Infomercial Star Billy Mays Dies At 50

Infomercial superstar Billy Mays, the hawker of such made-for-TV products as Orange Glo and OxiClean, has died. He was found dead Sunday morning at his home in Tampa, Fla. His sudden death occurred a day after his flight on a US Airways plane that hit the runway hard upon landing and blew out a tire.

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GUY RAZ, host:

We take a moment now to remember a face and a voice that's familiar to insomniacs across America.

(Soundbite of TV program Home Shopping Network)

Mr. BILLY MAYS (TV Pitchman): Hi, Billy Mays here to share with you the most important product I have ever endorsed.

RAZ: Billy Mays, the burly, bearded TV pitchman who never met a product he couldn't hawk, was found dead today at his home in Tampa, Florida. He was 50 years old.

Now, there's a strange angle to this story.

Billy Mays had returned to Tampa yesterday aboard a US Airways flight that had hit the runway hard and blew out a tire. After the landing, Mays told a local TV reporter, all the things from the ceiling started dropping. It hit me on the head, but I got a hard head.

Later that night, according to police, Mays told his family he wasn't feeling well. He went to bed around 10 o'clock, but he never woke up. Police wouldn't speculate on what caused Billy Mays' death. The coroner's office said an autopsy should be finished by Monday afternoon. But whether touting Orange Glo and OxiClean or making fun of himself on a series of ads for espn.com, Billy Mays delivered with a passion and a volume that might make Ron Popeil envious.

(Soundbite of TV program Home Shopping Network)

Mr. MAYS: Does your kitchen have a drawer full of dull knives? There's nothing more frustrating than trying to slice a ripe tomato.

RAZ: That's TV pitchman Billy Mays, who died today at age 50.

(Soundbite of music)

And that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. Have a great week.

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