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Billy Mays: But Wait, There Would’ve Been More

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So, to sum it up, we lost Ed McMahon on Tuesday, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson on Thursday, and then Billy Mays on Sunday. Four deaths in a week, with each one more surprising than the last. Sad times.

Was Mays the most well-known person in that group? Heck, he wasn't even the most famous William Mays. When you're "the Oxi-Clean guy," it's hard to get people to remember your name. McMahon, Fawcett, and Jackson were household names while Mays sold miracle products to clean those houses. And when you're talking about being a shining leader in one's craft, being a TV sidekick, blonde bombshell, or pop musician is probably an iconic feat. But infomercials? If anything, they're a cult fetish.

However, Mays was turning his 3:45 a.m. TV spots into a Discovery channel phenomenon. He and his Pitchmen co-star Anthony "Sully" Sullivan were on The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien just last week — in a freaky coincidence, the night of Ed McMahon's death:

I could go on about the futility of life, and how legacy supersedes mortality, then ramble through some other questions about life. And there's no contending we're all sad to lose McMahon, Fawcett, and Jackson. For those families, there will be mourning. But for their fans — the people who didn't know these people — their major contributions were basically done. (Even McMahon's fantastic appearance in Cash4Gold's Super Bowl commercial played off his lack of relevancy.) Mays, on the other hand, was a rising star in the TV celebrity industry.

Maybe that's what made his death most surprising and impactful of all. Already at a pinnacle in his career, he was still climbing higher. He had more to give. By another comparison, Heath Ledger's death was a tragedy because of his young age, not to mention infinitely bizarre as a result of his posthumous Oscar performance. But we already knew Ledger. The world was just being introduced to the 50-year-old Mays, his pristine beard, his billowy voice, and his methods.

So join me in silently weeping over the loss of Billy Mays. If you need to wipe your tears, I have just the thing for you.

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  • http://www.joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    How could you forget a person like that who was so bombastic and in your face? He was like a loud uncle. At least he wasn’t annoying like the ShamWow guy. That guy makes my skin crawl.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I didn’t know that Ed McMahon died. Some guy running commercials wouldn’t impress me, no matter how in my face he was. I have zillions of in my face Israelis all the time, and do not have a TV to waste my time on American commercial (or cable) TV, let alone the garbage they have in Hebrew, French and Russian here. But Ed MacMahon meant something to me.

    Him, I’ll miss.

    Now, who was this huckster who died again?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I also fail th see the fascination – like he was an icon or something.

    An icon of what? In your face advertising?

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Now, who was this huckster who died again?

    He hustled items like Oxi-Clean and a host of other white-trash attractive products that are marginal in their worth and certainly sold more on hype than function.

    He was the epitome of a stereotypical used car salesman. Somewhat funny, mostly annoying. If the hype in Heaven is as intense as it is on earth, Billy will sneak through the Pearly Gates quite handily since the rest of the souls will be there with their autograph books looking for Michael Jackson’s autograph while a host of others will be there with their Farrah posters. Perhaps Ed McMahon can make the introduction, “St. Peter, heeeeeeeeeeeeere’s BILLY!”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It shows a degeneration of culture, Silas, for the media and everybody else being so preoccupied with his death.

    Just another loud mouth. And the mere fact of death is not tragic. We all die.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend reading this article, Roger, as it would only be another obstacle in your quest to see your name in the comments as much as possible. And you call him a loud mouth.

    Who’s this guy? Oh well. People die. Move on.

    An entire Internet generation is fascinated by infomercials. Like I said in the article, the cult has stemmed a Discovery Channel show that he co-hosts.

    If it makes you feel better by dismissing that generation as denigrating culture, then go right ahead, Roger.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Matt,

    I wouldn’t recommend reading this article, Roger, as it would only be another obstacle in your quest to see your name in the comments as much as possible.

    My comment on this huckster guy who died had nothing to do with raising my comment count. But I can always do comments of two words to raise that comment count if you think I should. You’re an editor. I repsect your opinion…..

    Don’t feel bad – American culture started to really degenerate in the 1950’s with the most idiotic (and funny) commercials selling the most useless shit.

    There was this Ronald something or other, who had a company named Ronco that sold plenty of white-trash-attractive products a generation or two ago. “It slices, dices and juliennes” made it into a science fiction novel, “Lost in the Sea of Time”. So did “reach out and touch someone”. And then there was the commercial about the stomach arguing with the guy who was eating pepperoni pizza, telling him to have pity on him and at least take some Alka Seltzer….

    “You’ll wonder where the yellow went,
    When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent!”

    Stuff like that, (along with “Mad Magazine” – only 15 cents cheap!) inspired loads of kids in my high school to go into advertising (that’s what I shoulda done, too – I’d have two divorces instead of one, two heart attacks instead of one, an ulcer, instead of none, a penthouse apartment, and oodles of money to go with my goyisher daughters-in-law).

    Who knows what these white-trash-attractive hucksters will inspire you to do?

    By the way, did I ever mention that I get kinda nasty when I’m short of cash, Matt? Got a spare fifty?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Sorry to disagree, Matt. Yes, I skimmed through this one-page article before, and for the second time again. I’m sorry but I can’t somehow get excited or see what’s the hoopla.

    In fact, the following excerpt, as far as I am concerned, is all I need to disavow myself of any interest in this article:

    “Maybe that’s what made his death most surprising and impactful of all. Already at a pinnacle in his career, he was still climbing higher. He had more to give.”

    A pinnacle of his career.” “Climbing higher.” “He had more to give.”

    Come on, Matt. You can’t be serious. Do you really want me to get excited about things like that? It’s a timely and well-written piece on your part – I may give you that. But let’s face it, you had better moments.

    And insofar as your rather snotty retort is concerned, namely,

    “as it would only be another obstacle in your quest to see your name in the comments as much as possible,” you know it’s a cheap shot. I don’t have any fucking desire of which you’re accusing me, nor am I on any fucking quest. If I happen to post more comments than others, perhaps I’m more energized than the rest. Or perhaps, and that’s for your information, it just so happens I have no social life to speak of where I happen to live now: so yes, sad but true, BC pretty much preempts my life for the time being.

    So thank you again for interpreting my motivation and endowing me with honorable motives.

  • http://thelayoffbeard.com Matthew T. Sussman

    “I’m sorry but I can’t somehow get excited or see what’s the hoopla.”

    That’s fine. I’m not asking you to be excited. In fact, don’t get excited. I forbid you. Was that … did I see a hint of interest? STOP IT AT ONCE!

    You might’ve known this already, but this article isn’t about you! And yet you feel the need to say “I don’t understand Billy Mays’ intrigue” three times in three comments. Care to make it four?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Not really, Matt. Enough said.