Guy Adams: Overlooked death of a true legend of TV

LA Notebook

Share
Related Topics

It's been a busy couple of weeks for showbusiness funerals, what with the deaths of Michael Jackson and poor, overshadowed Farrah Fawcett. So amid the cascading public grief, the demise of a third highly-influential entertainment industry personality went woefully under-reported.

The late star's name is Billy Mays. He was known to millions of Americans as the greatest "pitchman" on TV, who fronted advertisements for such essential household items as Quick Chop, Mighty Putty, and the Grater Plater: a device that is cheese grater and plate... combined.

Shouty but lovable, with a terrier-like enthusiasm for his craft, Mays turned his gift for hawking the sort of tat you used to see in Innovations magazine into a vast business empire. At the time of his death, from a suspected heart attack, he'd personally flogged over a billion dollars' worth of products.

In a land of capitalists, obsessed by statistics, this figure makes Mays a national hero. Obituaries lauded him as a pop culture icon, and YouTube phenomenon. They also nostalgically recalled his shameless methods: as a guest on Conan O'Brien's TV show a few years back, Mays had revealed that guests at his wedding were given bottles of OxiClean, as going home presents.

Here in Los Angeles, Billy Mays also boasts a formidable legacy as a showbusiness pioneer. In a 30-year career, he honed the "direct response" advert, helped develop the "infomercial," and was central to the stratospheric of shopping telly, which for better or worse is now a staple of TV schedules.

So while Jackson stole the front pages, Mays deserves his place in the history books. When he was buried a few days ago, the pallbearers wore shirts with an OxiClean logo – a curiously fitting way to mark the death of this eternal salesman.

The art of Fawcett

Speaking of Farrah Fawcett, the bombshell actress turns out to have had a fine "eye" for art: according to her will, she built a collection of works by Andy Warhol, Dufy, Magritte and Chagall which is worth around $20m (£12.4m).

She financed the purchase of various masterpieces with her royalties from the iconic red swimsuit photograph which first catapulted her to fame – which surely amounts to one of the great cultural exchanges of modern times.

You didn't see me, right?

Spotted in the "family guests" row at Michael Jackson's memorial service: the controversial Nation of Islam preacher Louis Farrakhan. The man who many believe to be a dangerous extremist was strangely absent from the list of celebrity guests circulated by the event's organisers, and his presence therefore went virtually un-noticed. Funny, that.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'