Rock Center | January 24, 2013
>>> we're about to enter the wild world of ron popeil because after all he entered our national consciousness long ago.
>> let me show you how to do it. just put it on that needle. you tap it, you shake it. you shake it and just go straight down like that. but wait, there's more.
>> you'll have the most delicious vegetables.
>> he is the best-known salesman of the television era, maybe the best salesman of the modern era , period. if you watch any television at all, you've seen him and his products. the television we watch today has been changed by him, especially when the hour grows late and thoughts turn to the things we don't need.
>> you know you're not going to spend $400 for it, not $375 or $350.
>> ron popeil has sold us things that chop and slice and dice and turn and spray.
>> not $275 or $250.
>> he has sold products that cook, products that suck, products that put dinner on the table.
>> not $225 or even $200, like you all may be thinking.
>> and along the way, in his own way, he has added expressions to our language.
>> set it and --
>> forget it!
>> for just four easy payments and it makes a great dip. but wait, there's more.
>> he long ago became a juicy target for parity.
>> drop the bass. that's the whole bass into the super bass-o-matic 76.
>> he has made a living and a good one selling that fine line between the truly cheesy and the general generally savory. so this is the story of ron popeil of beverly hills .
>> i feel like i know your kitchen already.
>> first some stats. he is 77 years old. he is married to his fourth wife. he has five daughters, the youngest is 11. over the years his products sold under his own name or the ronco label have brought in an estimated $2 billion. a huge chunk of that money came from his most successful big ticket product, the show time rotisserie oven. he sold over eight million of these and they work. they're simple. they cook a chicken superbly well, and they crossed an important socioeconomic line for ron popeil . after spending most of his life, let's face it, aiming at a down market demographic, his rotisserie is in the homes of rich folks and poor folks and all the folks in between.
>> i'll take the turkey --
>> which brings us to the next thing. with ron popeil , there's always a next thing.
>> we'll lock this down, lock that down. you go up, out and down. you can't be splashed because when the food hits the oil, the lid is in place.
>> here it is in his kitchen where he shoots a lot of his commercials himself. he has spent 11 years trying to perfect an olive oil fryer that won't burn the cook or burn down the house. and among other things it cooks a 15-pound turkey in 45 minutes. he says the product is ready to hand to a manufacturer. to prove it, he cooked a lot of turkeys while we were there.
>> you could work in a deli. that's a portable skill.
>> the infomercial is already made, complete with a studio audience of true believers, including one you may not believe. in case you've forgotten already what type of oil goes in his new fryer --
>> olive oil .
>> olive oil is also his thing. it's everywhere in the popeil house. he's the guinness world record holder for the largest collection. not far away in a spare room in the house is a piled-up monument to his obsession. all the failed attempts at his turkey fryer .
>> ron, this is beverly hills . you can't have a mess like this.
>> we have some other big ones back there.
>> i thought that was a hot tub when i first saw it.
>> in the dining room displayed for our visit, many but not all of the ronco products we've been pitched on tv over the years. even though he sold ronco years ago, it's his name people still respond to, and he is always selling in his own selfless way.
>> the glh hairspray. you notice i have a nice-sized bald spot on the back of my head here.
>> as you can see --
>> it disappears with the glh hairspray.
>> great-looking hair.
>> he can sell anything, this table full of stuff proves that, and it's made him a rich man.
>> here. try one of those.
>> thank you.
>> interestingly, he insists he wouldn't sell just anything.
>> i can sell stuff that i create and i know is meaningful and worthwhile to the customer. i can't sell empty boxes, though. only undertakers sell empty boxes and get away with it. i have to have something that i believe in, that i'm passionate about, that when you take that product home, you're going to say this really does the job. and it makes a great gift.
>> selling is in his blood. it was all he was left with after a cold-blooded childhood. he was the son of a boardwalk vendor in asbury park , new jersey. it's his dad who's the inventor of the pocket fisherman, the chop-o-matic and other products, but then his parents gave him over to his grandparents, placing ron in an abusive relationship. his skill led him out on the road, carnival its, state fairs , anywhere he could set up a table and ask the crowd, now how much would you expect to pay for a product of this high quality? he's still doing that. he remembers being hungry as a young kid. he's been successful in business by staying hungry. there have been fits and starts. he's sold some turkeys over the years and went bankrupt along the way. but it's when he discovered the way to sell to a larger audience that everything changed for ron popeil .
>> ladies and gentlemen , i'm going to show you the greatest kitchen appliance ever made. it's called chop-o-matic.
>> what i love about your history is we've got two television cameras facing us here. you went from state fairs to realizing this new invention was your way right through to the customer and that's what made you i think the salesman of our time.
>> if there was no tv, i'd still be standing on some coca-cola boxes at the state or county fair and screaming my lungs out.
>> at heart he's an inventor, driven, never satisfied, always scheming, always selling. in the only moment that bordered on poignant, he watched his own infomercial in his own kitchen, pointing out things he could do better, pointing out the food he meticulously dressed up for its close-up. out back casting with the popeil pocket fisherman across an empty swimming pool overlooking los angeles , he got reflective for a brief moment when he wasn't pitching a product.
>> i guess i just needed to hear you say it's been a good american life .
>> it has been a good -- it's been --
>> and you really are one of the great names.
>> it can only happen in america. i'm indebted, i'm indebted to the country for allowing me to do what i've been able to do.
>> another thing i was going to ask you. would ron popeil 's story have been possible anywhere else?
>> i don't think so. i don't think so.
>> but because this is the story of ron popeil , it can't be allowed to end then and there, so it's back into the kitchen for one more pitch as perfected by ron popeil .
>> you're not going to spend $400 or $350 or $320 or $300 or $290 like you may be thinking. not $280 or $250 or $260 and not even $200. and not $190 or $180. all you spend for this fabulous new fryer of mine is just four easy monthly payments of only, you'll have to watch the infomercial to find that out.
>> oh, man! i knew the payments were going to be easy. can i have some turkey?
>> please do.
>> that is good turkey. that's a good bird. before there was television in the old days at the county fairs , ron popeil used to draw a crowd by throwing free ball point pens and pocket combs into the air. once he had a crowd, his problem was drawing blood , his own. he did a lot of knife demonstrations live, and he cut himself so often he used to keep a fresh beet nearby on the table, he'd quickly slice the beet hoping he's mask his own blood. nobody ever said selling knives was easy.