Billy Mays – RIP

As Seen On TV

Pitchman Billy Mays Retains a Bit of the Boardwalk


Billy Mays is unabashed about his bombastic salesmanship. "I'm loud," he says. "I beat up on ya."

Editor’s note: This appeared in our December 2007 issue. Billy Mays was found dead in his Florida home on Sunday.

Bold, brash and unabashed, Billy Mays is one of those guys who could sell icicles to the Inuit. Love him or hate him – and judging by the number of anti-Mays sites on the Web, many people dislike the bearded fellow – the king of infomercials has made himself rich with in-your-face pitches for OxiClean, OrangeGlo and other home-care products.

Mays is the thumb’s up chief executive and founder of Mays Promotions Inc., based in Dunedin, Fla. In the early ’90s, Orange Glo International hired him to promote their line of cleaners on the Home Shopping Network. Following the success of the HSN campaign, he has been featured in television commercials and infomercials, including As Seen On TV spots.

He’s now got a pool in his backyard, and luxury autos in his three-car garage. It’s a far cry from hawking Washmatiks – portable washing devices – on the scruffy Atlantic City boardwalk. He’s cultivated a near-urban legend surrounding his days as a sidewalk salesman. Listen as he rhapsodizes about those formative years.

“If you lasted more than a month, these old pitchmen, they’d call you aside and say, ‘Listen kid, I want to show you something,'” Mays says. “These guys, they gave me their lifelong secrets.

“They saw I was destined to do something,” he continues. “The longer I stayed there, they’d tell me a little more. I say I’m the last pitchmen schooled on the boardwalk on Atlantic City.”

Evidently you can take the boy off the Atlantic City boardwalk, but you can’t take the boardwalk out of the boy.

“I have the old-school qualities of a pitchman,” he says. “I’m loud. I beat up on ya. I’ll wear you down.”

From Sunday’s

Billy Mays had recently emerged from the infomercial ghetto with a reality show, “Pitchmen” on the Discovery Channel, in which he and his fellow pitchman Anthony Sullivan judged inventors’ proposals for new products. But Mr. Mays was already a major presence in the Web video world, where his own braying infomercials exist side by side with a thriving genre of Mays parodies, remixes and outtakes. Among the more popular: the “Mighty Putty Dub,” in which Mr. Mays appears to develop Tourette’s midway through his pitch, and the “billy mays gangsta remix.”

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