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'Father of TV infomercial' Ron Popeil dies at 86 after medical emergency

July 29 (UPI) -- Ron Popeil, the ubiquitous infomercial pitchman who for decades sold everything from food dehydrators to hair coloring to cover up baldness, has died at a Southern California hospital. He was 86.

CNN, TMZ and The New York Times reported Popeil's death, which occurred Wednesday.

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Popeil was taken to Cedars-Sinai Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday after a severe medical emergency.

"The father of the television infomercial, Ron Popeil, was a trailblazer," the Ortner Group said in a statement.

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"He lived his life to the fullest and passed in the loving arms of his family."

Born in New York City in 1935, Popeil began talking to audiences and selling kitchen products in Chicago. His first infomercial aired in 1959, for the "Chop-o-Matic."

Popeil's infomercials, which were mostly broadcast overnight, developed a passionate and loyal fanbase -- and his catchphrase, "But wait there's more," became well-known in pop culture before the rise of the Internet and social media.

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Popeil was also an inventor, as well. His Showtime "Set it and Forget it" Rotisserie generated more than $1 billion in sales, and other inventions -- particularly his food dehydrator in the 1990s -- became bestsellers.

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The pitchman later became known for some other unusual items, including an aerosol powder he marketed to cover up male pattern balding -- which some critics called "spray-on hair."

Owing to his perpetual presence on late night television, Popeil was often parodied on comic shows like Saturday Night Live. He even sometimes played himself or provided his voice to entertainment acts that played off his success.

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"Beyond the professional sphere, Ron had many passions," the Ortner Group added. "He was an avid fisherman, snow skier, sailer, adventure seeker, and dog lover.

"Surpassing all of Ron's professional successes was the pride he had for family and close-knit collection of friends, referred to as 'The Rontourage.'"

Popeil ultimately sold his company, Ronco, in 2005 but remained closely associated with its products. He would sell his later inventions under Ron's Enterprises, Inc.

Popeil is survived by his wife, four daughters and four grandchildren.

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