Remembering Billy Mays: 1958-20091 Jul, 2009 By: Thomas Haire Response
"Powered by the air that you breathe. Activated by the water that you and I drink!"
With those words promoting the massive hit product OxiClean nearly a decade ago, Billy Mays moved from successful pitchman into the ranks of direct response television's legends. Throughout the next decade, and dozens of hit TV products that grossed more than $1 billion in sales, Mays' career skyrocketed, cementing his place not only in DRTV but also in pop culture. The June 28 announcement that Mays, 50, had died at his Tampa home left not only DR industry insiders stunned, but also a nation of fans and customers in mourning.
Mays was discovered by his wife Deborah in bed early on that Sunday, not breathing. When a Tampa Fire Rescue team arrived, Mays was pronounced dead at 7:45 a.m. Mays' family asked Tampa police to handle all publicity and released a statement through the department:
"Although Billy lived a public life, we don't anticipate making any public statements over the next couple of days," Deborah Mays said. "Our family asks that you respect our privacy during these difficult times."
The Kaboom product line was one of many promoted by Mays for Orange Glo Intl., and later for Church & Dwight Co. Inc. Mays worked on more than 50 different campaigns for the Orange Glo, OxiClean and Kaboom brands alone.
Although initial questions and speculation immediately began to swirl around reports that Mays had been hit in the head by something falling from above, possibly luggage, during a rough landing of a U.S. Air flight in Tampa the day before his death, the coroner's report, released June 29, showed that Mays actually suffered a pulmonary embolism. Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Vernard Adams reported that Mays had an enlarged heart, as well as "a thickening of the wall of the ventricle which takes blood to the heart." The cause of death and final results of the autopsy will be released in a few weeks.
Though the family remained publicly quiet following Mays' death, his 20-year old son Billy III, did post on his Twitter page on the fateful day, writing, "My dad didn't wake up this morning. I'm thankful I got to talk to my dad last night. I miss him immensely already. But I feel him with me."