If this man’s face (and sweater) rings a bell, you were probably of TV-watching age in the ’90s:
Also known as the “sweater man,” Mike Levey hosted a series of Amazing Discoveries infomercials that were ubiquitous, addictive and absolutely necessary in a time before internet shopping and endless scrolling existed. You could always count on the fact that he, and other hosts like him (hello, Ron Popeil), could be found playing on an endless loop on one channel or another, hawking everything from spray-on hair to beef jerky machines. Sure, you never had any intention of buying spray-on hair or making jerky, and the sales pitches were cheesy and repetitive. But these programs were mind-numbingly comforting in a way that nothing else was, a reliable opiate for your exhausted soul.
If you’re still yearning for that Jack LaLanne juicer or Ronco pasta extruder from the days of yore, we dug up not only the original infomercials for nostalgia’s sake, but we also found ways to buy the products that got away.
1. The Ronco Food Dehydrator
“Inventor” Ron Popeil was my infomercial king. As an elementary-aged kid who wasn’t yet old enough to have extracurriculars after school to keep me busy, I was an avid consumer of every infomercial he hosted. This food dehydrator was my No. 1 most-wanted item of all time, and this ad in particular is a pure gem ― he manages to cross-promote another Ronco product in the show’s opening when he covers up his bald spot with his signature spray-on hair product, GLH (try not to pass out):
After watching this episode, I was dying to take every ingredient in my mom’s kitchen and dry the bejeezus out of it. Bananas, strawberries, pineapples ― they’re all better dried, says Ron! I didn’t truly understand what jerky even was in the early ’90s, but Ron convinced me I needed to buy liquid smoke and make fish jerky and turkey jerky. After just 28 minutes of watching this program, I wondered why I ever ate food with moisture in it.
And the best news it that you can still buy your own modern-day Ronco dehydrator and make all the fruit leather you want ― even if your mother never let you buy it back in the ’90s (ahem, mom).
2. The Jack LaLanne Juicer
I became obsessed with these commercials as a child, back when it was still called the Juice Tiger. LaLanne, who lived to be 96 and was essentially the world’s first fitness influencer, claims that juicing saved his life and one would naturally deduce that juice is also responsible for his rippling muscles. As such, when I was 12 I saved up my lawn-mowing money and traded it for the hope of eternal life and muscle tone.
I was lured by the promise that I could feed the machine with frozen cantaloupe and scoop “cantaloupe sorbet” out of the pulp container (it sort of worked).
The machine’s name has since evolved into the Power Juicer and most recently the Fusion Juicer, and it’s still sold today. Sure, there are other juicers out there, but none that are endorsed by a man who towed 70 rowboats at the age of 70.
3. Ronco Veg-O-Matic Food Chopper
Want to see a classically ’90s infomercial dramatization? Do yourself a favor and go to the 1:00 mark of this video, when a grandma (who we’re supposed to presume is too feeble to chop a potato) absolutely smokes clumsy mom and dad, who use silly old-fashioned cutting tools in their race to chop veggies.
Ageism aside, the Veg-O-Matic is actually a useful tool for anyone who’s not completely knife-confident, and a modernized model is sold today. Four interchangeable blades allow you to cut in a half-inch cube, 1/4-inch dice, a thin slice or a thick wedge.
Get the Ronco Veg-O-Matic Food Chopper for $35.91.
4. The SuperSnacker
This was essentially a machine that toasted sandwiches into triangular pockets, something that every college kid needs for their dorm room. But the infomercial sold it as much more.
The host, who happens to be the actual Mr. Belvedere, makes an appeal to housewives: “Does this sound familiar? You walk into your kitchen to find an invading pack of hungry hooligans in search of the elusive after school snack. Your husband, who has memorized every sports statistic since the beginning of time but can’t remember how to turn on the oven, needs a little sustenance.” But worry not, he has something that’ll save the day.
Before you know it, the show’s co-host tries to replicate “good old-fashioned pie, just like mom used to make” by slathering white sandwich bread with margarine and stuffing it with canned pie filling and cheddar cheese. This doesn’t fool you, but you want it anyway. What is happening?
Sadly, the actual SuperSnacker no longer appears to be in production, but the good news is that plenty of brands have since made their own version of this product. This model from GreenLife features an eco-friendly nonstick coating.
5. Ronco Showtime Rotisserie and BBQ
If the phrase “Set it and forget it!” sounds familiar, you have most certainly seen the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie and BBQ infomercial, because that phrase is repeated (and yelled by the audience) at a brainwashing frequency:
If your favorite pizza topping is “meat lover’s,” this product is for you. Prepare yourself for the dizzying amount of meat you can jab with a rotisserie spike:
You can make a delicious 6-pound chicken. Not one, but two, delicious rotisserie chickens. A scrumptious, flavorful 6 1/2-pound standing rib roast. A dozen tasty, juicy lamb chops. A 6 1/2-pound caramelized honey ham. Three extra-thick healthy salmon steaks. A 6-pound mouth-watering pork loin roast. A tender, flavorful Texas-style tri-tip. Eight full-sized beef and chicken kebabs. A big 10-pound golden brown turkey. Enough hot dogs and sausages to feed a small army. A luscious-looking 6-pound leg of lamb with rosemary. Four freshly caught whole trout. Four half-pound juicy hamburgers. Three naturally flavored rock Cornish game hens, and everyone’s favorite, baby back ribs.
I assume this is not meant to be cooked all at one time, but it’s nevertheless impressive. And best of all, you can still buy one right now for the low price of $169.99! You know that amazing rotisserie chicken aroma at the grocery store? You can have it in your home. Forever.
6. Ron Popeil Pasta Maker
As you likely know, today’s market is flooded with automatic pasta-makers, but Ron Popeil deserves credit for the infomercial that convinced us all we absolutely need fresh pasta in under 3 minutes.
“It’s so easy, a child can do it,” he insists as he dumps ingredients into a bucket before the pasta shoots out like Play-Doh. There’s linguine and fettucine in all the colors of the rainbow, thanks to the addition of spinach, carrot and beet juice:
The Ronco brand of pasta machine hasn’t survived against the latest competition, but if this infomercial has made it absolutely necessary that you have an automatic pasta extruder, the product below is a great alternative.