Fun Facts About Ron Popeil, In 5 Easy Installments

Ron Popeil/Facebook
Ron Popeil/Facebook

Long before there was Billy Mays, Anthony Sullivan, Matthew Lesko, or Vince “ShamWow” Offer, there was Ron Popeil, the so-called “Godfather of the Infomercial” and/or “Salesman of the Century.” But Popeil is much more than a straight-up pitchman. Here are 5 things you might not know about the Ronco founder.

1. HE’S AN INVENTOR FIRST.

Unlike other pitchmen (and pitchwomen) who are simply hired spokespeople for a particular product, Popeil is the brains behind the products he’s promoting. And that, according to Popeil, makes all the difference. "The fact that I’m an inventor first and salesperson second is the reason why so many people buy my products,” Popeil told Forbes in 2006. “If you create a product that’s needed in the marketplace, or a drug that will solve a medical problem, people are going to buy it. It’s so easy for me to sell my products because the market exists.”

But wait, there’s more…

2. NONE OF HIS INFOMERCIALS WERE SCRIPTED.

In addition to his many best-selling “as seen on TV” products, Popeil also invented many of the very same catchphrases you hear being shouted at the screen by today’s infomercial spokespeople, including the ubiquitous, “But wait, there’s more…” In a 2014 interview with the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Popeil claimed that the chatter heard on his infomercials was completely unscripted, including the Showtime Rotisserie’s famous “Set it and forget it” slogan.

But wait, there’s more…

3. HE INVENTED ‘GREAT LOOKING HAIR’ TO COVER UP HIS BALD SPOT.

In an interview with Forbes, Popeil explained that some of his inventions have arisen out of personal need. Case in point: Great Looking Hair, a.k.a. hair in a can. “I have a bald spot on the back of my head, and I saw the need for a product to fix [the problem],” Popeil explained. “So I created the spray-on hair. I carry a can of it in my briefcase wherever I go.”

But wait, there’s more…

4. NOT EVERY INVENTION HAS BEEN A WINNER.

In an interview with People, Popeil explained how his mind is always thinking of new products that the market needs. “While other people are shopping for clothes, I'm in the housewares department thinking out a new concept,” he explained. And while he’s undoubtedly one of the most successful inventors in the history of late-night television (he estimates that he has sold more than $2 billion worth of product), he has also brought a few clunkers to market. Including a home handwriting analysis kit and a subliminal message tape meant to help customers quit smoking.

But wait, there’s more…

5. THE BEASTIE BOYS REFERENCED HIM IN “CRAWLSPACE.”

The lyrics to The Beastie Boys’ song “Crawlspace,” off their 2004 album To the 5 Boroughs, begin with: “There's a party going on in here for real / I got more product than Ron Popeil.”

Contrary to many reports, the 1984 Weird Al song “Mr. Popeil” is not about Ron. As Yankovic explains in the album's liner notes, “It's not about Ron Popeil, the founder of Ronco, but about his dad, the guy who invented the Vegamatic and the Pocket Fisherman. He did pitches for them on TV before Ronco was started. Mr. Popeil was a big facet of American pop culture; he started the whole genre of marketing these gimmicky gadgets on TV. Around the time I was writing the song, I came across a magazine article about me, and right next to it I saw a story about Mr. Popeil's daughter, Lisa Popeil, who was a classically trained singer who had worked with Frank Zappa. I thought it would be great if we could get her to sing on the track, and she agreed to do it. It was very odd, though, to be in the studio directing Lisa how to sing her own name!”

Party Like a Hobbit at Chicago’s Lord of the Rings Pop-Up Bar

Gollum and a Ringwraith loom near Bilbo's hobbit hole at Replay Lincoln Park's Lord of the Rings pop-up bar.
Gollum and a Ringwraith loom near Bilbo's hobbit hole at Replay Lincoln Park's Lord of the Rings pop-up bar.
Replay Lincoln Park

One does not simply walk into Mordor, but one does simply walk into The Lord of the Rings pop-up bar in Chicago—as long as you’re at least 21 years old, of course.

Replay Lincoln Park, known for elaborate themed pop-ups for Game of Thrones, South Park, and other entertainment franchises, has transformed its premises into a magical reproduction of Middle-earth aptly called “The One Pop-Up to Rule Them All,” open now through March 23.

Inside, you’ll be able to crouch under an outcropping of tangled tree roots while one of the dreaded Nazgûl lurks above you, high-five a grimacing Gollum, and snap photos with all your favorite Lord of the Rings characters.

nazgul at the lord of the rings pop-up bar at chicago's replay lincoln park
The Nazgûl like to party, too.
Replay Lincoln Park

You might want to skip elevenses to make sure you have plenty of room for a Hobbit-approved feast during your visit. The menu, catered by Zizi’s Cafe, features items like Fried Po-tay-toes, Lord of the Wings, Beef Lembas, and Pippen’s Popcorn.

ent replica at chicago's replay lincoln park pop-up bar
Say hello to a friendly Ent while you munch on "Pippen's Popcorn."
Replay Lincoln Park

According to Thrillist, there will be three different counters in the bar, each with its own specialty drinks. Head to The Prancing Pony for a second breakfast shot (maple whiskey, bacon, and orange juice), or take a trip to Minas Tirith to toss back a palantir shot, made of silver tequila and passion fruit purée. If you’re in the mood for a little dark magic, you can trek over to Mordor and try a “my precious” shot, a fusion of dark rum, orange liquor, and Cajun seasoning.

lord of the rings pop-up bar at chicago's replay lincoln park
The Eye of Sauron is watching you order another round of Mordor shots.
Replay Lincoln Park

For those of you who are happy to accompany your Tolkien-obsessed friends to the pop-up but aren’t exactly tickled at the sight of a moss-covered Ent replica yourselves, take heart in this added bonus: Replay Lincoln Park also boasts more than 60 free arcade games and pinball machines.

[h/t Thrillist]

95 Years of The New Yorker Covers Visualized by Color

Screenshot via C82
Screenshot via C82

On February 21, 1925, The New Yorker appeared on the magazine scene with a cover illustration of a dandy drawn by art editor Rea Irvin, a character later christened Eustace Tilley. Almost a century later, Tilley still graces the cover of The New Yorker at least once a year on the magazine’s anniversary. Other weeks, they commission artists to illustrate timely political topics and evergreen moods.

The magazine has run more than 4600 covers in its 92 years of near-weekly issues (it’s currently published 47 times a year), all of which you can explore by color, thanks to designer Nicholas Rougeux (who has previously visualized sentences and punctuation in classic literature).


Using an algorithm, Rougeux analyzed the top five colors represented in every cover illustration and created a color palette for that issue. Then, he mapped out a palette for every single cover, creating a timeline of New Yorker design. It allows you to see what colors have dominated particular years and decades. If you scroll over the individual palettes, you can see the full image of that week’s cover.


Rougeux found some trends in the colors that have repeatedly graced the magazine’s cover. “Limited and muted palettes were used the 1920s," he writes on his site, while "possibly due to printing limitations, darker greens were more common in the 1940s, lighter palettes were used in the 1970s and 1980s, louder contrasting palettes were popular in the 1990s and more well-rounded palettes started being used since the 2000s.”

You can explore the color timeline for yourself here.

All images courtesy Nicholas Rougeux

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