Infomercial get-rich-quick schemes are a little like weight-loss scams: both of them take something that's relatively simple -- work more to make more money, eat less to lose weight -- and pretend that there's a magic path through all the time and effort and commitment it takes. It's all about the lure, all about the promises.
PT Barnum said that there was a sucker born every minute--but that number goes way up after 2:30 a.m. From grandfatherly to sleazy, here are some of the most notorious pitchmen, and the schemes they've employed to make themselves rich on the backs of the suckers who just want to be rich, too.
10. Tom Bosley SMC You'd think it would be hard to dislike Mr. Cunningham from Happy Days. But after seeing this mess of an internet-marketing plan that basically amounts to "sell cheap crap at high prices," it seems more possible. If Tom Bosley is just renting out his fatherly face to a company he knows nothing about, then he needs a good, stern, 50s era talking-to. If, on the other hand, he's consciously repping a company that he knows to be shady? Mr. C needs to sit on it.
9. Anthony Morrison's Hidden Millionaires The real secret to becoming a millionaire is to convince hundreds of thousands of people that you can make them a millionaire, and charge each one of those poor saps a few grand to hear your advice. That's what Anthony Morrison did! How? Well, for one, he lives with his parents--a piece of advice that can save you potentially tens of thousands every year!
8. Dean Graziosi Another buy-low-sell-high real estate foreclosure guru -- when will people stop buying information about this relatively simple idea that's in reality pretty tough to find and pull off? And anyway, wasn't this guy the geeky dude on Head of the Class back in the 80s? Step one to becoming a real-estate tycoon: make a few million on sitcom work. Now there's a solid strategy.
7. Jeff Paul's Shortcut to Internet Millions
The strange thing about Jeff Paul infomercials is that you really don't see much of Jeff Paul -- and if his telephoto golf-course appearances are any indication, that's probably a small mercy. Instead, you get overacting porn-star wannabes pretending to make money off websites that they admit they don't understand. So, the real shortcut to internet millions? Boobs.
6. Russ Dalbey's CashFlow Russ Dalbey might give seminars on making an easy buck with commissions on bank notes (no easy task in this economic climate). But his real gift is easy-listening jazz, as shown in this, his latest album entitled Winning in the Cash Flow Business. Check your local listings to catch Russ on an upcoming episode of the Lawrence Welk show.
5. Carlton Sheets "No Money Down" Can you really buy a home with no money down? Can you do it with bad credit? No credit? Bankruptcy? Well, the answer has always been not really, but it's a big emphatic NO, combined with a derisive laugh in your face these days. What you can buy, however, is lots of Carlton Sheets' boxes of tapes and CDs, which themselves can be used as building blocks to erect a crude shelter -- so everything's on the up-and-up.
4. Don Lapre
Don Lapre has been excited about you making money for more than two decades now -- and as this commercial attests, all you need to do to make a lot of money is to go back in time to when newspaper classifieds were profitable and run one tiny ad. You could, of course, skip the time travel and try Craigslist right now -- but then you run into the issue that people aren't nearly as gullible as they apparently were back in the late 80s. So again, back to time travel. It all comes back to time travel.
3. Matthew Lesko's Free Government Money Aside from obviously being the long-lost father of Andy Dick (apparently government money wasn't the only thing Matthew Lesko was gettin' for free), Matthew Lesko has also been the hyper-active Frank Gorshin knockoff that late-night TV viewers have been tempted to trust for years. Fortunately, massive government mistrust came along, and solved that temptation problem for most of America.
2. Tom Vu
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There's a reason Tom Vu was parodied on Family Guy: He's an easy target. He's already a self-parody of a Vietnamese boat-person made good. Check out this awesome pitch: "At first I got lots of discouragement from friends and stranger who are loser! You know what these people kept telling me? They kept saying, 'Well Tom Vu, you a crazy nut, here you are, a poor immigrant, poor minority, speak no English, no contact, on and on, and you trying to be rich in America! You crazy, man! Look at people out there! They smarter than you are,they not even rich! Who are you to try?' And you know what? I have to keep telling these people every time, I kept saying, 'You are loser! Get out of my way! I make it somehow!'" Wow. You tell 'em, Tom Vu, in your broken Engrish!
1. Kevin Trudeau's Free Money
He taught our children with Mega Math, helped us read faster and better with Mega Speed Reading, and shared with us the secret of total recall with Mega Memory. He took on doctors and the drug companies first with breakthrough Calcium supplements, and later with herbal remedies that "they don't want you to know about." And somewhere in between all those amazing discoveries was his Free Money infomercial, which turned out to be more or less a streamlined Matthew Leskopitch. Kevin Trudeau is either a revolutionary genius, uncovering secrets hidden by conspiracies that rival the DaVinci Code, or else he's a hot bag of gas with good hair. The latter (and more likely) option does mean that his 2006 promise to run for Federal office makes a lot more sense.