Inventor and TV pitchman Ron Popeil, who starred in countless infomercials over the past half-century, has died at the age of 86.
Popeil suffered a severe medical emergency on Tuesday, TMZ reports, and he passed away early Wednesday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, surrounded by his family.
Born in New York City, Popeil began his salesman career as a kid, hawking the kitchen gadgets his father had invented. In the early 1950s, Popeil took his act to television, broadcasting what is credited as the first-ever infomercial, for the Chop-O-Matic. He went on to form his own company, Ronco, in 1964.
In the decades that followed, Popeil and his infomercials were a staple of late-night television, hawking innovations like the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman and the Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ directly to consumers. His enthusiastic pitches became a trademark, and he popularized a number of memorable phrases like “Set it and forget it,” “Now how much would you pay?” and “But wait, there’s more!” His omnipresence led to parodies like Dan Aykroyd’s iconic “Bass-O-Matic” sketch on Saturday Night Live.
Popeil sold his company Ronco in 2005 but never officially retired, continuing to serve as a pitchman and inventor. He also made frequent appearances on the QVC shopping network, and his company’s total sales number in the billions.