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Billy Mays
Billy Mays Portrait Cropped.jpg
Mays in June 2009, shortly before his death
Born
William Darrell Mays Jr.

(1958-07-20)July 20, 1958
Died June 28, 2009(2009-06-28) (aged 50)
Resting place Mount Calvary Cemetery, McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Other names King of the Pitch
Occupation Television direct-response advertisement salesman
Years active 1983–2009
Employer Home Shopping Network
Known for Infomercial acting
Notable work
See products pitched
Television PitchMen
Board member of Mays Promotions, Inc.
Spouse(s)
  • Dolores Mays (divorced)
  • Deborah Mays
Children 2

William Darrell 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.

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, loud voice, and impassioned sales pitches made him a recognized television presence in the United States and Canada.

Early life

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.

Career

Early work

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.

Television pitching

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, and sales sharply increased after his first day, although some reviews were poor. He was very well known for shouting 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 became a staple of the brand and the wider company, Orange Glo. Later on he appeared 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.

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, five days before his death.

Personal life

Mays' first marriage was to Dolores "Dee Dee" Mays, which ended in divorce. He had a son with Dolores named Billy Mays III (born August 12, 1986) 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.

In an interview during the 2008 presidential election, Mays said he was a Republican.

Death

On the morning of June 28, 2009, Mays' wife found him unresponsive in his Tampa, Florida home. He was pronounced dead at 7:45 a.m., aged 50, appearing to have died sometime overnight.

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, replacing them with similar ads featuring Anthony Sullivan. By mid-July, with his family's consent, some ads were put back into rotation, alongside previously unaired ads.

Products pitched

Product Description
Awesome Auger A gardening tool
Big City Slider Station A mini-burger cooker
Crocodile Cutter Cutter for metal and other materials
DC Snowboards Snowboards
The Ding King A dent repairing device
DualSaw A circular saw with two blades
Engrave-it A tool that engraves names 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 strap wrench
Handy Switch A wireless electric switch
Hercules Hook A hook for hanging objects on a wall
iCan health insurance A health insurance benefit group
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 metal objects
Mighty Putty An epoxy putty adhesive
Magic Carry A harness system that allowed the user to pick up two or three times what they can lift normally.
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
Pest Patrol A pest repellent which relied on ultrasonic frequencies.
Quick Chop A chopping device
Quik Strip A wire stripper
Safety Beep A stick-on alert device for vehicles moving in reverse
Samurai Shark A knife sharpener
Simoniz Fix-It A scratch remover
Simoniz Liquid Diamond Car polish
Six Shooter A cordless power drill able to hold up to six different bits
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 pumps water from a bucket without being hooked up to a faucet
What Odor? An odor-removing fluid
Zorbeez A chamois cloth

See also

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