Isn’t That Amazing! Reveals the Appeal and Spiel of Ronco and Popeil

March 5, 2004 · 0 comments

in 2004,Werty

Isn’t That Amazing! The Appeal and Spiel of Ronco and Popeil: “Isn’t That Amazing! Reveals the Appeal and Spiel of Ronco and Popeil

Isn’t That Amazing! The Appeal and Spiel of Ronco and Popeil
March 6 – May 16, 2004
Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago Rooms
77 E. Randolph Street

Don’t miss this exclusive Chicago opportunity to see the largest collection of original Popeil and Ronco TV-advertised gadgets ever assembled under one roof. But, wait! There’s more!

Related free or ticketed programs at various locations include demonstrations, talks by the curator, an improvisational-style comedy show, and a disco party.

‘See a device that makes it possible to scramble an egg inside its shell! But, don’t delay, this is a limited time opportunity,’ says exhibition curator, collector and author Tim Samuelson (left) who is also the Cultural Historian for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. Visitors will also learn the story of the Popeil family, the inventive and successful manufacturers and marketers of amazing gadgets that made lives easier and provided hours of safe fun.

On view in the second floor Chicago Rooms will be approximately 150 gadgets and compilation record albums, dating from 1946 to 2002, produced by the originally Chicago-based Popeil Brothers and Ronco companies that were founded by members of the Popeil family. Vintage ‘pitchman’s’ gadgets dating from as early as 1905 will also be displayed.

Classic television commercials will run continuously in the gallery. The story of the Popeil family and some of the ‘tricks of the trade’ will also be told through text panels and reproductions of vintage advertisements and product packaging. A section in the exhibition will include a table, a loud plaid jacket, a ‘Bass-O-Matic,’ and a transcript of the Saturday Night Live classic comedy skit for Dan Aykroyd’s 1976 ‘advertisement’ that was a parody of Popeil-style television commercials. Visitors may step right up and demonstrate their ‘pitching’ skills.

The Popeil Pocket Fisherman, Veg-O-Matic, and Mr. Microphone, as well as the Ronco Bottle & Jar Cutter, Rhinestone & Stud Setter, and ‘Original Hits by Original Artists’ compilation record albums, are among the items for the kitchen, the home, personal grooming, fishing, and crafts displayed. The earliest Popeil item is their inaugural product from 1946, the Giant Auto Grate, a hand-cranked rotary grater, and the most recent item on view is the Flip-It-Ronco, introduced in 2002.

The Popeil family went from being street peddlers in the 1930s and ’40s to international celebrities of popular culture through the magic of television and their innovative products. Popeil Brothers was established in 1945 by the late Samuel J. and Raymond Popeil. Ronco was co-founded in 1964 by Samuel J.’s son Ron Popeil and his former college roommate. Ron Popeil resides in California, where Ronco is currently based.

Tim Samuelson has been collecting the ‘gizmos’ since the early 1990s, when he discovered a 1950s Popeil Brothers plastic donut maker in a resale shop and was impressed by the clever gadget that combined beauty, ingenuity and utility. He has since assembled his collection from thrift stores, online auctions, closets, attics and basements throughout North America.

The public is invited to learn more about the the collection, the Popeil Family, the collector, and other subjects during related programs.

In a preview to the exhibition, Tim Samuelson joins journalist and author Rick Kogan as part of the ‘Conversations with Extraordinary People’ series at Maxim’s: The Nancy Goldberg International Center, 24 E .Goethe St., at 6pm, Thursday, March 4. Presented on the city’s birthday, the program will focus on Chicago and a few of its colorful citizens, including S.J. Popeil and Ann Landers, who were east Lake Shore drive neighbors. Samuelson will discuss Samuel J. Popeil and also demonstrate and recreate memorable Popeil products and spiels. Refreshments and booksigning. Tickets are $20; reservations at 312-742-1748 or [email protected].

On the opening day of the exhibition, Saturday, March 6, Samuelson will present a gallery talk at 1pm. He will also present a gallery talk at 12:15pm, Thursday, April 8. Admission is free.

Fast-talking Chicago chef Frankie J. demonstrates Popeil family kitchen gadgets in the program ‘Set It and Forget It Extravaganza’ scheduled at the Chicago Cultural Center at noon Thursday, March 25; admission free. He will also slice and dice his way through dinner at his restaurant, Frankie J’s, 4437 N. Broadway, at 8:30pm, Saturday, March 27; call 773-769-2959 for reservations for the performance ($10), and to learn about the optional dinner special for an additional charge.

The comedy show ‘Bassprov ‘ Three in a Boat with Tim Samuelson’ is scheduled at 7pm, Tuesday, April 20, and repeated at 7pm, Wednesday, April 21 in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Studio Theater. This customized version of the nationally acclaimed improvisational-style comedy show will highlight the history and ingenuity of the Popeil empire, as Chicago improv veterans Mark Sutton and Joe Bill share their boat with the exhibition curator/collector and a Popeil Pocket Fisherman. Admission is free; reservations required at 312-742-1079.

The ‘Popeil Disco Party’ is scheduled at 7pm, Wednesday, May 12, in the exhibition gallery; admission free. Local DJs spin the hits from the Ronco Presents Original Hits by the Original Artists compilation albums ‘ Get It On! Disco Super Hits, Star Trackin’ 76 and Good Vibrations, as part of the ohm series scheduled in conjunction with selected exhibitions.

‘Isn’t That Amazing!’ is accompanied by a 128-page, fully illustrated book, But, Wait! There’s More! The Irresistible Appeal and Spiel of Ronco and Popeil. Authored by Samuelson and published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., the book is available for sale in the Shop at the Cultural Center ($24.95/hardcover), as well as other merchandise in the spirit of the exhibition.

The exhibition is organized by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, curated by Tim Samuelson, and made possible by the Chicago Office of Tourism.

Exhibitions and related programming at the Chicago Cultural Center are partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. The Claridge Hotel, in Chicago’s Gold Coast, is the Official Hotel Sponsor of the Visual Arts Division.

Exhibition viewing hours are Monday through Thursday, 10am to 7pm; Friday, 10am to 6pm; Saturday, 10am to 5pm; and Sunday, 11am to 5pm.

manufacturers and marketers of amazing gadge”

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