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Pitchmen. Their origins, history and speilmeister training fields.

12 Years Ago


There are a lot of people that have expressed surprise that Billy Mays, the Infomercial King of cable TV fame was doing cocaine. Especially to such a long term degree that the coroner ruled that it had contributed to the heart disease that he expired from.

Most people attributed his drug use to his quasi celebrity status as the pre-eminent pitchman, for various and sundry products of debatable usefullness and worth. And the attendant stresses of fronting his own reality TV show; The Pitchmen.

But I suspect that the origins of his drug usage had less to do with his place in the world as a man in his fifties, and more to do with his formative years in the pitchman trenches of higher education. Where glib double speak spieling, and hypnotic pitch patter are fine tuned in the "make a killing" fields of middle America,  which are our country's county and state fairs.
 
Graduates of this hustler's school of conning rubes have "I love Robin Marks" tattooed on their soul for all eternity. 

Except for the few that make it to the next level; "paid programming infomercial heaven" most pitchmen remain minions, and gophers of their Hell spawned carny barker bosses.  As such, they are the seamy underbelly of midway mercantilers.

Most of these people will never be ready for prime time, as their penchants, and preferences run several degrees south of being merely pedestrian. Most likely due to their mostly being paid off for services rendered with drugs,  fire crackers,  switchblades,  and sexual favors, provided by midget hookers,
and the bearded lady.
 Errr.... Or so I've heard.

Is my above description of pitchmen in general some what exaggerated?

Of course it is.

Do they not love like we do?

Well..., Do they?

If they are cut, do they not bleed? Or just leak the oil based lubricant of a heartless selling machine?

If their outrageously marked up commodity price is undercut by another pitchman that dares to be even more unscrupulous than the original purveyor of something or other, won't he nut up, and beat a prostitute senseless, like the ShamWow! pitchman did, for not filing her canines down, before uhhh, going down?
 
Apparently.

Their lineage is ancient, and just as manic. The loud shrieking, arms flaying rug merchants of the Casbah.  That never met a rug they didn't like.


The "cigars,  cigarettes, tiparillo" pitch gals at the Copacabana. That were given a twenty dollar bill for a five cent cigar, and told to "keep the change" because it just seemed right after Trixie, or Wanda leaned over to light your stogie, and your face was enveloped between her mammalian magnificence long enough to anesthetize your ability to calculate the difference between five cents, and twenty dollars.

The Traveling Medicine Show snake oil salesmen of the old west.

That rolled into small towns, and bucolic burgs preaching the gospel of Sister Henrietta's health infusing, ailment arresting, healing holy hooch. That was guaranteed to keep you so s**t-faced that you thought you were healed long enough for these Prince of Darkness pitchmen to abscond with a good portion of the town folk's money, and one or two of their daughters.

They have gone by many names. Silver tongued devil. Barker. Huckster.Scammer.  Liar. Thief. And; "That's him sheriff!" Just to name a few.
 
There is always something of value to sell, that a man can turn a decent profit on.  These retail scamps and scallywags avoid products like that as if their life depended on it.

And in the most basic of ways, there life does depend on steering clear of affordable, useful items. That is; Their life as mesmerizing, merchandisers of blatantly over priced corny, and crappy kitch. That they obviously have imported directly from the junk dimension. Via mainland China.

There is only one legendary pitch man that springs to mind when talk turns round to the question; "Is there a decent paying life, and an honorable reputation after pitching crap for decades to unsuspecting rubes, by the use of deceptive claims?

His name was Ed McMahon. Johnny Carson's signature sidekick for the long run. And like most people, I liked, and admired Ed during those golden years of his pitchman existence. When there was nothing to sell to the audience, or viewers, other than that he found everything that Johnny said to be immensely funny.

But sadly, like a dog returning to his own vomit, or a pitchman returning to the seventh hub of pitchman hell, (where damned pitchmen spend an eternity trying to carve tomatoes, and cantaloupes into artistic creations, but instead, they all resemble tortured souls) 
Ed dove back into the pitch black,  metaphorically murky waters of slick, and slimy double speak spieldom.

His di was cast, his fate was sealed, and the wheels on his roller coaster ride to hell were greased when he formed an unholy Trinity alliance with the Dorian Gray cursed poster boy of ageless pitch, Dick Clark,

and the soulless Dark Lord that is computer generated, person specific mailing lists.

Faster than you can say; "Release the hounds of Hell!"  Every man,  woman, and child in the U.S.A. had several pounds of Publisher's Clearing House mailings proclaiming that;  "You may already be a winner!"   But you NEVER were!

No one that I ever knew ever won even the cheesy baby stroller crap that they passed out as consolation prizes.  Crap so pathetically cheap in quality that they bought a warehouse full of the stuff at rock bottom prices, after several babies,  were mangled,   when the framework suffered catastrophic collapse at the precise moment that a child's arm, or leg was exposed, and ready to be mangled.

Every week. Every month. Every year. For many years, Ed, and Dick's face smiled up at you  from your kitchen, or coffee table.  My mother, like millions of other elderly people bought over two thousand dollars worth of magazines a year for over ten years. She never read any of them. No one could convince her that her odds of winning were the same if she never bought a single magazine.

Without really saying so, (like all good pitch men) Ed and Dick projected exactly the opposite. And mom trusted Ed, and Dick to give her the straight dope.

Ahhh Ed.  You knew that there was great damage being done to millions of people that loved you.  Trusted you.  But you were a pitchman through and through.

And you broke something in my Mother's heart that never healed. And she wasn't alone Ed. There were millions like her.

Which leads me to believe that you might find it impossible to "pitch one" across the plate when the great umpire in the sky says; "Play ball"

You are gonna have to do a lot better than; "It chops! It blends! It juliennes! It purees! It is a magical little gadget that saves you time, money, and aggravation!  Sorry, due to an extremely limited supply, we can only let you order twelve at a time!"

Much better.