'Pitchmen' informercial star Billy Mays found dead at Tampa home
By Christopher Rocchio, 06/29/2009
Billy Mays, the star of numerous infomercials and co-star of Discovery Channel's Pitchmen reality series, has died. He was 50.
"It is with incredible sadness that we have to report that Billy Mays died in his sleep last night," said Discovery in a Sunday statement.
"Everyone that knows him 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. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family at this time of incredible loss."
The pitchman, best known for his affiliation with OxiClean, was found unresponsive by his wife on Sunday morning at his Tampa home and was subsequently pronounced dead at 7:45AM, The Associated Press reported.
While foul play is not suspected, an autopsy is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
"Although Billy lived a public life, we don't anticipate making any public statements over the next couple of days," Mays' wife Deborah told The AP. "Our family asks that you respect our privacy during these difficult times."
Tampa area media outlets reported on Saturday that Mays was a passenger on a U.S. Airways flight that experienced a rough landing at Tampa International airport after blowing its front tires.
"All of a sudden as we hit you know it was just the hardest hit, all the things from the ceiling started dropping," Mays told MyFox Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon, The AP reported . "It hit me on the head, but I got a hard head."
Pitchmen, which premiered on Discovery in April, follows Mays and fellow master marketer Anthony "Sully" Sullivan as they attempt to sell various inventions and products via infomercials in test markets to see if the commercial is ready for the mass public.
"There are no words to describe how I feel about the passing of my great friend and fellow Pitchman Billy Mays. I have a massive hole in my heart. My thoughts go out to his wife, Deborah, son Billy III, and his beautiful daughter, Elizabeth, his mom and dad and his whole family," Sullivan said in a statement.
"Billy and I have known each other for 15 years. We are the greatest of friends... we were literally joined at the hip for the past six months. Discovery Channel's Pitchmen was not only a wonderful experience, but also a great opportunity for Billy and I to let people into our world and see what an awesome guy he was in front of the cameras and show our friendship to the world."