Ron Popeil, an American original who died this week at 86, thrived in the world of infomercials and home-shopping channels. From roots as an open-air salesman in Chicago, he became a pop-culture icon in the late 20th century by inventing and selling various consumer gadgets from the Popeil Pocket Fisherman to food dehydrators to hair in a can. But his ability to be a connecting thread between old-time salesmen and the video age was his real superpower. For millions of Gen Xers, he occupied a space somewhere between comedy and smart, homespun business. How he built and spun that image created his immense appeal. Ron Popeil, dead at 86.