Tag Archives: shamwow

R.I.P. Billy Mays

29 Jun

Everyone– Billy Mays is dead.
He– what? No not Willie Mays, Hall of Fame baseball player. Billy Mays is– who do you think now? No. That’s Billy Blanks, inventor of Tae Bo. Billy Mays was the mouthpiece for such fine products such as OxyClean and Orange Glo.

Hello and goodbye, you sweet, tragic prince.

Hello and goodbye, you sweet, tragic prince.

Billy got his start working for his father’s hazardous waste company in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His father’s company was highly successful, due largely to the fact that New Jersey is the only state in the continental United States to actually be composed of hazardous waste.

“We pretty much just picked up dirt and put it in barrels,” Billy would later reminisce.*

He began selling soon after being employed by his father. Mays was taught “the pitch” by the older pitch men he worked with in New Jersey. His first big product, the Washmatic, he pitched to  passers-by on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, which is located just south of Atlantic Park Place and just down the way from Atlantic Pennsylvania Avenue.

It was at a Pittsburgh home show that Mays got his big break. After a conversation with rival salesman Max Appel (Which by the way, is a fantastic name for a salesman, with a simple pronunciation change making his name “Max Appeal.” Juss’ sayin’.), Mays was asked to be the new spokesman for a number of Appel’s products, such as the OxiClean, Orange Clean, Orange Glo, and Kaboom.

Billy “the man” Mays (my nick name) sold via the Home Shopping Network. His effect was immediate, with sales spiking sharply after his first week– much like the sharp spike in internet usage after I broke ground on my site. Me and Billy are like twin souls. From his success on HSN, Mays garnered a lot of demand from companies seeking salesmen or beards or salesmen with beards or guys that can yell loudly while smiling.

In 2008, Mays challenged fellow pitch-man Vince Offer to a pitch-off between their respective products: The Zorbeez and the ShamWow. After a review by Popular Mechanics, the ShamWow was found to be the superior prodcut. However, Mays proved to be the superior human, as Offer was later arrested for assaulting a prostitue.

The Discovery Channel, in 2009, actually began airing episodes of Pitchmen, a documentary-style television show following Mays and his life in direct-response marketing.

Mays was found unresponsive in his Florida home and pronounced dead at 7:45am. A later autopsy found hypertensive heart disease to be the cause of his death.

All in all, Mays seemed like a really nice guy– like an louder, more capitalist version of Richard Karn. I’m sure he’s somewhere in heaven, selling Jesus/Muhammad/Buddha/Vishnu/Michael Jackson on new and better ways to clean off all those pesky rust spots on their gold-paved streets.

*I’m pretty sure he said this. [Editor’s Note: He in fact did not. NJ is a beautiful state with a rich history and culture.]

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