TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Billy Mays, the burly, bearded television pitchman known for his boisterous hawking of products such as Orange Glo and OxiClean, has died. He was 50.
Tampa police said Mays was found unresponsive by his wife Sunday
morning. A fire rescue crew pronounced him dead at 7:45 a.m.
There were no signs of a break-in, and investigators do not suspect foul play. The coroner's office expects to have an autopsy done by Monday afternoon.
"Although Billy lived a public life, we don't anticipate making any public statements over the next couple of days," said Mays' wife, Deborah. "Our family asks that you respect our privacy during these difficult times."
Born William Mays in McKees Rocks, Pa., on July 20, 1958, Mays
developed his style demonstrating knives, mops and other "as seen
on TV" gadgets on Atlantic City's boardwalk. For years he worked as a hired gun on the state fair and home show circuits, attracting crowds with his booming voice and genial manner.
After meeting Orange Glo International founder Max Appel at a home show in Pittsburgh in the mid-1990s, Mays was recruited to demonstrate the environmentally friendly line of cleaning products
on the St. Petersburg-based Home Shopping Network.
Commercials and informercials followed, anchored by the high-energy Mays showing how it's done while tossing out kitschy phrases like, "Long live your laundry!"
Recently he's been seen on commercials for a wide variety of products and is featured on the reality TV show "Pitchmen" on the Discovery Channel, which follows Mays and Anthony Sullivan in their marketing jobs. He's also been seen in ESPN ads.
His ubiquitousness and thumbs-up, in-your-face pitches won Mays
plenty of fans. People line up at his personal appearances for autographed color glossies, and strangers stop him in airports to
chat about the products.
"I enjoy what I do," Mays told The Associated Press in a 2002 interview. "I think it shows."
Mays liked to tell the story of giving bottles of OxiClean to the 300 guests at his wedding, and doing his ad spiel ("powered by the air we breathe!") on the dance floor at the reception. Visitors to his house typically got bottles of cleaner and housekeeping tips.
Discovery Channel spokeswoman Elizabeth Hillman released a statement Sunday extending sympathy to the Mays family.
"Everyone that knows him was aware of his larger-than-life personality, generosity and warmth," Hillman's statement said. "Billy was a pioneer in his field and helped many people fulfill their dreams. He will be greatly missed as a loyal and compassionate friend."