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Remembering Billy Mays: 1958-2009

1 Jul, 2009 By: Thomas Haire Response




I had the opportunity to meet Billy about 10 years ago in the green room while waiting my turn to go on stage at HSN; we've been friends ever since. Knowing I was a newcomer to the DR industry, Billy was eager to lend me some valuable advice.

I am proud to admit that many of my accomplishments have been inspired by Billy's success and our friendship.

I'm deeply saddened by Billy's sudden departure and wish to extend my dearest and deepest condolences to his family, friends and associates. I want to thank Billy for being Billy. He always treated me like his little brother, and because of his influence, he's made me a much better person. For that, I'm truly grateful.


Billy's generosity, love and friendship for everyone he came into contact with will live on in our memories and thoughts forever. His sudden and untimely death leaves a void in the hearts of all he touched, but his legacy will continue in perpetuity.

Billy legitimized the industry and brought us all together in a way no one else could, with his honest, but vivacious, and larger than life personality.

A shoot will never be the same. You will be sorely missed.


When we last spoke on the phone, as he was making his way to the Conan O'Brien show, it was no different. I was excited for his appearance and wanting to wish him well on his upcoming surgery. But Billy would have none of it; he just wanted to make sure we'd be working together to support "Pitchmen" and the three new shows he had literally just finished. Then, Billy being Billy, he made me promise to watch the show. It goes without saying that I wouldn't have missed it.

In the past month or so, I also had the privilege of spending time with Billy and his wife, Deborah, and their daughter, Elizabeth, in San Diego. While Billy was a larger-than-life presence for many of us, it was amazing — and humbling — to see him as "Daddy" in the eyes of his little girl. At dinner, he was sure the waitress knew what she liked to eat, and during our private tour of Sea World, you could see the thrill in his eyes as Elizabeth got the chance to meet Shamu.


He was everywhere. There didn't seem to be a product he couldn't pitch. He was quiet, modest, a great listener when not in "on" mode. Then, when hearing "action," he became the best living pitchman. He understood what people wanted, understood how to connect, and could come up with a catch phrase that lasted. But most importantly, he cared. You could tell he had a big heart filled with love for all those around him. Never posing, never copping an attitude, just a regular guy with an amazing gift.


I first met Billy in the early 1990s when he was still pitching one of his early products, the Shammy, at a trade fair at a housewares show. Over the years, our relationship grew as Billy's distinctive voice and style became a staple in our industry.

More recently, I had worked hand-in-hand with Billy and Anthony "Sully" Sullivan on the Discovery Channel show, "Pitchmen." He was a man passionate about his family, the products he so successfully pitched, and the industry that was so dear to his heart — and he will be sorely missed.


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