Billy Mays died from heart disease; Pitchmen marathon, Mays tribute air Wednesday

Pitchmen star and pitchman extraordinaire Billy Mays died of heart disease, according to a preliminary autopsy. He was found dead Sunday morning, and “[p]reliminary autopsy results … suggest he died of heart disease,” and “reveals no evidence of head trauma or drug abuse,” The St. Petersburg Times reported.

Because Mays was involved in a hard airplane landing and was hit on the head on Saturday, the day before his death, some speculated that he may have died from a subdural hematoma, like Natasha Richardson. (“All of a sudden as we hit you know it was just the hardest hit, all the things from the ceiling started dropping. It hit me on the head, but I got a hard head,” Mays told Fox’s Tampa Bay affiliate at the airport.)

Citing Dr. Vernard Adams, the paper says Mays’ “autopsy showed he had hardening of the arteries” and “was taking pain medication after two recent hip surgeries, but there is no evidence that contributed to his death.” Adams told the paper, “By definition, sudden death can’t be predicted. This was a total surprise.”

Meanwhile, the Associated Press has an extended obituary that looks back at the start of his career. And on Wednesday, Discovery will air a marathon of Pitchmen, its reality series starring Mays and Anthony Sullivan. The marathon starts at 11 a.m. and ends with the season finale at 10 p.m. ET, which was coincidentally scheduled for this week. Besides the marathon, Discovery said Monday that it “will run tribute promos honoring Billy Mays and never-before-aired moments throughout the day” and “[a] slate will also be added to the end of the season finale in his remembrance.” The network also says “a special tribute show is being planned,” while “[n]o decision has been made regarding season two.”

If you haven’t seen Pitchmen, it’s absolutely worth watching, particularly if you’re an infomercial fan, but also if you’re not. While some time is spent each episode on the relatively interesting process of considering pitches from entrepreneurs, and sometimes fighting with people who don’t trust their expertise, the real fun comes watching Mays and Sullivan create infomercials, both for the new products and for old standbys. My favorite moment came when Mays and Sullivan got into an argument over Mays’ wiping of a shower door while producing a new Kaboom infomercial; every time there was a new take, the crew would bring in a new, filthy shower door for him to clean.

Medical examiner: Billy Mays had heart disease [St. Petersburg Times]
Examiner: Pitchman Mays had heart disease [AP]

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Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.