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But WAIT!! There's (no) more! Billy Mays dead (Or Billy Maze)

Billy Maze Billy Mays gives his trademark sign of approval

OK, here's the connection. Politicians sell stuff. So did Billy Mays. Like it or lump it.

Regular Ticket readers will already know we love Billy Mays. (And not just because he was a reader.) He died today. Almost 51. Only the latest of numerous recent celebrities to depart -- Ed McMahon, Farrah, MJ, Natasha Richardson, who felt fine after bumping her head skiing. No doubt others. (And we've got a special Billy video tribute below too.)

Billy had a really rough landing on a commercial flight back home to Tampa yesterday. He said he felt fine after being hit on the head by something falling. Then, wasn't feeling well last night. No one knows yet what happened to one of the world's most famous, most successful pitchmen, straight out of the original Atlantic City Boardwalk School of Salesmanship.

Billy was the American insomniac's best friend. Always there late at night or early in the morning. Always happy to see you. Giving you that old thumbs-up sign of Mays approval. Always selling something terrifically wonderful, so much so that even folks with graduate degrees found themselves grabbing their credit card and reaching for the phone to beat that phony "Next 10 minutes" deadline.

In fact, he didn't put insomniacs to sleep. How could anyone sleep around Billy's obviously genuine enthusiasm and energy? He just kept us -- that is, our friends -- company while we -- they -- worked through the long night or waited for dawn to arrive.

He was no doubt sound asleep himself somewhere else. But through the magic of video  Billy was right there in our living rooms showing us a mop that could not only clean all pet hairs off the floor but probably off the dog too.Mock Billy Mays for President Poster

Here's the deal: Billy was real. He would only sell products that passed his test, that worked and that he himself used at home. He even handed out samples to guests.

You don't see that much elsewhere in American society today, especially in politicians. For instance, if Billy was, say, president and trying to sell us all on a massive national public education reform program costing billions of dollars, you just know he'd have his kids in those very same public schools, not off safely in some fancy private place.

If Billy set his mind to closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, he was so good at selling that he'd have towns clamoring to take not just one, not just two, but three suspected terrorists for local incarceration. Count on it. 

And his Oval Office desk wouldn't be all bare, shiny and sterile for bill signings. It'd be covered with his favorite programs/products to get them some TV time.

But there's more to Billy: You really believed him. If he'd been in politics, he could sell fiscal responsibility to a Democrat. He'd have those stubborn deficit stains outta there in just five minutes or less. Five!

Get Billy selling cars and you don't need the government to own GM. If he'd been one of the country's 1,417 surviving Republicans today -- well, he'd have to lose the black beard first -- but if he'd been a Republican, he could -- what? -- well, maybe sell party members on stopping the internal knife fights.

Anyway, another special thing about Billy Mays that is also rare among today's U.S. politicians: He could genuinely make fun of himself. Not with some obviously made-up line about his kid taking him down a notch. Har-har-har.

But by joking about his own distinctive gung-ho style. Pointing the finger directly at himself, not someone else pointing at him. Real genuine self-deprecation, which they must not teach in Campaign School anymore.

That's why, as a special bonus for Ticket readers today ONLY, we're adding this wonderful video below. The real Billy Mays mocking the real Billy Mays, captured on tape ordering at a McDonald's drive-thru in his very own inimitable late-night TV style. No extra charge.


And may God bless our Billy up on the Ultimate Boardwalk.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Comments () | Archives (34)

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Great tribute to Billy Mays. I was/am one of those overly educated folks who would wake up in the middle of the night to see what he was hawking. He also did seem sincere in his endorsements. And was a refreshing tonic to insomniacs across the country...

The political analogy is spot on.

Thanks for your story.

This guy, money or not - Lived. God bless.

Billy Mays, no longer here. RIP.

Ah, but could he sell fiscal responsibility to a REPUBLICAN? That's the question these days.

The world will be a less noisey place...

I bought a new TV last week and made sure that it had a volume leveler to electronically moderate Billy Mays and other loud commercials. Hadn't heard one on the new TV and, sadly, I won't now. Too bad.

Billy Mays' loud commercials were definitely obnoxious, but that didn't exempt him from being admirable for his skill.

Vince Shlomi, the Sham-WOW and Slap-Chop hawker isn't quite as loud as Billy Mays was.

Billy Mays was the face of the infomercial and in these dark ages of the ShamWow and Slap Chop, he will be truly missed, check out an additional tribute to Mays here:

One minute your alive, then KABOOM your dead.

Sorry about his misfortune, but sure glad I won't be hearing his incredibly annoying voice anymore. I made it a point to not buy anything he advertised. Don't know anything about him in real life, but on TV he was the most obnoxious.

he was the king of infomercial

Wonderful tribute/article for Billy. Thank you LA Times!
I'm so sad. Billy was just at the peak of his career and life. I'm so sorry .. his wife and family, you are in my thoughts and prayers. A true spokesman.... I loved his new show and the fact that all the commercials I saw daily were for products he believed in. Billy will really be missed.

I LMAO when I found out he was dead! I know thats really mean but I couldn't help it! I HATED him! I had a little sticker of him on my door, and I put a pin through his forehead. But I respect the dead- I'ts not his fault he had a loud, obnoxious, annoying voice that made me wanna tear out his voicebox- RIP BILLY!

Man, this guy was the coolest. He was so tight, and I loved his show pitchemen. Damn coolest tv announcer ever... at least he lived his life to the fullest and he was happy!!!!!!!!!

"One minute your alive, then KABOOM your dead."-
Posted by: Bobby | June 28, 2009 at 06:16 PM

LOL. Classic. I hated Billy yelling those infomercials, but now I know I'll miss them...

He sounded like a great guy sometime life takes an unexpected turn I feel for his family and especially his kids. Love your family like it’s your last day every day because you never know.

My condolences to his family,Billy Mays was an awsome person. I did work for him and his wife in 2005, when they were building their new home, and they treated me great. What a geat loss.
Jeff in Tampa

Billy You will be missed forever!

Check out for his last interview it is sad

I literally ran for the remote control and its mute button any/every time he came on screaming at me. I wouldn't wish this on anyone but the airwaves will be significantly less obnoxious (at least until some other noisemaker fills the void).

You're right on target as usual, Andrew. A brilliant tribute to a real classy gentleman with principles and integrity. No wonder he never would've made it in politics!

Rest well, Mr. Mays. You'll be sorely missed.

This is a very dumb article which proves just about anyone can write for a major newspaper. No depth, just senseless political comparisons to a famous pitchman. It's not even a very creative comparison. The man suddenly died in his prime. Have some respect as we all do what we have to do in this world to make a dime to survive. Not all of us have the dream of writing for the LA Times, even though it seems just about anyone could do it.

This is the best tribute I have read to an American original in every way. I will miss him

This is so sad me and myy sister couldn't belive billy maze died after mj this world is reallly coming to an end




Great Tribute to Billy.

Thanks Andrew, I've always enjoyed your clarity! I found you through your coverage of Ron Paul and am always happy to see your articles, especially this one, Billy was as sincere as they make them these days.

Now End the FED, these salesmen for this private corporation are only after your money HR1207, call your reps

It is So sad I will miss watching pitch men ... He will be missed ... His Death was so not Expected He was Preaty young. I will miss you Billy Mays

hes the funniest and happpiest

"It's true that Mays was an inspiration to most new entrepreneurs out there at one point or another. In fact, he was the perfect embodiment of the American dream, from his humble beginnings on the Atlantic City Boardwalk to becoming a national icon with his own television show. He was our daily reminder that the only thing standing in the way of liberating ourselves from the 9-5 jobs we hate so much was a simple way to solve a problem coupled with a good sales pitch. While Billy Mays has passed, he lives on in the imaginations of millions of Americans whenever they ask themselves that famous question: 'Why didn't I think of that?'"

Man What a bummer. I Always enjoyed Billy Mays. Sorry to see him go.

So many celebrities have passed in the last few days...but for some reason the passing of Billy Mays has really struck a chord with me. Maybe it's a generational thing, having grown up with infomercials and "as seen on tv" and such. I'll miss his booming voice and blue shirt.

RIP Billy Mays.

anyone thats puts a smile on your face is a sad day when they are gone god bless

Sorry to hear about Billy's death but I sure will not miss his screaming on those commercials. His loud screaming always left me in a bad mood!


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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