Billy Mays “represented everything Americans say we don’t like about salesmen,” said David Hinckley in the New York Daily News. Before his “sudden and shocking” death Sunday, at age 50, he was master of the “if you don’t buy this, you’re an idiot” hard sell, the “television incarnation of a medicine-show quack.” But he became the “dominant brand” in TV sales—more famous than anything he ever sold—because he knew his product, and his audience.
His core audience was insomniacs, said Andrew Malcolm in the Los Angeles Times, and even sleepless viewers “with graduate degrees would find themselves grabbing their credit card” when he gave that “old thumbs up sign of Mays approval.” And that was his trick: he was real, and he really wouldn’t sell anything that didn’t work, that he didn’t use at home himself. (Watch Mays poke fun at himself at the drive-thru)
He was also growing an “unlikely fanbase” through his Discovery Channel reality show, “Pitchmen,” said Kim LaCapria in The Inquisitr. As to how he died, it’s too early to say, although he did suffer a blow to the head from a hard landing at the Tampa airport Saturday. He joked he had a “hard head.”
Mays was “as down to earth as could be,” said Darren Rovell in CNBC, but the “Infomercial king” also “generated billions of dollars in business.” He really was that good, and companies paid him accordingly. As a salesman, he managed the “impossible”—”he got us to buy something we sometimes never heard of in 30 seconds time.” As Mays loved saying, “Life is a pitch and then you buy it.”