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July 29, 2012

Barry Becher, Innovative Commercial Pitchman for Ginsu Knives and Many Other Products

WIth business partner Ed Valenti, Becher earned tens of millions from their various products.

Michael Levin

Barry Becher, a businessman and television personality who attained success as pitchman for Ginsu knives in a series of commercials that aired from 1979-1984, died June 22, 2012, in Deerfield Beach, Florida. He was 71.

According to news reports, the cause was complications from surgery for kidney cancer.

Becher owned a few Aamco automotive franchises and was seeking other business opportunities when he partnered with television advertising executive Ed Valenti to sell knives, kitchenware, jewelry and drip-free paintbrushes through two-minute spots.

He was born April 24, 1941, in Brooklyn, New York. After high school he moved to Rhode Island, where he and Valenti based their business.

The most famous — and parodied — of their commercials were for Ginsu, a knife manufactured in Ohio that Becher and Valenti renamed (the word was invented, and has no meaning in Japanese or any the language) and touted for its ability to cut through such items as nails, cans, hoses, tree branches and blocks of wood and still perform in the kitchen.

The commercials also introduced a number of phrases that became standard in commercials, including “Operators are standing by,” “Isn’t it amazing?” and “But wait, there's more!”

Among their various products, Becher and Valenti racked up tens of millions of dollars in sales.

Becher is survived by his wife, two daughters, a sister Gail Scott, two stepdaughters, two stepsons and ten grandchildren.

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