Ron Popeil, 'Set It and Forget It' Infomercial Icon, Dead at 86: 'He Lived Life to the Fullest'

·3 min read
Ron Popeil
Ron Popeil

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Ron Popeil, the infomercial icon who popularized the catchphrase "set it, and forget it" for Showtime Rotisserie oven, has died. He was 86.

The television personality died on Wednesday at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to a release issued by his representative, Eric Ortner, on behalf of the family.

"He lived his life to the fullest and passed in the loving arms of his family," the statement read. "The father of the television infomercial, Ron Popeil, was a trailblazer; he rose from a modest upbringing in a fractured home to become a ubiquitous name and face in direct-to-consumer marketing and inventing."

A cause of death was not given. According to TMZ, who was first to report the death, Popeil died after experiencing a severe medical emergency on Tuesday.

Born in New York City, Popeil began his career as a salesman at the age of 16 after moving to Chicago to work at a factory managed by his father Samuel, who was also an inventor and purveyor of kitchen gadgets.

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Ron Popeil | The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation
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Learning the tricks of the trade from his dad, Popeil began selling products made at his father's factory at a small table on Maxwell Street and quickly honed his craft of creating snappy pitches.

By 17, he had his own stand at Chicago's flagship Woolworth store, working 12-hour shifts for six days a week, according to his biography on his website. Popeil's magnetic personality drew crowds and he eventually took his business on the road for state fair season.

However, in order to reach a wider audience all year around, Popeil needed to think bigger. In 1959, he took his talents to television, filming his first infomercial for the Chop-o-Matic.

The TV spot saw huge sales for the kitchen gadget and Popeil soon became a mainstay in late night television — even one parodied by Dan Aykroyd on Saturday Night Live.

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He formed his own company, Ronco, in 1964 and continued distributing his own father's products as well as his own.

Popeil's most known products include the Veg-o-Matic, GLH-9 (Great Looking Hair Formula #9) Hair in a Can Spray, Popeil's Pocket Fisherman, the Ronco Electric Food Dehydrator, and the Ronco 6 Star Plus Knives — all of which have been archived by The Smithsonian Institute.

He coined the catchphrase "set it, and forget it" through his pitch of the Showtime Rotisserie over, and popularized iconic informercial phrases such as "but wait there's more" and "less shipping and handling" through his various television appearances over the years.

In addition to his marketing work, Popeil served as the director of MGM Resorts International for more than three decades. He also held the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of olive oil with a total of 2,240 bottles.

Popeil is survived by his wife of 25 years, Robin; daughters Kathryn, Lauren, Shannon (dec.), Contessa, and Valentina; and grandchildren Rachel, Isabella, Nicole, and Asher.

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