Ron Popeil, known for iconic infomercials, dead at 86

LOS ANGELES — Ron Popeil, an inventor and TV personality best known for his infomercials pitching the Showtime Rotisserie oven, Veg-O-Matic and the Pocket Fisherman, has died at age 86, multiple news outlets are reporting.

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According to The Associated Press and People magazine, Popeil died suddenly on Wednesday at a Los Angeles hospital. A statement released on his family’s behalf did not reveal Popeil’s cause of death.

“He lived his life to the fullest and passed in the loving arms of his family,” family representative Eric Ortner said in the statement, according to People. “The father of the television infomercial, Ron Popeil, was a trailblazer; he rose from a modest upbringing in a fractured home to become a ubiquitous name and face in direct-to-consumer marketing and inventing.”

Popeil began his career as a teen by selling products from a Chicago factory managed by his inventor-salesman father, Samuel, People reported. He made his first sales pitches at Chicago’s open-air markets before moving on to state fairs and, eventually, television. His first infomercial – for his father’s Chop-o-Matic – came in 1959, according to the magazine.

Under his company, Ronco, Popeil continued to sell his father’s gadgets and his own inventions, People reported. Catchphrases from his infomercials – such as “but wait, there’s more” and Showtime Rotisserie’s “set it and forget it” – became ingrained in pop culture and inspired parodies by “Saturday Night Live” and “Weird Al” Yankovic, according to the AP.

Popeil leaves behind wife Robin, four daughters and four grandchildren, the AP reported. He was preceded in death by one daughter, Shannon.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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