) is an American inventor and marketing personality, and founder of the direct response marketing company Ronco. He has 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.
Popeil was born to a Jewish family in New York City 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 Ron Popeil remained with his father.
Popeil learned his trade 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 is a past member of the board of directors 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.
He is currently[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, he 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.
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 has 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.