Infomercial pitchman Billy Mays, who had been starring in a reality show for Discovery Channel, died at his home in Tampa, Florida today. He was 50.
"It is with incredible sadness that we have to report that Billy Mays died in his sleep last night," Discovery said in a statement Sunday morning. "Everyone that knows him was aware of his larger-than-life personality, generosity and warmth. Billy was a pioneer in his field and helped many people fulfill their dreams. He will be greatly missed as a loyal and compassionate friend. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family at this time of incredible loss. More information will be distributed as it becomes available."
Mays became famous during the past decade for his work hawking products such as Oxi-Clean, Orange Glo and the Hercules Hook. He also promoted ESPN’s web venture, ESPN360, in a series of parody spots that began airing last year.
This spring, Mays made the transition from pitchman to on-air talent, co-starring in the Discovery Channel reality series "Pitchmen" opposite fellow infomercial personality Anthony Sullivan. The series premiered April 15.
Mays and Sullivan appeared on "The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien" last Monday. Ironically, Mays talked about working for the same company as recently deceased TV icon Ed McMahon.
News of Mays’ passing first leaked out via the microblogging service Twitter. Mays’ son, Billy III, announced the news on his Twitter feed around 11 a.m. Florida time.
"My dad didn’t wake up this morning," he wrote. "I’m sure you’ll all hear about it. It hasn’t yet hit me but it’s about to."
Here’s Mays on “Tonight”: