Billy Mays Dies and the Media Decline to Take It Seriously

Last Updated Jun 28, 2009 10:52 PM EDT

Billy Mays, the shoutingest infomercial pitchman to ever bellow "But wait, there's more!," died Sunday aged 50. Mays was a much-loved face of an industry that makes a lot of money but often does not afford its participants much dignity (check out the Body Snake, for instance).

Mays, however, had a self-deprecating side that forced you to regard him as a talent rather than a sideshow barker.

Unfortunately, the reaction of the media and some of his colleagues has lent his death a bit less dignity than the occasion deserves. Exhibit A: This blog item at the LA Times, which uses the headline:

But WAIT!! There's (no) more! Billy Mays dead (Or Billy Maze)
It's a shame because the piece ends with a wonderful YouTube video of Mays being himself at a McDonald's drive-thru, and charming everyone to bits. "I'd like to order the buy-one, get-one-free egg and cheese biscuit -- but wait there's more!" (See the video below.)

The Electronic Retailing Association couldn't help but drop some brand names. ERA made this statement:

His dedication to DRTV will be remembered by those of us in the industry, as his animated approach to marketing dozen of products, such as Orange Glo and OxiClean, will be remembered by millions of consumers.
A blogger fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks lamented his death only because it meant that Mays could never do a promo for the ailing team.

Strangest of all, Mays' son chose to announce his fathers' death on Twitter:

My dad didn't wake up this morning.. I'm sure you'll all hear about it. It hasn't yet hit me but it's about to.
Mays' own Twitter post notes that he had a rough landing at Tampa airport; some already suspect he hit his head on the landing and may have died of a brain injury later.
Just had a close call landing in Tampa. The tires blew out upon landing. Stuck in the plane on the runway. You can always count on US Air.
Amazingly, AJ Khubani, CEO of infomercial empire TeleBrands, a man no one has ever accused of bringing dignity to the business, mustered a simple statement that was appropriate and genuine:
I first met Billy in the early 1990s when he was still pitching one of his early products, the Shammy, at a trade fair at a house wares show. Over the years, our relationship grew as Billy's distinctive voice and style became a staple in our industry.