Billy Mays (partially found rare commercials/infomercials starring pitchman; 1980s-2009)

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Billy Mays, pictured.

Status: Partially Found

William Darrell "Billy" Mays Jr. was an American direct-response marketing pitchman operating from the 1980s to his death from hypertension on June 28th, 2009.[1] Mays gained a high level of success and recognition through his lifetime, including his great impact on television and internet advertising, his iconic loud and brash tone, coining the phrase "Hi, Billy Mays here for...", the Discovery Channel show PitchMen which starred him and his co-worker friend Anthony Sullivan, and becoming a classic internet meme. Some of Mays' most well-known endorsed products include OxiClean, Orange Glo, Kaboom, Zorbeez, various Simoniz products, etc.

As Billy Mays starred in hundreds of TV commercials/infomercials, a few have become lost to time. This is due to multiple factors, such as Mays' sudden death, the fact that most people didn't go out of their way to record infomercials (never mind uploading them on the internet later), and Mays not being popular at the time of his early work. Interest for the rare infomercials has especially risen in the wake of Mays' death.

Whereabouts

A few clips from various lost commercials/infomercials can be spotted in two tribute videos made following Mays' death, by the Electronic Retailer's Association and Film Florida Legends Awards Ceremony. However, where most of these clips really seem to be sourced from is Sullivan Productions' (Anthony Sullivan's company which directed a large amount of Mays' work) old website. The "Our Creations" section of the website had several of the now-lost infomercials available, and the .swf files for the video players themselves have been saved, but they're mostly empty and attempt to connect to the Sullivan Productions site (for example, "Safety_Beep.flv"). Nothing from said directory was archived, thus making the videos lost to time as the website re-branded and deleted the videos. Anthony Sullivan himself might still own the videos, but this is unconfirmed.

A few photographs taken from the sets of Mays' various now-lost work can be found on his son's (Billy Mays III) tribute site for his father, BillyMays.org.

Jet Cloth & Washmatik (1983/1988)

The Jet Cloth appears to be a super-absorbent chamois cloth, similar to the "ShamWow!" or Mays' own "Zorbeez". The Washmatik is a hose system that pumps water directly from a bucket without being hooked up to a faucet.[2]

Before Mays' TV success, he worked for the houseware marketing company International Housewares. He sold the Washmatik, along with other products such as the Jet Cloth to passersby at the Atlantic City boardwalk, later also pitching at home shows, state fairs, and auto shows. His co-workers at the time would call him "Bucket Billy" due to how often he'd sell the Washmatik.[3][4]

Mays' pitch for the two products was recorded in 1983, as evident by a private videotape that he owned. Mays is notable here for having a much calmer tone while pitching as compared to his newer infomercials. Multiple clips from the tape are shown in the PitchMen episode, Revenge of the Pitchmen. It's first shown when Mays, in anticipation to re-doing his infomercial for "Zorbeez," plays the tape to his crew, all while getting embarrassed at his younger self's performance. It later re-appears when Mays recalls his life story in the middle of the episode. Another clip appears in the ERA tribute video, although it claims that the recording was done in 1988 instead. Nonetheless, the full tape hasn't resurfaced yet and is probably still in possession of Mays' family.

Footage complied from Revenge of the Pitchmen and the ERA tribute video.

Home Shopping Network (1993-2000)

On the 1993 Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show, Billy Mays met up with one of his rivals, Max Appel, founder of Orange Glo International. The two salesmen struck a friendship with each other, and Mays was hired to pitch the Orange Glo cleaning product on the Home Shopping Network. He would eventually pitch OxiClean on the channel when it was released in 1997 (making it sell up to 3500 units on the first day), along with other unrelated products.[5] Mays became a common star on the channel, and eventually met his co-worker and future friend Anthony Sullivan through there.

The total number of Mays' Home Shopping Network appearances is unknown, but four of them can be found on YouTube.

"Where's Billy?" promo from July 1997.
"Talk Shop" OxiClean pitch.
A clip from a 1998 OxiClean pitch.
Euroshine Dutch Rubber Broom pitch.

OxiClean - Original 30-Minute Infomercial (1998)

Alongside appearances on the Home Shopping Network, a test 30-minute infomercial for OxiClean (and by extension, Orange Clean) was made in early 1998 to air on other TV channels.[5] The infomercial features Mays and an unknown host, showing off much of the same demonstrations as the live shows on the Home Shopping Network. The infomercial had around a 2.0 MER (Media Efficiency Ratio), meaning that it made back double the money used for its production. The infomercial is also mentioned in Anthony Sullivan's 2017 book, You Get What You Pitch For.

Out of the 30-minute runtime, about 1 minute has made it online, uploaded by the infomercial's producer, Rick Cesari. Around 11 minutes of an edited, German-dubbed (Swiss) version is also available.

The available (English version) clip.
The German-dubbed version.

Turbo Tiger/Turbo Tiger Plus (2002/2004)

The Turbo Tiger was a lightweight, "turbo-powered" vacuum cleaner sold by Interwood Direct/Tristar Products.[6]

Mays pitched the product around 2002.[3] The infomercial appears to be completely absent from the internet, although photos of the product's box can be found online, with Mays' endorsement on them. Curiously, a few behind-the-scenes photos of a "Turbo Tiger" infomercial can be found on BillyMays.org, but it appears to be a different, 2004 revision of the product named the "Turbo Tiger Plus".[7] Both products emphasize on the "tiger" in "Turbo Tiger" by having a live tiger accompany Mays.

OxiClean - "Laundromat" (2005)

At around 2005, OxiClean had a series of commercials set in a laundromat. These mostly focused on showcasing OxiClean's new 2005 formula, which supposedly worked better than ever.[9] It's uncertain how many of these were made, but at least one of them is known to be missing in full. Three (mostly muted/spoken over) clips of the missing commercial can be found in the FFLAC tribute video.

15 second spot.
30 second spot.
All available footage from the lost commercial.
15 second spot for OxiClean Triple Power.
30 second spot for OxiClean Triple Power.

Ultimate Ladder (2007)

The SQV ("Safety, Quality, Versatility") Ultimate Ladder was a product sold by Tristar Products that was advertised as having "8 ladders in 1".[10]

Although the infomercial for the product is available online, there's a demonstration that doesn't appear in it. The demonstration involves a telehandler lifting a school bus above four Ultimate Ladders. Mays yells "Lower the bus!", and the bus gets dropped on top of the Ultimate Ladders, showing off their strength. It is unclear whether the demonstration was used in an alternative version of the infomercial or not, but it appears to have been at least edited for use in one.

Some behind-the-scenes footage of the demonstration has been uploaded by Anthony Sullivan on February 2nd, 2007. Mays says roughly the following in the footage:

"Lower the bus! Lower the bus- This is unbelievable! Thousands and thousands of pounds, the ultimate strength has the Ultimate Ladder. Look at that, ladies and gentlemen. Watch here, at the- [inaudible] -ever. Look at that! This has never been done in television history. Television history- [inaudible] -the Ultimate Ladder, ladies and gentlemen, is the SQV of ladders: safety, quality and versatility, stacked up to value. Before you find another ladder out there, step up in safety and get yours. Look at this, ladies and gentlemen, that's unbelievable! That's television history right here. Look at that. I've gotta tell you something, I've never seen anything like this- [cut off] Look at that. The SQV of ladders: safety, quality and versatility equals value. Ours is the best; you've seen the rest, now get the best."

Obviously, Mays took multiple takes of his dialogue here, and most of it was probably cut off in the finished infomercial. Both tribute videos and the PitchMen episode, Revenge of the Pitchmen, appear to have some footage from the finished infomercial:

"I've been doing this for a lot of years, I've never seen anything like this IN MY LIFE!"
The Ultimate Ladder's infomercial, in which the school bus demonstration does not appear.
Footage compiled from the two tribute videos and Revenge of the Pitchmen.
Picture of Mays during the demonstration.
Behind-the-scenes footage of the demonstration.

OxiClean - "OxiClean Bathroom" (2007)

OxiClean Bathroom was a short-lived OxiClean product sold through 2007, which doubled as a cleaner & disinfectant for the bathroom.[11]

The product.

Mays did an infomercial for the product, as evident by an outtake reel uploaded by Anthony Sullivan on June 6th, 2007. The reel shows Billy kneeling over a bathtub while holding the product, reaching over the tub to start cleaning before falling over:

"This one powerful product removes tough stains and disinfects all over your bathroom, without harsh (chemicals/fumes)-"

There's also a scene of Sullivan asking Mays whether he's OK, and Mays sniffing the product's bottle. The finished infomercial itself is missing, and all that's available is the blooper reel.

The blooper reel.

Safety Beep (2007)

The Safety Beep was a wireless vehicle warning device sold by the Invention Channel. It's designed to be stuck on a vehicle's rear end, beeping while driving in reverse mode to alert any passersby that you're backing up.[12]

A clip from the infomercial can be found on the ERA tribute video.

The available clip.
An alternative version of the infomercial, which doesn't feature Billy Mays.

Six Shooter (2007)

The Six Shooter was a cordless electric screwdriver, with a built-in LED light and revolving cylinder with six different drill bits, sold by IdeaVillage. An additional set of mini bits and a "Laser Straight" laser level also came in as a bonus.[13][14]

The infomercial is mostly gone online. It was available on Sullivan Productions' old website, as well as a lower-quality version on YouTube, as evidenced by a remix video uploaded in 2008 which uses some clips from it. The uploader of the video is still active, but is not responding to requests of re-uploading the Six Shooter infomercial.

The remix video (Six Shooter clips start at 0:25).

Energize (2008)

The Energize Energy Supplement is an all-day energy & calorie burning pill sold by iSatori.[15] For some strange reason, there was an odd amount of people mistaking the product for an energy drink/spray.[16]

Mays pitched the product around March 2008, as evidenced by an old PRWeb article.[17] According to Reddit user /u/nintrader; the infomercial started with Mays saying:

"Hi, I'm Billy Mays, and you might not think I need more energy, but I always use this energy spray![sic]"[18]

...later followed with this, according to the PRWeb article:

"My work used to take a lot out of me. But not anymore. Just one Energize in the morning gives me all the energy I need."

Most of the infomercial is missing online. A short clip survives in the FFLAC tribute video, as well as a few pictures of Mays getting ready at the infomercial's set on BillyMays.org. The Reddit user claims that the infomercial was available at PitchMen's page on Discovery Channel's website.

The available clip.
Fox News' report on Mays' death. A muted clip of the infomercial is shown at 1:47.

Other Work

Product Description/Note Proof Status
EZ Crunch Bowl A specially designed breakfast bowl that keeps the milk and cereal separate in order to retain the cereal's crunch. The making of the infomercial was shown in the PitchMen episode, Crunch Time (that's lost by itself). Lost
OxiClean - "2000 Alternative" An alternative version of Mays' iconic 2000 OxiClean infomercial. Includes the "plank cleaning" demonstration, which doesn't appear in the easily-available version. A small clip from the FFLAC tribute video. Partially Found
OxiClean - "Over 101 Uses" Mays presumably talks about some of his favorite uses for OxiClean. A small clip from the FFLAC tribute video. Partially Found
Steam Buggy A home steam cleaner. Not to be confused with the Steam Buddy. Tristar Products' "celebrity endorsements" page. Lost

Gallery

The ERA tribute video.
The FFLAC tribute video.
Today Show's report on Mays' death. A clip of the 2000 OxiClean alternative and Energize infomercial is shown at 0:21.

External Links

References