It’s the end of an era for Ronco, an era they created. Ron Popeil’s company virtually invented the as-seen-on-TV product, sold via informercials. And in the process, they made millions…but that’s all in the past now. As the company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, here’s a look back on some of the crazy gadgets Popeil peddled.
Resembling one of those extra-long butane lighters, the Pocket Fisherman was a retractable fishing rod, with no messy line or hooks to get caught on anything.
This toy, first released in 1978, combined a microphone with a low-powered wireless radio transmitter. No speakers required: It worked by broadcasting the user’s voice over an FM radio as far as 100 feet away.
Sit-On Trash Compactor
In the 1970s, when “ecology” first hit home as an issue for many Americans, Popeil marketed this device that reduced household garbage…by crushing it. The Sit-On Trash Compactor was especially “green” in that it required no electricity—the user sat on a lowering platform that crushed trash.
GLH Formula #9
You’ll never go broke trying to sell a product that purports to treat hair loss and baldness. In the infomercials for this product (which aired in the early 1990s), Popeil used the product on his own substantial bald spot. What was GLH Formula #9? An aerosol-type can of colored, hair-thickening powder. In other words, hair spray paint. (“GLH” stood for “great looking hair.”)
Inside-the-Shell Electric Egg Scrambler
Popeil reportedly loathed scrambled eggs that hadn’t been properly mixed, leaving little bits of the white in with the yellow. That inspired him to invented this very specifically-minded gadget. The user placed a raw egg in the device’s bowl, where a needle would puncture it. Then, the object shook wildly, allowing the needle to mix up the egg. Then the user cracked it and put it in a pan—no mixing bowl required.
Nowadays every grocery store in the country sells rotisserie-cooked chickens for about the same price as a whole raw chicken, eliminating the need for most people to own their own rotisserie. But in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Ronco’s Showtime Rotisserie Grill, a compact, table-top chicken cooker, became the company’s all-time bestselling product. The ads boasted the memorable catchphrase, “set it, and forget it!”