With the charm of a born spiel-spinner, an eye for low-priced gadgets people will buy and a robust sense of self-esteem (``I'm now a celebrity''), Popeil, by his own account, successfully worked county-fair midways as a young inventor-salesman and, eventually, on video home-shopping channels, became a multimillionaire acclaimed on 20/20 as ``the grandaddy of TV hucksters.'' Among his top-selling items: spray-on relief for baldness, an inside-the-shell egg-scrambler and a pasta-making machine that comes with a bagel-cutter that allows you to quarter a bagel so it will fit in your toaster. Popeil provides remarkably detailed information on product innovation and effective marketing, along with many often overlooked details of patent law, copyright, FCC regulations, manufacture at home and abroad, pricing, order fulfillment, publicity and advertising. A behind-the-scenes, fun-to-read look at the basic American business of selling. Graham is a TV columnist for USA Today. Illustrations. (Oct.)
Besides being grist for "Saturday Night Live" comedy sketches, the Veg-O-Matic and the Pocket Fisherman have become exemplars of schlock and kitsch. Long before there was a home shopping channel, Ron Popeil made millions selling these and other Ronco products to a nation of insomniacs and impulse buyers during late-night and early-morning marathon television commercial breaks. Popeil has two stories. The first is his biography as he tells it to "USA Today" television columnist Jefferson Graham. He relates how he got started, candidly assesses his three failed marriages, and explains how Ronco (but not Popeil himself) went bankrupt in 1984. He describes his three-year "semi-retirement" and his big comeback in infomercials and cable home shopping, a medium perfectly suited to Popeil's theatrical selling style. His second story is a pitch to those who would emulate him. With nuts-and-bolts practicality, he explains how he gets his ideas and brings them to market. Sure to attract readers faster than a K-Mart blue-light special.