William Darrell "Billy" Mays Jr. (July 20, 1958 – June 28, 2009) was an American television direct-response advertisement salesperson. Throughout his career, he promoted a wide variety of products, including OxiClean, Orange Glo, Kaboom, and Zorbeez. His promotions aired mostly on the Home Shopping Network through his company, Mays Promotions, Inc although they aired on various other syndicated networks.
William Darrell Mays Jr.
July 20, 1958
|Died||June 28, 2009 (aged 50)|
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
|Resting place||Mount Calvary Cemetery, McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, U.S.|
|Other names||King of the Pitch|
|Occupation||Television direct-response advertisement salesman|
|Employer||Home Shopping Network|
|See products pitched|
|Board member of||Mays Promotions, Inc.|
Mays and his business partner, Anthony Sullivan, were also featured on PitchMen, a Discovery Channel television series that documented their work. His distinctive beard, attire, and impassioned sales pitches made him a recognized television presence in the United States and Canada.
Mays was born on July 20, 1958, in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, and raised in nearby Pittsburgh. He was a student at Sto-Rox High School, and later West Virginia University, where he was a walk-on linebacker on its football team during his two years there.
After dropping out of college, Mays worked for his father's hazardous waste company before moving to Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1983. On the Atlantic City boardwalk, Mays sold the Washmatik portable washing device to passersby, along with other "As Seen on TV" products. 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."
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.
At a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 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. That same year he also befriended another future pitchman, Anthony Sullivan. Customer response to Mays' 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, The 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".
In October 2000, Mays shot an infomercial for the then-three-year-old OxiClean corporation. He would be a staple of the brand, as well as for the wider company, Orange Glo. Later on he would appear in Kaboom infomercials.
Mays was the CEO and founder of Mays Promotions, Inc., based at his home in Odessa, Florida. 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.
In December 2008, Mays began appearing in ads for ESPN's online service, ESPN360. These ads were a slight departure for Mays as they were designed to be parodies of his and other infomercial clichés. 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.
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. After Mays' death, Discovery Channel aired a special Billy Mays tribute special, Pitchman: A Tribute to Billy Mays.
Mays' first marriage was to Dolores "Dee Dee" Mays, which ended in divorce. He had a son with Dolores named Billy Mays III (born 1987) who worked as a production assistant alongside his father on the PitchMen television show. Mays had a daughter, Elizabeth, with his second wife, Deborah Mays. His daughter was three-years-old at the time of his death. Mays' mother is Joyce Palm, and his father is Billy Mays Sr.; he was survived by both.
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Mays was found unresponsive by his wife in his Tampa, Florida home on the morning of June 28, 2009. He was pronounced dead at 7:45 am, appearing to have died sometime overnight. He died less than a month before his 51st birthday. The Associated Press reported there were no indications that the house had been burglarized, and that police did not suspect foul play. Initially, there was incorrect speculation that he had died of a head injury, after being struck on the head by luggage after an airline landing mishap where tires blew out.
After an initial autopsy on June 29, 2009, 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." 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".
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 that nothing in the toxicology report indicated the frequency of Mays' cocaine use. Cocaine can raise the arterial blood pressure, directly cause hypertrophy of the left 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.
According to subsequent news reports, the toxicology tests also showed levels of painkillers hydrocodone, oxycodone, and tramadol, as well as anti-anxiety drugs alprazolam and diazepam. Mays suffered from hip problems and was scheduled to have had hip replacement surgery the day after he was found dead.
Mays' funeral was held on July 3, 2009 in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. The pallbearers wore blue shirts and khaki pants at the funeral, much like Mays wore when he advertised his products. He is buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery.
In the immediate aftermath of his death, many companies pulled ads featuring Mays from the air. By mid-July, with his family's consent, some ads were put back into rotation, alongside newer ones that Mays had filmed prior to his death.
In popular cultureEdit
His catchphrase and infomercials made Billy Mays a notable icon in popular culture, with many shows, YouTube videos, and films lampooning him. In the South Park episode "Dead Celebrities", Mays' ghost appears repeatedly to Ike Broflovski, trying to sell him products from the afterlife with his catchphrase "Hi, Billy Mays here with the...". Mays' son, Billy 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.
He was portrayed by comedian Colin J. Sweeney in the season 1 episode of Epic Rap Battles of History, 'Billy Mays vs. Ben Franklin'. In the middle of the battle, Mays passes away and has his second verse covered by fellow infomercial pitchman, Vince Offer, portrayed by Peter Shukoff.
|Awesome Auger||A gardening tool|
|Big City Slider Station||A mini-burger cooker|
|Crocodile Cutter||Cutter that cuts straight every time|
|The Ding King||A dent repairing device|
|DualSaw||A circular saw with two blades|
|Engrave-it||A tool to engrave your name on any metal surface|
|ESPN360||A broadband service|
|EZ Bundler||A strapping tool that bundles objects together|
|EZ Crunch Bowl||"A new way to eat breakfast cereal"|
|Flies Away||A fly trap|
|Gator Blades||Precision heavy duty windshield wiper blades|
|Gopher||A tool for grabbing out-of-reach objects|
|Grabit||A tool that removes screws easily|
|Grater Plater||A ceramic plate with grater teeth|
|Green Now!||Lawn fertilizer in a can|
|Grip Wrench||A tool to help gripping|
|Handy Switch||A wireless electric switch|
|Hercules Hook||A hook for hanging objects on a wall|
|iCan health insurance||Health insurance|
|Impact Gel||A shoe insert|
|iTie||A necktie with a hidden pocket|
|Jupiter Jack||Cell phone speaker system for the car|
|Kaboom!||Tile and shower cleaner|
|Mighty Mendit||A bonding agent for mending cloth|
|Mighty Shine||A soft powder that removes rust and tarnish from your metal objects|
|Mighty Putty||An epoxy putty adhesive|
|Mighty Putty Steel||A metal alloy adhesive putty|
|Mighty Putty Wood||A non-shrinking epoxy putty for wood|
|Mighty Tape||A self-fusing silicone rubber waterproof tape|
|Orange Glo||A wood cleaner|
|OxiClean||A general purpose cleaner|
|Quick Chop||A chopping device|
|Safety Beep||A stick-on alert device for vehicles moving in reverse|
|Samurai Shark||A knife sharpener|
|Sham-Wow||A chamois cloth, named for the original French pronunciation|
|Simoniz Fix-It||A scratch remover|
|Steam Buddy||A lightweight steam iron|
|Tool Band-it ||A magnetic armband for holding hand tools|
|Turbo Tiger||A vacuum cleaner|
|Ultimate Chopper||A kitchen tool|
|Vidalia Slice Wizard||A kitchen tool|
|WashMatik||A hose that could pump water from a bucket|
without being hooked up to a faucet
|What Odor?||An odor-removing fluid|
|Zorbeez||A chamois cloth|
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- "Cocaine linked to Billy Mays death". The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. CNN.
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- Deborah Mays (August 7, 2009). "Statement from Billy Mays' Family In Response to Medical Examiner's Report" (Press release). Businesswire.com. RFB Communications Group.
- "Mays' family: Review finds no chronic cocaine use". USA Today. Associated Press. October 15, 2009. Archived from the original on October 18, 2009. Retrieved August 13, 2020.
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- Scott Wilson, Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, p. 492
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