What Was Ron Popeil’s Net Worth? Mr. Informercial Has Died Aged 86
The article below was written by Erik Lactis on November 14th, 1995
Courtesy of Erik Lacitis
July 29, 2021
Erik did this interview with Ron Popeil on November 14th, 1995
Ron Popeil, infomercial pioneer and whose inventions included the Popeil Pocket Fisherman, Hair in a Can Spray, the Veg-O-Matic, dead at 86. In 1995 I interviewed him. It was fun back then:
Ron, I say – because with Ron Popeil you’re right away on a first name basis – let’s talk about the mood of the country.
Ron, I say, you’ve know the pulse of the country better than any CNN pundit or expensive consultant.
Has a consultant ever really put himself on the line, hawking on TV the astounding Popeil Automatic Pasta Maker, or the legendary Popeil Pocket Fisherman, or the unbelievable GLH Formula Number 9 spray-on hair that covers up bald spots?
“You give me too much credit,” Ron says. “I’ve had humble beginnings, not much education, but I’ve worked very hard for what I’ve got.”
Ron says he’s not too comfortable talking politics. The GLH Formula Number 9, that he’ll pitch all day.
You spray this stuff onto your bald spot, brush it, and, hey, it’s gone! Ron shows me the back of his head.
He’s 60, and that day he just used some GLH (which stands for “Great Looking Hair”) on himself.
Ron, I say, I can’t tell where the real hair ends and the spray begins! “That’s all I ask for,” he beams.
I’ve been reading the book that is just another item that Ron is currently promoting. Only $23.95! And look what you get – “The Salesman of the Century: Inventing, Marketing, and Selling on TV: How I Did It and How You Can Too!”
If over the past two decades you grossed more than $1 billion selling 31 products, I guess you can call yourself the “salesman of the century.”
One way you get to be the salesman of the century is spending your youth, as Popeil did, at a Chicago Woolworth’s, and at county fairs, hawking everything from food choppers to kitchen knives, six days a week, 10 to 12 hours day.
It’s not that big leap from a county fair to that 30-minute infomercial. “Selling is selling,” Ron explains.
I press Ron about our national mood.
“I’m not pessimistic, and I’m not optimistic,” he says. “The pessimistic individual thinks they’re gonna lose his job. But I don’t work for anyone. I control my own destiny. It’s working for yourself that you can make some serious money.”
I want to keep Ron focused on this national mood concept, but suddenly he’s telling me about the mathematics of infomercials.
Guess how much 28 minutes 30 seconds in the 2 a.m. slot costs on a local station in Seattle? he asks. He answers, $300 or $400. The math about where the profits start isn’t too hard to figure out.
Before CNBC, the cable channel, jacked up its rates, Ron could get the Sunday 4 p.m. slot for $9,600. National exposure!
“Everytime that commercial ran, I made $5,000 or $6,000!” he says.
Money-back guarantee on vote?
Ron, I say, trying to get back on this national mood concept, are we in an optimistic or pessimistic mode?
Ron ponders the national psyche.
“I don’t think anyone in the country is optimistic because there’s too much crap going around,” he says. “I mean, it’s everywhere! Special interest groups that are basically out there bribing, politicians who lie.”
Ron ponders it some more. A money-back guarantee with politicians, that’s what we need. You get elected, you somehow get rated on a scale from 1 to 10 on fulfilling your promises. You fail to deliver, you’ve got to pay up, like maybe not being able to run for office again.
If he’s got a money-back guarantee on his pasta machine, Ron tells me, why can’t Clinton or Dole?
I ask some more about the national mood. Ron starts to tell me another story. At first it doesn’t seem to be about the national mood, but afterwards I ponder his anecdote’s bigger meaning.
Ron tells me about being on David Letterman, and knowing that Letterman was going to make fun of him and his products. Ron doesn’t like to make fun of the Pocket Fisherman.
“It takes away the sincerity,” he says, and it is the customer’s belief in his sincerity that’s made Ron a millionaire.
“So you know what I told myself before I went on Letterman? I told myself, `This is the reason I get paid.”‘
And that night on Letterman, Ron Popeil wasn’t humiliated, and even got a bigger hand from the audience than the other guest, Harrison Ford.
Mood of the country? I go over my notes.
Forget politics because it’s all crap; concentrate on hustling your product; sell yourself because nobody else will.
And during the rough spots, tell yourself, “This is the reason I get paid.”
Like I told you, Ron’s got it figured out lots better than any of the pundits.