The Slow, Lingering Death of Billy Mays, Pitchman

On June 29, 2009, Billy Mays died suddenly from cardiac arrest. Six months after his passing, Billy’s pitchman career is finally nearing its inevitable end. If you surf late night TV or dedicated infomercial channels, you might see him alongside his Pitchmen partner Anthony “Sully” Sullivan as they cut up everything in sight with the Dual Saw. But his short-form spots are running less and less. Some products that Billy used to pitch, like the Jupiter Jack, are now pitched by Sully in re-shot and re-edited spots.

The last infomercial shot by Billy Mays was for Mighty Tape, a flexible non-adhesive tape that seals leaks. He completed shooting this spot the day before he died. The product has now been renamed Mighty Fixit, with Sully again replacing Billy as pitchman. This new lower-budget spot omits the dramatic underwater scene where Billy repairs a scuba diver’s hose with Mighty Tape. I’ve always wondered if underwater filming somehow contributed to Billy’s death. Is it possible an air bubble got into his bloodstream and stopped his heart? I’m not a doctor, but just sayin’. It’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

Nothing wrong with Sully taking over from his old friend and partner. That’s business, and Mr. Sullivan is very good at what he does both in front of and behind the camera. Just noting with sadness the end of an era. Direct response TV will never be the same without the booming voice, blue shirt, khaki slacks and jet-black beard of Billy Mays, Jr. While some advertisements remain in the public consciousness for decades, most are forgotten and don’t outlive their usefulness as tools to generate sales. Future generations aren’t likely to know or appreciate the greatest pitchman who ever pitched a product.

 

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