November 15, 1993 12:00 PM

SINCERITY. IT POSITIVELY OOZED FROM the fake jungle at Las Vegas’s Mirage hotel on Oct. 27 as the National Infomercial Marketing Association held its second annual awards show and schmoozathon. “These people are not shills,” declared Ray Manzella, infomercial packager for such powerhouses of pitch as Jay “Juiceman” Kordich. “The ones that really work are the ones with passion, with…sincerity.”

Genuine as it was, the first NIMA convention (awards-less) three years ago attracted only about 120 infomercialistas. Last month’s event pulled in 1,500-plus, reflecting the industry’s projected $900 million cash flow for this year. The buzz was not only about the Superstars of Sell, like Vanna (Perfect Smile) White and Best Presenter Susan Powter, whose Stop the Insanity! fitness infomercial was named best of the year. There was also talk—not all friendly—about new pitchers warming up in the infomercial bullpen. Of Linda Evans’s upcoming line of beauty products, producer Ava Seavey sniffed, “Linda Evans doing skin peel? Puh-leeze! That’s so ’80s!”

But overall, the mood was, well, amazing! “We’ve reached critical mass!” exulted Mike Levey, who sells everything from spot removers to a rhinestone kit called the Bedazzler on Amazing Discoveries. Said Tony (Incredible Sweater Machine) Hoffman: “Everyone wants to do an infomercial. And with the new 500-channel universe, watch out!”

But what would an infomercial confab be without some self-mocking comic relief? Before the ceremony, a prankster circulated a sheet of gag award categories, such as Most Memorable Housewares Analogy Used in a Non-Housewares Infomercial (winner: “Men are like microwave ovens sexually, while women are more like crockpots,” from the Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships infomercial).

And—can you believe it?—there remain the unconverted, like comic George Carlin, who happened to be in Vegas. “Doing an infomercial,” he said, “is a sign your career is on the way down” At least he’s sincere.

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