Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Pish Posh to the King of Pop, Billy Mays No Longer "Here."

I heard about the death of Michael Jackson from a group of twittering African American baristas in a very urban Starbucks. It was quite the surreal experience. The young man ringing me up told the woman yelling it, "that ain't true." Then the 75 year old grandpa waiting behind me (for a soy-related beverage I'm sure) said in a kind of Jewish-Eddie Murphy-Coming to America barber shop voice, "I don't believe a word of it. Those twiddlers are always making things up." I didn't think much of it.

I called my friend Herb to confirm but he hadn't heard anything and was not motivated enough to check for me on the computer that was probably sitting right in front of him so I sat down and Starbucks and finished reading Denis Johnson's excellent & brisk new novel Nobody Move, a humorous Elmore Leonard-like novel about barbershop quartet singer with gambling debts who through a series of crazy incidents is forced into hiding from his bookie's collector.

When I finished, my mind wandered back to Michael Jackson and how I never really got the obsession. My favorite memory of Michael Jackson was the hubbub surrounding the debut of "Scream", his $7 million dollar video duet with Janet Jackson where they seem to be stuck together in black and white on a moonwalking ship where they like to play a really expensive version of Pong. "Scream" was not a great song. It was a song of frustration but a video filled enjoyment and a positive venting of frustration, at least after the opening dual scream part. "Scream" was the video that Jackson truly embraced his alien side.

Look at him in that space tombstone at the beginning, followed by the destruction of innumerable Flying V guitars. I never got why he was destroy the guitars and why they didn't float in the ship instead of being destroyed. Only Michael Jackson could spend $7 million dollars on a video.

But the demise of Billy Mays, the world's greatest TV pitchman, really hit me. I felt like me and Billy were friends. He always said hi in his commercials. He was so integral to finding, introducing & promoting so many great inventions & helpful household tools like Kaboom!, Big City Slider Station, Mighty Putty, Oxi Clean, Samurai Shark and so much more. But wait... here's a tribute ot the man himself, a man truly derserving of a tribute and overshadowed by the deaths of Jackson & Farrah Fawcett even though they had little or no effect on our daily lives:

Possibly the best commercial dub ever & the funniest thing I've ever seen. Really!:

He inspired Billy Mays gangsta remixes:

He inspired kids to get into comedy:

But he wasn't always perfect. Here are some outtakes. You'll see that he worked hard for the money:

As you can see, Billy Mays was an inspiration to so many. If they say "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," then I'm sure Mays was beside himself. He just seemed like a nice guy, reminded me a lot of Richard Karn AKA Al on Home Improvement/ one-time host the world's greatest game show "Family Feud" with slicker hair.

Sitting around watching these videos, I felt like memorializing Billy by patronizing the companies that put him to work but I don't feel like waiting 4-6 weeks or just paying for S&H. As a final testament to Billy's skills, here's the full infomercial for Mighty Putty:

Each commercial required a few hooks. There is the mandatory, "Billy Mays HERE!." A catchy, memorable name to introduce and repeat throughout. Tons of examples what to do with a product that you don't really need along with the mandatory checklist. Lots of moving arrows in animations. Point out the easiness, NO HASSLE! And of course, there is always a secret behind it all.

In honor of Billy’s passing, I watched the As Seen on TV documentary hosted by Darren Rovell(writer of , the history of Gatorade) on CNBC Sunday night (You cna watch the whole thing on HULU. It's fascinating. This man could sell anything. I wonder if there are like 5 more items he’s already done and they will creepily pop up. He’ll say “Billy Mays here” like always except here will no longer be on this planet. (tear)

I might even have to watch the show about him on the Discovery Channel called Pitchmen. There will be an all day marathon on July 1 for those interested. The show's future at this time is undecided.

No one will ever say "ring around the toilet" or "I love beautiful wood don't you" the way he did. He was always so worried about your household issues. I don't know how 3 AM TV will survive without him. Any job big or small Billy Mays saved them all. He'll even double it. Call right now and he'll triple it! Billy was a man who always had a smile and a thumbs up.

No joke Billy, I will never forget you!

Related Links:
Billy Mays dies at 50; boisterous TV pitchman - Los Angeles Times
Billy Mays on Wikipedia
Informericals Now Lack Starpower (Reuters)
Michael Jackson on Wikipedia

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