The past week has been a tough one for celebrity grovelers like myself. First, Ed McMahon (sidekick of sidekicks) passes, then Farrah Fawcett, then Michael Jackson, and perhaps the most surreal, Mr. “As Seen on TV” Billy Mays. Not to sound crass, but Farrah and Ed were quite past their primes and neither passed suddenly (Ed was old and Farrah had battled cancer for a long time). So really, it’s a race to who was the biggest Celebrity death:
Here’s my argument for Billy, and as a qualifier (read: in order to cover my ass), I admit I’m as big a Michael Jackson fan as anyone who’s formative years were bracketed by MJ albums. But, here’s the thing: Michael’s body of work is founded. In fact, there was a good chance he was never going to add anything to his already extensive collection of genius. And, if he did write new songs (like a couple years back), they wouldn’t be anything like his work in the 80s (or the 70s for that matter). Basically, he had given us all he had to give and we are thankful for it.
Billy, on the other hand, was in his prime. He was still selling stuff and, perhaps more importantly, was still selling stuff with awesome names. His ShamWow competitor, Zorbeez, became one of the latest and greatest Mays’ pitches, and his (and partner in crime Anthony Sullivan’s) reality show – Pitchmen – just started airing this past April. Things were looking up.
So when we look back on it, we can feel the greater tragic nature of Billy’s passing. What products are we missing out on? We’ll never know.
Here’s Billy last week on The Late Show with Conan O’Brien:
In tribute to Billy’s underrated influence on TV, we present to you, 10 of his greatest television apearances.
What can you say about Mighty Putty, except that it launched an industry and really put Billy on the map. Also, my parents love the stuff, so it has to be good.
This is one of Billy’s first appearances, on the Home Shopping Network with one of his cornerstone products – the OxiClean. Even back then the product names were great!
Great name, great product. Look at all that crap you can clean with this stuff!
This one doesn’t get a lot of mention – and maybe that’s because it looks ridiculous and no one wanted to buy ‘em, fearing that their 150 pound deer head would come crashing to the floor, impaling their cat, Rufus. Just a thought.
I love this one. We get to really delve into the bedroom lives of a couple of retirees, where, we find out, they like to have light switches convenient to them. Golden Girls never got this intimate. Billy failed to mention that you can also suture a Handy Switch onto your wrist, for that “never-out-of-reach” convenience.
I have to admit, this seems like to much of a niche market for Billy. I can’t imagine people actually buying this and using it. It seems like a wedding present you get someone that you only kind of know and therefore wouldn’t spend “quality money” on. But, you have to hand it to Billy, he knows how to pitch it.
One of his latest. Basically, it’s just an on-air FU to ShamWow and Vince Offer. In a perfect world, a cage match between Billy and Vince would have been aired Pay-Per-View as a fight to the death, and the winner gets sole custody over the soda-sopping towel market.
Perfect name for what seems to be a great product. Although, what isn’t when Billy’s involved? He also opens the public’s eye to how rank they really are. Buy your What Odor? people!
I like to think that the appliances around are my buddies. It helps to mask the pain of not having real, living friends. All the more, I like to think my buddies do my menial tasks.
Again, Billy gives you something that will let you sit on your ass (collecting body odor, see #8), while your buddy steams your clothes and your NeverScrub cleans the crap-ring in your toilet. If that’s not enough, you can have your Handy Switch an inch away, and looks like you won’t have to do anything but enjoy that Night Court marathon on Nick at Nite. That’s the world Billy Mays wanted.
– ROSS CONKEY
Magenta Bentley. Yes, that’s her name.
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