But Wait, There's More: The Story of Legendary Pitchman Billy Mays

William Darrell Mays Jr., commonly known as Billy Mays, was a charismatic American TV salesperson and a well-known figure in direct-response advertising. He was famed for his over-the-top pitching style and became a household name across the United States and Canada, promoting products such as OxiClean, Orange Glo, Kaboom, and Zorbeez.

Early Life

Born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, Mays grew up in nearby Pittsburgh. He was a student at Sto-Rox High School, showing early tenacity and determination, traits that would later define his career. Mays also attended West Virginia University, where he played as a walk-on linebacker for the football team.

Early Career

Mays' career trajectory took a distinctive turn after dropping out of college. He initially worked for his father's hazardous waste company but soon moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1983. It was here on the boardwalk that Mays honed his sales skills, selling the Washmatik car cleaning system and other "As Seen on TV" products. He credited the old pitchmen he met there for shaping his distinctive sales style.

Rise to Fame

Mays' journey to fame began in 1993 when he met Max Appel, the founder of Orange Glo International. Their first meeting led to his role promoting products on the Home Shopping Network in Florida. Mays also formed a partnership with Anthony Sullivan, another future pitchman, and together they became a formidable duo in the infomercial world.

Television and Beyond

Mays became synonymous with various brands, especially OxiClean, and was known for his loud and enthusiastic pitch style. His success extended beyond traditional infomercials, as he later appeared in advertisements for ESPN and even had a deal in place with Taco Bell prior to his untimely death.

He would go on to start his own company, Mays Promotions, Inc., and was highly sought after for his unique and effective pitching style. In 2009, he starred in the Discovery Channel's "PitchMen," a documentary series showcasing his work with Sullivan.

Death and Legacy

Tragically, Mays passed away on June 28, 2009, at the age of 50. His death was initially surrounded by speculation, but it was later determined that heart disease, exacerbated by cocaine use, was the cause. His passing was mourned by fans and the sales community alike, and his influence on television advertising and direct-response marketing remains significant to this day.

Billy Mays left behind a legacy as a pioneering pitchman. His energetic style, memorable voice, and unwavering enthusiasm made him more than just a salesperson; he became an icon in American television advertising. His life story, from the boardwalks of Atlantic City to the forefront of TV marketing, is a testament to the power of charisma, hard work, and the ability to sell not just a product, but an experience.

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