Billy Mays

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Billy Mays
Billy Mays Portrait Cropped.jpg
Mays at the Flatiron District in June 2009.
Born William Darrell Mays, Jr.
(1958-07-20)July 20, 1958[1]
McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died June 28, 2009(2009-06-28) (aged 50)
Tampa, Florida, United States
Cause of death
Heart disease
Resting place
Beth Hamedrash Hagodal Cemetery
McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Residence Tampa, Florida, United States
Nationality American
Other names Billy Mays, King of the Pitch
Education Sto-Rox High School
Alma mater West Virginia University
Occupation Television direct-response advertisement salesman
Years active 1993 – 2009
Employer Home Shopping Network
Notable work(s) See Notable products pitched
Home town McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, United States
Television PitchMen
Board member of
Mays Promotions, Inc.
Spouse(s) Dolores "Dee Dee" Mays[2]
Deborah Mays[2]
Children Billy Mays III
Elizabeth Mays
Parents Billy Mays, Sr.
Joyce Palm

William Darrell "Billy" Mays, Jr. (July 20, 1958 – June 28, 2009)[3] was an American television direct-response advertisement salesperson most notable for promoting OxiClean, Orange Glo, Kaboom, and other cleaning, home-based, and maintenance products on the Home Shopping Network, and through his company, Mays Promotions, Inc.

He and his business partner, Anthony Sullivan, were also featured on PitchMen, a TV series that documented their work. His distinctive beard and impassioned sales pitches made him a recognized television presence in the United States and Canada.[4][5]

Family and personal biography

Mays was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[1][6] His first marriage was to Dolores "Dee Dee" Mays, which ended in divorce.[7] He had a son with Dolores named Billy Mays III, who was 22 years old at the time of Mays' death and who worked as a production assistant alongside his father on the PitchMen television show.[8] Mays had a daughter, Elizabeth, with his second wife, Deborah Mays. His daughter was three years old at the time of his death.[7][9][10] Mays's mother is Joyce Palm,[8] and his father is Billy Mays, Sr.; they both outlived him. In an interview during the 2008 presidential campaign, Mays revealed himself to be a Republican.[11]

Career

Education and career beginnings

Mays was a student at Sto-Rox High School,[1][6] and later West Virginia University, where he was a walk-on linebacker on its football team during his two years there.[12] After dropping out, he worked for his father's hazardous waste company before moving to Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1983.[1] On the Atlantic City boardwalk Mays sold the Washmatik portable washing device to passersby,[13] along with other "As Seen on TV" products.[1] In Atlantic City, he was taught how to sell by the older salesmen, saying "I was taught to pitch by a lot of old pitchmen. That's the kind of style I have."[1]

Mays then traveled to home shows, auto shows, and state fairs across the United States for a period of twelve years, selling various maintenance products and tools, including cleaning products and food choppers.[13]

Television pitching

At a Pittsburgh home show in 1993, Mays struck up a friendship with rival salesman Max Appel, founder of Orange Glo International, a Denver-based manufacturer of cleaning products. He was then hired by the company to promote their line of cleaners, OxiClean, Orange Clean, Orange Glo, and Kaboom, on the Home Shopping Network in St. Petersburg, Florida.[14] That same year, also befriended another future pitchman, Anthony Sullivan. Customer response to Mays's sales pitches was enthusiastic, with a sharp increase in sales after his first day on the network, although some reviews were poor. He was very well known for shouting in an abrasive manner during infomercials. For example, Washington Post staff writer Frank Ahrens called him and other similar television salesmen "a full-volume pitchman, amped up like a candidate for a tranquilizer-gun takedown".[15]

Although this was his debut appearance to the public, some consider his appearance in October 2000 to be his first commercial, shooting for the then 3 year-old OxiClean corporation. He would be a staple on the group, as well as the more common company at the time, OrangeGlo. Later on he would appear in Kaboom infomercials. During this period, Billy Mays became a popular icon for his loud pitch, and at times, was treated as a celebrity due to his popularity even though he never appeared in any movies or TV shows as other actors do.

Mays was the CEO and founder of Mays Promotions, Inc., based at his home in Odessa, Florida.[4] His services as a pitchman became highly sought-after, and he appeared in commercials for many diverse "as seen on TV" products such as Mighty Putty. Mays claimed to be an avid user of the products he promoted.[16]

In December 2008, Mays began appearing in ads for ESPN's online service, ESPN360.[17] These ads were a slight departure for Mays as they were designed to be parodies of his and other infomercial cliches with Mays appearing to be doing a parody of himself. He also made a live appearance during the 2008 Champs Sports Bowl promoting ESPN's and ABC's January 1, 2009, bowl games. Prior to his death, Mays had signed a deal with Taco Bell to film infomercial-style commercials for the chain. Shooting was scheduled to begin in August 2009.[18]

Other television appearances

On April 15, 2009, the Discovery Channel began airing PitchMen, a documentary series that featured Mays and Anthony Sullivan in their jobs in direct-response marketing.[19] After Mays's death, Discovery Channel aired a special Billy Mays tribute episode of PitchMen called "Pitchman: A Tribute to Billy Mays".

On March 27, 2009, Mays appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He and Sullivan also appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien on June 23, 2009.[20]

Notable products pitched

Product Description
Awesome Auger[21] A gardening tool.
Big City Slider Station[1][21] A mini-burger cooker.
DC Snowboards New snowboards with great durability.
The Ding King[22] A dent repairing device.
DualSaw[23] A circular saw with two blades.
Engrave-it A tool to engrave your name on any metal surface.
ESPN360[6] A broadband service.
EZ Bundler A strapping tool that bundles objects together.
EZ Crunch Bowl[23] "A new way to eat breakfast cereal".
Flies Away[24] A fly trap.
Gopher[25] A tool for grabbing out-of-reach objects.
Grabit A tool that removes screws easily.
Grater Plater[24] A ceramic plate with grater teeth.
Green Now![23] Lawn fertilizer in a can.
Grip Wrench[1] A tool to help gripping.
Handy Switch[21] A wireless electric switch.
Hercules Hook[21] A hook for hanging objects on a wall.
iCan health insurance[21][22] Health insurance.
Impact Gel A shoe insert.
iTie[25] A necktie with a hidden pocket.
Jupiter Jack Cell-phone speaker system for the car
Kaboom![1] Tile and shower cleaner.
Mighty Mendit[22] A bonding agent for mending cloth.
Mighty Shine A soft powder that removes rust and tarnish from your metal objects.
Mighty Putty[21][26] An epoxy putty adhesive.
Mighty Putty Steel[26] A metal alloy adhesive putty.
Mighty Putty Wood[26] A non-shrinking epoxy putty for wood.
Mighty Tape[26] A self-fusing silicone rubber waterproof tape.
Orange Glo[1] A wood cleaner.
OxiClean[21][22] A general purpose cleaner.
Quick Chop[24] A chopping device.
Samurai Shark[21] A knife sharpener.
Simoniz Fix-It[21] A scratch remover.
Tool Band-it [24] A magnetic armband for holding hand tools.
Turbo Tiger[1] A vacuum cleaner.
Ultimate Chopper[21] A kitchen tool.
Vidalia Slice Wizard[22] A kitchen tool.
WashMatik[1][21] A hose that could pump water from a bucket
without being hooked up to a faucet.
What Odor?[24] An odor-removing fluid.
Zorbeez[21] A chamois cloth.

Death

Mays was found unresponsive by his wife in his Tampa, Florida, home on the morning of June 28, 2009.[27] He was pronounced dead at 7:45 am, appearing to have died sometime overnight.[3][28] The Associated Press reported that there were no indications that the house had been broken into, and that police did not suspect foul play.[28] Initially, there was incorrect speculation that he had died of a head injury after he was struck on the head by luggage after an airline landing mishap where tires blew out.[29]

After an initial autopsy on Mays's body on June 29, Vernard Adams, the Hillsborough County, Florida medical examiner, stated that Mays suffered from hypertensive heart disease and that heart disease was the likely cause of his death. According to a toxicology report released August 7, 2009, heart disease was the "primary cause of death" and cocaine was listed as a "contributory cause of death."[30][31] In response to the release of the toxicology report, the Mays family issued a press release stating, "We are extremely disappointed by the press release released by the Hillsborough County medical examiner's office. We believe it contains speculative conclusions that are frankly unnecessary and tend to obscure the conclusion that Billy suffered from chronic, untreated hypertension..." and said in the release that they were considering "an independent evaluation of the autopsy results".[32]

The medical examiner "concluded that cocaine use caused or contributed to the development of his heart disease, and thereby contributed to his death," the office said in a press release. The office said Mays last used cocaine in the few days before his death but was not under the influence of the drug when he died. Hillsborough County spokeswoman Lori Hudson said nothing in the toxicology report indicated the frequency of Mays's cocaine use. Cocaine can raise the arterial blood pressure, directly cause thickening of the left wall of the ventricle and accelerate the formation of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries, the release said. However, in October 2009, the results of a second medical examination, commissioned by Mays' family, concluded that "cocaine was not a significant contributing factor" to his death.[33]

Longtime friend and colleague A.J. Khubani, founder and CEO of the "As Seen on TV" product company Telebrands, said Mays never exhibited any signs of drug use and was always prepared for his many commercial shoots. "I'm just shocked," Khubani said. "He was the model of a responsible citizen."

According to subsequent news reports[34] the toxicology tests also showed levels of painkillers hydrocodone, oxycodone and tramadol, as well as anti-anxiety drugs alprazolam and diazepam. Mays had suffered hip problems and was scheduled for hip replacement surgery the day after he was found dead.

Mays's funeral was held on July 3, 2009, in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. The pallbearers for the funeral wore blue shirts and khaki pants at the funeral, much like Mays wore when he advertised his products.[35]

In popular culture

Due to his famous catchphrase and infomercials Billy Mays is a notable icon in popular culture, with many shows and films lampoon him.

In the South Park episode "Dead Celebrities", Mays's ghost appears repeatedly to Ike Broflovski, trying to sell him products from the afterlife with his catchphrase "Hi, Billy Mays here with the...". Mays's son, Billy Mays III, a self-proclaimed South Park fan, said he loved "Dead Celebrities", and found its portrayal of his father to be both tasteful and respectful.

Mays was parodied in the Disney Channel series So Random, as a sales pitchman who annoys two children in a sketch, making them have spoiled lunch for school.

Mays was pitted against Benjamin Franklin in an episode of the YouTube series Epic Rap Battles of History. He suddenly dies in the middle of the rap, leaving Vince Offer to finish it.

Mays was parodied as Willy Wizard advertising products for a company called "Flunco" on a Season 3 episode of Mad.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Raw Data: Billy Mays Biography". Fox News. June 28, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  2. ^ a b "TV pitchman Billy Mays found dead in Tampa home". Tampa Bay Online. June 28, 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-06-30. Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  3. ^ a b "Report: 'Infomercial King' Billy Mays Found Dead in Home". FoxNews.com. June 28, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  4. ^ a b Segal, David (August 19, 2008). "Shill Game: With His Booming Voice, Billy Mays Projects That Sales Will Rise". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  5. ^ "Infomercial pitchman Billy Mays found dead". CTV News At 11 (CTV.ca). June 28, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c Brandolph, Adam (December 29, 2008). "'Life's a pitch' for McKees Rocks native Billy Mays". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  7. ^ a b "OxiClean pitchman dies at age 50". Austin American-Statesman. June 29, 2009. Archived from the original on 2012-09-17. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  8. ^ a b Billy Mays, Anthony Sullivan, Billy Mays III, Deborah Mays, Elizabeth Mays, Joyce Palm (June 2009). PitchMen: Billy's Legacy (Adobe Flash) (Internet video). Discovery Channel. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  9. ^ "Billy Mays' son remembers him on Fla. radio show". The Jackson Sun. June 29, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Billy Mays III Remembers His Dad on Florida Radio Show". The Jacksonville Observer. June 29, 2009. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  11. ^ "Condé Nast Portfolio:World According to... Billy Mays". Portfolio.com. October 9, 2008.
  12. ^ O'Keeffe, Brian (April 6, 2009). "Secrets of the TV pitchmen". CNNMoney.com. Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  13. ^ a b Rigsby, G.G. (May 3, 2002). "As seen on TV: Billy Mays hawks it all for a price.- TV king: Mays builds fame, fortune through infomercials. Billy Mays passed away on June 28, 2009.". Tampa Bay Business Journal. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  14. ^ "Company sold, local pitchman keeps his job," St. Petersburg Times, July 24, 2006.
  15. ^ Ahrens, F (September 26, 2004). "Miracle Infomercials— TV's Hard Sells Are a $256 Billion Business". Washington Post. p. F01. 
  16. ^ Associated Press, Mitch Stacy (December 29, 2002). "As seen on TV, pitchman Billy Mays cleans up with shtick — In-your-face salesman peddles fixes for car dents to cleaning products.". Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  17. ^ Gianatasio, David (December 23, 2008). "Billy Mays wants to sell you some ESPN360". AdWeek.com. Retrieved 2008-12-27. 
  18. ^ Billy Mays Was Set to be Taco Bell's Pitchman | TMZ.com
  19. ^ "Discovery Channel Announces New Series "Pitchmen" Premiering April 15". Realitytvfans.com. March 2, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  20. ^ "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien: Lisa Kudrow, Billy Mays & Anthony Sullivan, Elvis Costello". TV.com. June 23, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Segal, David (August 19, 2008). "Shill Game: With His Booming Voice, Billy Mays Projects That Sales Will Rise". Washington Post. Retrieved June 30, 2009. 
  22. ^ a b c d e Maltby, Emily (June 29, 2009). "Billy Mays: An industry loses its voice" CNNmoney.com.
  23. ^ a b c "PitchMen". Discovery Channel. Archived from the original on 2009-04-11. 
  24. ^ a b c d e "Top Ten Billy Mays Commercials". As Seen On TV Video. June 29, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  25. ^ a b Barrett, Annie (June 29, 2009). "Billy Mays got Conan interested in the Gopher, iTie, and even 'The Tonight Show' last week". Entertainment Weekly.
  26. ^ a b c d "Mighty Brand Infomercials Back on the Air: Continuing Billy Mays' Legacy with New Mighty Products". Reuters. July 9, 2009. Retrieved 2012-07-09.  (Press release)
  27. ^ RAW DATA: Chilling Billy Mays 911 Tape. Fox News. Monday, June 28, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-06-28.
  28. ^ a b "Cops: TV pitchman Billy Mays found dead". MSNBC. Associated Press. June 28, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  29. ^ Karlie Pouliot (June 29, 2009). "Billy Mays — Did Head Injury Turn Deadly?". Fox News. 
  30. ^ "Cocaine linked to Billy Mays death". The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (CNN). 
  31. ^ "Autopsy: Cocaine contributed to Billy Mays' death". USA Today. Associated Press. August 7, 2009. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  32. ^ Deborah Mays (August 7, 2009). "Statement from Billy Mays’ Family In Response to Medical Examiner’s Report" (Press release). Businesswire.com. RFB Communications Group. 
  33. ^ "Mays' family: Review finds no chronic cocaine use". USA Today. Associated Press. October 15, 2009. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  34. ^ "Mays’ family contests cocaine report". MSNBC. August 7, 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  35. ^ "Joe Mandak (July 3, 2009). "Product pitchman Mays remembered as natural seller". Associated Press. Retrieved 2013-02-15. 

External links