You haven’t seen the last of infomercial king, Billy Mays. Although Mays died unexpectedly on June 28, 2009, his “Billy Mays here” commercials are alive and well. His son, Billy 3rd mentioned a sticker tribute to his dad recently on Twitter, featuring Billy Mays’ face and iconic beard. The stickers began showing up everywhere and became a fad. They were stuck on cars, windows, street signs….on any flat surface. The stickers, which had been given away for free, soon ran out. More are on the way.
Is it acceptable to run commercials featuring a pitchman who is dead? Business associates and family decided Mays’ commercials would continue to be aired following a one week hiatus after his death. Billy’s son said on Twitter, “When an actor dies, his films continue…Why not commercials?” The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin’s show is still aired every day…..Also the Bernie Mac Show.
Mays’ death came as a surprise. The 50 year old pitchman was enjoying great fame and fortune as a leading spokesperson for the infomercial style of advertising that results in a 150 billion dollar a year industry. He and his partner, Anthony Sullivan grossed 100 billion dollars in combined sales according to Fortune magazine. In April, the Discovery Channel began airing “Pitchmen” a reality show based on their exploits.
On June 27th, Mays had endured a bumpy flight on U.S. Airways on his way home to Tampa. He told a Tampa TV reporter that he had struck his head upon landing at Tampa International Airport. He said he had a “hard head” and was OK. He was returning to Tampa for hip replacement surgery. Upon arriving home he told his wife he wasn’t feeling well and went to bed early. The next morning he was found dead. Autopsy results listed the causes of death as hypertension, heart disease and cocaine use. Hillsborough County medical examiners also found traces of Xanax and Vicodin in his system
Mays’s blue shirt, bearded face, boisterous voice and energetic manner made him a star on the Internet, ESPN, as well as on his many infomercials. He proved the enduring appeal of the hard sell, and enjoyed parodies of his enthusiastic style. His audience believed in him. “You don’t stay in business unless the product works,” Mays said. Most of his products cost about $20; and if your order was called in before the time limit, you could get two products for the price of one, plus shipping costs.
Billy Mays was born in McKees Rocks, PA on July 20, 1958. He developed his style by demonstrating mops, knives and other gadgets (as seen on TV) on the boardwalk of Atlantic City. He got his start on TV demonstrating Orange Glo cleaning products on the Home Shopping Network. Soon other manufactures recruited him for their products. With his trademark bearded face, his blue shirt, and booming voice, he sold an ever changing assortment of slicers, dicers, cookers and cleaners. His Oxy Clean commercials are classic. He appeared on the Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien talk shows and liked being a celebrity. Mays also drove a Bentley.
His energy and positive attitude won him many fans. People lined up for his autograph at personal appearances. Passengers at airports stopped him to chat about his products.
The “King of the Infomercials” leaves his wife Mary, a young daughter, and his son, Billy Mays, 3rd.