Billy Mays Biography

Television Personality (1958–2009)
Billy Mays is best known for his enthusiastic infomercials, pitching products like Orange Glo and Oxiclean.


Billy Mays was born July 20, 1958 in McKees Rock, Pennsylvania. Mays attended West Virginia University briefly, before finding work as a salesman on the Atlantic City boardwalk. Mays took his sales experience and partnered with the creator of Orange Glo as the spokesman for the company. Before his premature death, Mays became the pitchman for many successful products.

Early Life

Television personality. Born William Darrell "Billy" Mays on July 20th, 1958, in McKees Rock, Pennsylvania. Mays is best known as a television pitchman and host of informercials for products like Oxiclean, Orange Glo, and more. Mays spent the majority of his childhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For a short time, Billy attended West Virginia University, but he dropped out and began working at his father's hazardous waste company.

Mays began his sales career on the Atlantic City boardwalk in 1983, selling the "Washmatik" portable washing device to passersby. Along with the "Washmatik," Mays also sold several other "As Seen On TV" products. Mays attributes much of his style and success as a salesman to the older pitchmen that taught him the trade during this time. After a while on the Atlantic City boardwalk, Mays began traveling to home shows and state fairs across the country selling products.

Home Shopping Network Debut

In 1993, Billy struck up a friendship with Max Appel, a salesman and founder of Orange Glo International. The two agreed to partner together, with Mays as the company's pitchman, to sell Orange Glo products like OxiClean, Orange Clean, and Orange Glo on the Home Shopping Network (HSN) in St. Petersburg, Florida. After just one day on the Home Shopping Network, Mays experienced immense success. His enthusiastic style led to a sharp increase in sales. He was not, however, well received by critics and the media. The Washington Post referred to Mays as "a full-volume pitchman, amped up like a candidate for a tranquilizer-gun takedown."

The negative press didn't effect Mays. Instead he pressed on, helping to make Orange Glo International one of the top 10 privately growing companies from 1999 to 2001. His success on HSN also helped propel the buyout by Church and Dwight of the Orange Glo International. In addition, he continued to lend his pitchman skills and voice to many products on the Home Shopping Network, including Zorbeez, Mighty Putty, Turbo Tiger, Kaboom! and The Grip Wrench.

Television Personality Success

In late 1999, Mays moved to Dunedin, Florida, and started his own company called Mays Promotions, Inc. There he began pitching and appearing in commercials for several products. Mays then landed his own reality show with Anthony Sullivan on the Discovery Channel in 2009. As the host and executive producer, Mays helped inventors fine-tune and market their products.

In recent years, Billy Mays appeared as a television personality on shows such as ESPN360 and ESPN and ABC's college football bowl coverage. He also appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. But just as everything was coming together for May, his life came to a tragic end. On June 28th, 2009, Mays was found dead in his Tampa, Florida, home. According to the autopsy report, hypertension and cocaine contributed to his death.

Mays was married twice. His first wife was Dolores "Dee Dee" Mays of McKees Rock, Pennsylvania. Together they had son Billy Mays III, who was born in 1985. Mays married for a second time to Deborah Mays. They have a daughter, Elizabeth.

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