Infomercial pitchman Billy Mays found dead
Published Sunday, June 28, 2009 6:29PM EDT
Well-known TV pitchman Billy Mays, the exuberant voice and bearded face behind a range of cleaning products from Orange Glo to Oxi Clean, has died at the age of 50.
Mays was pronounced dead Sunday morning, after his wife, Deborah, found his body inside their Florida home.
"Although Billy lived a public life, we don't anticipate making any public statements over the next couple of days," said Deborah Mays. "Our family asks that you respect our privacy during these difficult times."
Authorities say there were no signs of a break-in and foul play is not suspected. An autopsy is expected to take place by Monday afternoon.
According to media reports, however, Mays was a passenger on a US Airways flight that had a hard landing at Tampa International Airport on Saturday.
TMZ reports that Mays told another TV station about the incident.
"All of a sudden as we hit, you know, it was just the hardest hit, all the things from the ceiling started dropping. It hit me on the head, but I got a hard head," Mays told Fox 13 in Tampa.
Mays also wrote about the landing on his Twitter account.
"Just had a close call landing in Tampa. The tires blew out upon landing. Stuck in the plane on the runway. You can always count on US Air," he wrote on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.
Mays had recently been featured on the Discovery Channel's "Pitchmen" TV show. It followed the exploits of Mays and fellow pitchman Anthony Sullivan, while they worked in their marketing jobs.
Discovery Channel spokesperson Elizabeth Hillman said everyone who knew Mays "was aware of his larger-than-life personality, generosity and warmth."
"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," Hillman said in a statement.
According to a biography posted on the "Pitchmen" website, Mays got his start "hawking products on the Atlantic City boardwalk," while he developed his presentation panache.
A few years later, Mays had a "fateful" meeting with the inventor of the Orange Glo, OxiClean and Kaboom!, cleaning products, all of which he would later have a hand in selling on TV.
In 1996, that inventor then invited Mays to pitch Orange Glo on the Home Shopping Network.
From there, Mays made the leap to infomercials and commercials on TV.
According to his biography, Mays "can be seen on TV with over 10 different products at any given time."
With files from The Associated Press