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Deborah Mays

Deborah Mays

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Billy Mays TAMPA,Fla.

(AP) - Billy Mays, the burly, bearded television pitchman whoseboisterous hawking of products such as Orange Glo and OxiClean made hima pop-culture icon, has died.

He was 50.Tampapolice said Mays was found unresponsive by his wife Sunday morning.

Afire rescue crew pronounced him dead at 7:45 a.m.

It was notimmediately clear how he died.

He said he was hit on the head when anairplane he was on made a rough landing Saturday, and Mays' wife toldinvestigators he didn't feel well before he went to bed that night.There were no signs of a break-in at the home, and investigators donot suspect foul play, said Lt.

Brian Dugan of the Tampa PoliceDepartment, who wouldn't answer any more questions about how Mays' bodywas found because of the ongoing investigation.

The coroner's officeexpects to have an autopsy done by Monday afternoon.Mays'wife, Deborah Mays, told investigators that her husband had complainedhe didn't feel well before he went to bed some time after 10 p.m.Saturday night, Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said."AlthoughBilly lived a public life, we don't anticipate making any publicstatements over the next couple of days," Deborah Mays said in astatement Sunday.

"Our family asks that you respect our privacy duringthese difficult times."U.S.

Airways confirmed Sunday thatMays was among the passengers on a flight that made a rough landing onSaturday afternoon at Tampa International Airport, leaving debris onthe runway after apparently blowing its front tires.Tampa Bay's Fox television affiliate interviewed Mays after the incident."Allof a sudden as we hit you know it was just the hardest hit, all thethings from the ceiling started dropping," MyFox Tampa Bay quoted himas saying.

"It hit me on the head, but I got a hard head."McElroysaid linking Mays' death to the landing would "purely be speculation."She said Mays' family members didn't report any health issues with thepitchman, but said he was due to have hip replacement surgery in thecoming weeks.Laura Brown, spokeswoman for the FederalAviation Administration, said she did not know if Mays was wearing hisseatbelt on the flight because the FAA is not investigating his death.BornWilliam Mays in McKees Rocks, Pa., on July 20, 1958, Mays developed hisstyle demonstrating knives, mops and other "as seen on TV" gadgets onAtlantic City's boardwalk.

For years he worked as a hired gun on thestate fair and home show circuits, attracting crowds with his boomingvoice and genial manner.After meeting Orange GloInternational founder Max Appel at a home show in Pittsburgh in themid-1990s, Mays was recruited to demonstrate the environmentallyfriendly line of cleaning products on the St.

Petersburg-based HomeShopping Network.Commercials and informercials followed,anchored by the high-energy Mays showing how it's done while tossingout kitschy phrases like, "Long live your laundry!"SarahEllerstein worked closely with Mays when she was a buyer for the HomeShopping Network in the 1990s and he was pitching Orange Glo products."Billywas such a sweet guy, very lovable, very nice, always smiling, just agreat, great guy," she said Sunday, adding that Mays met his futurewife at the network.

"Everybody thinks because he's loud and boisterouson the air that that's the way he is, but I always found him to be aquiet, down-to-earth person."Recently he's been seen oncommercials for a wide variety of products and is featured on thereality TV show "Pitchmen" on the Discovery Channel, which follows Maysand Anthony Sullivan in their marketing jobs.

He's also been seen inESPN ads.His ubiquitousness and thumbs-up, in-your-facepitches won Mays plenty of fans.

People line up at his personalappearances for autographed color glossies, and strangers stop him inairports to chat about the products."I enjoy what I do," Mays told The Associated Press in a 2002 interview.

"I think it shows."Maysliked to tell the story of giving bottles of OxiClean to the 300 guestsat his wedding, and doing his ad spiel ("powered by the air webreathe!") on the dance floor at the reception.

Visitors to his housetypically got bottles of cleaner and housekeeping tips.Aspart of "Pitchmen," Mays and Sullivan showed viewers new gadgets suchas the Impact Gel shoe insert; the Tool Band-it, a magnetized armbandthat holds tools; and the Soft Buns portable seat cushion."Oneof the things that we hope to do with 'Pitchmen' is to give people anappreciation of what we do," Mays told The Tampa Tribune in aninterview in April.

"I don't take on a product unless I believe in it.I use everything that I sell."His former wife, Dolores "DeeDee" Mays, of McKees Rocks, Pa., recalled that the first product hesold was the Wash-matik, a device for pumping water from a bucket towash cars."I knew him since he was 15, and I always knew hehad it in him," she said of Mays' success.

"He'll live on foreverbecause he always had the biggest heart in the world.

He loved hisfriends and family and would do anything for them.

He was a generoussoul and a great father."--Associated Press Writer Sarah Larimer in Miami and Ron Todt in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
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