As Seen On TV
As regular readers of the BLAST may know, this blog is occasionally turned over to a “guest writer” and this penultimate March Sunday, that’s exactly what’s happening. As luck would have it, the former technical advisor for Tim Allen’s long-running Home Improvement program, R. Hamilton “Handy” Mann, an old friend of the BLAST, happened to be in town and was talking about his fascination with the many “As Seen on TV” products now available to the public. Because of “Handy’s” enthusiasm for the products, and their pitchmen, we asked him to share his observations with BLAST readers. So, without further ado, here's Mr. Mann's BLAST.
If you’re like me, and find yourself up late at night mindlessly watching commercial television, you are probably very familiar with Phil Swift and FlexSeal, the “liquid rubber sealant coating” product which can, apparently, turn your screen door into a perfectly suitable fishing boat. Phil has been on late night tv for a number of years now, pitching FlexSeal and, while I find the product extremely appealing, I have yet to find the “1,000 and one” uses for it that Phil and his friends have. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoy his sale pitch and am definitely hooked on all the “As Seen on TV” products (whether “official” or not --- there is actually an “As Seen on TV “ Store website!). There are three particular products that have caught my eye lately and I want to share that with you after quickly paying homage to the great tv pitchmen you know --- as well as some of their fabulous products.
What makes a television pitchman effective and memorable, of course, is that he is, at the very least, borderline obnoxious. The King of the pitchmen was Billy Mays, who shouted and cajoled you to buy OxiClean to the point where you felt like “Okay, okay, I’ll buy it --- will you just shut the f*&k up?!” Now that’s a pitchman! Almost as good as Billy is “Vince” Schlomi, better known as the “ShamWow” Guy. Vince (whose real name, believe it or not, is “Offer”) has been a staple on late night, pitching his chamois cleaning cloth, along with items like the “SlapChop” and “Schticky” lint roller. Vince, to his credit, almost matches Billy on the obnoxious-meter. Less grating but just as intrusive is Billy’s old partner, Anthony Sullivan, the Brit who now sells us OxiClean as well as a few other questionable products. Billy and Anthony actually had a short-lived reality tv show entitled Pitchmen, starring --- who else but Billy and Anthony! For those of us older citizens, the greatest pitchman of all time, of course, is Ron Popeil. A tireless inventor, Popeil even invented the infomercial in the 1950’s, selling his “Chop-o-matic” to the viewing audience. Over the years (according to ronpopeil.com):
Ron’s products included: The Chop-O-Matic, Mr. Microphone (the first Karaoke machine), the Popeil Pocket Fisherman, the Veg-o-Matic, the Buttoneer, the Smokeless Ashtray, Popeil’s Electric Food Dehydrator, the Inside-the-Egg Scrambler, GLH-9 (Great Looking Hair Formula #9) Hair in a Can Spray, Rhinestone stud setter (Later called the Bedazzler), the Cap Snaffler, the Popeil Automatic Pasta Maker, the Ronco Electric Food Dehydrator, the Ronco 6 Star Plus Knives, and the Showtime Rotisserie and BBQ.
AND older folks may also remember Ronco Records, the first purveyor of compilation LP’s --- also sold on infomercials, usually on late-night tv. If there’s ever a Pitchman Hall of Fame, Ron Popeil will have to be the first inductee. There really should be some way to immortalize the man who not only invented the infomerical but also gave us the Bedazzler and Hair in a Can! In honor of Ron’s tireless promotion of products sold only on late night television, I am going to nominate three items I have recently seen advertised for what I am going to call “The Ronnie,” in honor of Mr. Popeil’s contribution to late night tv advertising.
As soon as I get this year’s U.S. tax return I know exactly what 800 numbers I’ll call or which websites I’ll immediately Google: the BetterBrella, the AirHawk Pro, and the SCOTTeVEST. If you’re not familiar with these products, let me briefly share why I find them to be “must-buys.”
The BetterBrella is on of those items you see and think, “Why didn’t someone think of this a long time ago?” Simply put, this is an umbrella that folds up in exactly the opposite fashion traditional umbrellas do. As they say on their website:
BetterBrella keeps you dry wherever you go! There's no easier way to get in or out of the rain. Turning the traditional umbrella upside down and inside out, it's much easier to use and much more practical. No longer will you have to sacrifice staying dry to go outside so your umbrella can be opened. The reversible nature of the BetterBrella allows it to be easily opened from small spaces, like getting out of the car, which reduces time spent getting wet. Boasting a wind proof design, the BetterBrella is a great alternative to old, cheap umbrellas that never seem to last through heavy rain and winds, which is where you need em' most. When closed, the BetterBrella creates a waterproof cone, so that all wetness stays on the inside and not on the floor. This also makes it much easier to drain all the collected water at once, instead of getting walls and furniture wet from constant splashing.
If you haven’t seen the BetterBrella in action, check it out on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZ44Jt-2BB8. Like me, you’ll be sold on it.
Next up is the AirHawk Pro, a handheld compressed air inflator which runs by battery and has a number of uses, not the least of which is inflating your automobile tires. According to the AirHawk website:
The Air Hawk Pro is an automatic cordless tire inflator. It is lightweight (1.9 pounds), handheld, powerful, cordless and rechargeable. The set includes pin attachments for all valves, rechargeable battery & charger, a 12 volt car adapter and a convenient storage case. It can be charged on-the-go in your car! It includes a digital pressure gauge that automatically shuts off at the desired pressure. Great for inflatable toys, air mattresses, sports equipment and bike tires.
As someone who is tired of paying for “air” at gas stations every time I need to inflate my tires --- or who struggles to fill pool rafts and air mattresses, the AirHawk Pro is the answer to my inflation prayers. (You can see it at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA8i05kmW1o)
Finally, saving the best for last, is the SCOTTeVEST, invented and sold by Scott Jordan (who is no Ron Popeil, btw). This is an item that is irresistible to a gadget freak like myself --- or anyone else who tends to “need” to carry a lot of junk with them wherever they go. (You can “meet” Scott and the product at https://www.youtube.com/user/scottevest). The company makes a wide variety of clothing, for men and women, totally based on the notion that people need to have someplace to put all their “stuff” when they leave their homes. (Which reminds me of George Carlin’s classic “stuff” routine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac) At any rate, if you haven’t seen SCOTTeVEST advertised, here’s what they say about it:
RFID Travel Vest for Men: You'll be lost without it! This 26 pocket vest features an RFID-blocking pocket to protect your passport and credit cards from high-tech skimmers that can steal your identity. Ideal for travel, running errands around town or on your next outdoor adventure, the RFID Travel Vest will keep you safe, organized and connected. The lightweight, breathable poly fabric is Teflon® treated for water and stain-resistance, and is machine washable.
The description isn’t quite the level of “J.Peterman” prose but you get the idea and, really, how can you live without those 26 pockets! I know I can’t --- and won’t.
Come April 16th you’ll find me inflating my tires with an AirHawk Pro while I fend off those April showers with a BetterBrella, wearing my SCOTTeVEST --- “as seen on tv.”