THE SALESMAN OF THE CENTURY by Ron with Jefferson Graham Popeil


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This autobiography of the inventor and pitchman of Mr. Microphone and the Ronco Electric Food Dehydrator has virtually nothing to say, and its amusing moments are primarily of the laughing-at rather than laughing-with variety. A familiar face to most American TV viewers, Popeil has experienced a fascinating series of triumphs and setbacks on his way to becoming the king of the hucksters. Employing a mix of chutzpah and charisma, he has peddled an unbelievable assortment of cockamamie contraptions to the tune of $1 billion in sales. This should have been a good book. The products themselves--from the smokeless ashtray to GLH Formula #9 (spray-on hair)--have all the comic impact of an old Honeymooners episode. And Popeil's rise from poverty-stricken peddler on Chicago's Maxwell Street to prolific inventor and dashing infomercial host packs a powerful Runyonesque punch. But this telling of the saga (despite the help of USA Today TV columnist Graham) is so disorganized and badly written that any sparks are quickly extinguished. The choppy, declarative style allows only for a catalog of ""this happened, then that happened,"" with absolutely no introspection. To be sure, there are funny moments (Popeil's brother hawks wise in Woolworth's: ""You want one and the lady wants one in the rear. . . ""), and Popeil is endearingly impervious to the fact that many consider his wares the epitome of junk. But wait, there's more! By the time the book descends into its second part, in which Popeil shares with budding entrepreneurs such intimate ""Key Points"" as ""Shop around and get several bids,"" clever readers will have put it down in favor of the Home Shopping Network. Don't add this to the list of useless whatchamacallits that Popeil has already bamboozled you into obtaining.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1995
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Delacorte