Updated: Mar 2, 2022
DON’T JUST CLEAN IT… OXICLEAN IT!! Have you heard that one before? If you grew up in the late 90s to late 2000’s, you sure as hell remember that line and the voice that said it. You might not know him by name but at one point you wanted to buy Oxiclean because of him. Enthusiastic, full of energy, and with the same simple outfit and full beard every time you saw him. Spitfire delivery, passionate about cleaning products, and on at random times of the day & night, Billy Mays was a constant, random presence in my childhood and many others.
The guy was on TV when I skipped school, stayed home from school, and stayed up late to watch Howard Stern, MTV, or some other show I shouldn’t have been watching as a kid. He made you want to buy cleaning products in the same way you talk yourself into buying something that you know you shouldn’t but want too so damn bad. I was reading a story where they talked about how he learned to sell. Here is a quote from it: “He was selling a portable washing device on the boardwalk and he learned on the Atlantic City boardwalk on how to sell and pitch products by older salesmen.” Imagine the kind of shit that he learned from them that you could not learn from anyone else or anywhere else. Learned from the best and did his job better than most could. He was so popular, successful, and so good at selling Oxiclean he ended up selling other random products. Products like Crocodile Cutter, which promises a straight cut each time. The infamous Sham Wow cleaning cloth (remember that annoying Sham Wow guy?). Or Engrave It which is a tool which allows you to engrave your name on any metal surface. That shit sounds a little dangerous in the wrong hands’ doesn’t it? The guy even knew he sounded ridiculous at times to the point where he ended up doing several spots on espn.com and ESPN360 making fun of himself.
Billy died at 51 from heart disease (a fancy word for heart attack) in his sleep. The coroner said cocaine was a “contributory cause of death”. If I was selling a bunch of random, not too exciting shit and needed a pep in my step, I know what my choice of drug would be. He did go to WVU though so it all kind of makes sense (insert sarcasm). There are a couple other weird facts surrounding his death. First, he was scheduled for a hip replacement surgery the day after he was found dead. Then, the day before he was found dead, his home bound American Airlines flight hit the runway hard while landing and ended up blowing a tire out. After landing, he told a local reporter “All the things from the ceiling started dropping. It hit me on the head, but I got a hard head”. He went to bed that night and never woke up the next morning. A weird set of circumstances all in all. The guy was obviously dealing with a ton of shit before he died.
All jokes and speculation aside, who would have thought that a guy could sell a cleaning product so good that he became famous off of it? Who would have thought that a guy wearing the same outfit, with the same smile, and having the same enthusiastic attitude towards any product he hawked could find a reoccurring spot and be a part of so many 80s, 90s, and 00s kids’ childhood? Who would have thought a kid from a random town called McKees Rocks outside of Pittsburgh would become internationally known? And who else made 8 year old kids think about buying Oxiclean? If there was somebody who could do it, it was Billy fucking Mays. If you saw an advertisement and heard “It takes the hard work out of yard work” or “the best things in life are free- and $19.95” then the person hawking that product was Billy Mays. A fucking legend. Billy. Fucking. Mays.
And now enjoy Billy ordering from McDonald’s. A walking advertisement and a legend.