By Calvin Palmer
Autopsy results show that Billy Mays, the king of TV infomercials, suffered from hypertensive heart disease.
The 50-year-old Mays was found dead at his Tampa home yesterday morning.
Preliminary autopsy results point to an apparent heart attack, said Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Vernard Adams. But toxicology and tissue tests will take several weeks before a final cause of death is issued.
Mays returned to Florida on a scheduled flight on Saturday and said he had bumped his head during the landing.
Adams said the autopsy showed no evidence of trauma to the head, either external or internal.
The autopsy showed that Mays’ heart was heavier than normal because the left ventricle had enlarged, a symptom of heart disease.
Prescription drug abuse was also ruled out. Mays was taking prescription painkillers Tramadol and hydrocodone for hip pain, but the pill counts showed that Mays had taken the correct amount, according to the medical examiner.
Born William Mays in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, on July 20, 1958, Mays developed his style demonstrating knives, mops and other “As Seen on TV” gadgets on Atlantic City’s boardwalk.
For years he worked on the state fair and home show circuits, attracting crowds with his booming voice and genial manner.
AJ Khubani, founder and CEO of “As Seen on TV,” said he first met Mays in the early 1990s when Mays was still pitching one of his early products, the Shammy absorbent cloth, at a trade fair.
“His innovative role and impact on the growth and wide acceptance of direct response television cannot be overestimated or easily replaced; he was truly one of a kind,” Khubani said of Mays in a statement.
After meeting Orange Glo International founder Max Appel at a home show in Pittsburgh in the mid-1990s, Mays was recruited to demonstrate the environmentally friendly line of cleaning products on the St. Petersburg-based Home Shopping Network.
Commercials and informercials followed, anchored by the high-energy Mays demonstrating the product while tossing out kitschy phrases like, “Long live your laundry!”
Sarah Ellerstein, who worked closely with Mays when she was a buyer for the Home Shopping Network in the 1990s, said: “Billy was such a sweet guy, very lovable, very nice, always smiling, just a great, great guy.
“Everybody thinks because he’s loud and boisterous on the air that that’s the way he is, but I always found him to be a quiet, down-to-earth person.”
His thumbs-up, in-your-face pitches won Mays plenty of fans for his commercials on a wide variety of products. People lined up at his personal appearances for autographed color glossies, and strangers stopped him in airports to chat about the products.
“I enjoy what I do,” Mays said in a 2002 interview. “I think it shows.”
In an interview in April, Mays told The Tampa Tribune: “I don’t take on a product unless I believe in it. I use everything that I sell.”
His former wife, Dolores “Dee Dee” Mays, recalled that the first product he sold was the Wash-matik, a device for pumping water from a bucket to wash cars.
“I knew him since he was 15, and I always knew he had it in him,” she said of Mays’ success. “He loved his friends and family and would do anything for them. He was a generous soul and a great father.”
Besides his wife, Mays is survived by a 3-year-old daughter and his son, Billy Mays III.