Infomercial Pioneer Philip Kives, of 'Veg-O-Matic' Fame, Dies at 87

Courtesy of YouTube/KtelClassics

The fast-talking infomercial maker sold slicing and dicing products and albums to the common man with pioneering 'As Seen on TV' marketing.

K-tel founder Philip Kives, the infomercial pioneer best known for bringing the Miracle Brush and the Veg-O-Matic to American TV viewers, has died. He was 87.

Kives died Wednesday in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Winnipeg Free Press reported. Kives launched K-tel, which bore the first letter of his last name, and his first five-minute TV commercial to sell a non-stick Teflon frying pan in 1962.

His fast-talking K-tel infomercials were mocked by Dan Aykroyd's Bass-O-Matic skit on Saturday Night Live, and his TV exploits were echoed in Joy, the Jennifer Lawrence-starring drama about Joy Mangano in 1992 using QVC to sell her invention, the Miracle Mop.

According to the K-tel corporate website, Kives and his brother as door-to-door cookware salesmen went to Atlantic City in 1961 and demonstrated products at the Woolworth Store facing the Boardwalk. "I learned quickly that only the strong survive," Kives recalled. "If you did not produce, you were out of the Woolworth Store in a flash, as other people were waiting to take your place."

But once back in Winnipeg, Kives decided to use TV to pitch his Teflon frying pan direct to viewers with the medium's first infomercial. "To my surprise, sales took off at a remarkable pace. I quickly spread the TV advertising throughout Canada," he recounted.

Soon, Kives acquired products from Seymour Popiel, the father of Ron Popiel of the legendary Ronco company. "I went on to sell these products, such as the Dial-O-Matic, the Veg-O-Matic and the Feather-Touch Knife, with great success through TV advertising," Kives wrote.

His biggest product was the Miracle Brush, having sold 28 million units by the late 1960s. Kives' top-selling music album was Hooked on Classics, which has sold over 10 million copies via TV commercials that he wrote and directed himself.

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