Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Billy Mays (1958-2009)

William Darrell Mays, Jr., pitchman extraordinare, moved millions of units of otherwise ordinary products like OxiClean and Orange Glo. He got his start hawking Washmatiks on the Atlantic City boardwalk and learned from the old school salesmen he met there. He was an itinerant salesman until he was hired to sell cleaning supplies on the Home Shopping Network. Sales skyrocketed, and given that you could use a limp dishrag to sell products on HSN, that says a lot for the old school scream into the camera approach favored by Mays and his ilk, a method described by the Washington Post as "a full-volume pitchman, amped up like a candidate for a tranquilizer-gun takedown."

Mays died in his sleep the morning of June 28, 2009. Initially it was suspected that he suffered a brain injury when hit in the head from luggage from an airplane overhead bin. But the autopsy showed that Mays likely died of hypertensive heart disease caused by cocaine use, a revelation that shocked his friends and fans. He was buried in a shirt with the OxyClean logo and his pallbearers dressed in blue shirts and khaki pants, Mays' familiar onscreen look. For the last two years, Facebook fans have celebrated his legacy with the group CAPSLOCK DAY IN MEMORY OF BILLY MAYS.

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