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Medical examiner: Pitchman Mays had heart disease

TAMPA, Fla. - Television pitchman Billy Mays likely died ofa heart attack in his sleep, but further tests are needed to besure of the cause of death, a medical examiner said Monday.

Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Vernard Adams said Mayssuffered from hypertensive heart disease, and the wall of the leftventricle of Mays' heart and the wall of one of his arteries wereenlarged. The boisterous, bearded 50-year-old known for hawkingOxiClean and other products on national commercials was found deadSunday by his wife in their Tampa condominium.

"The heart disease is perfectly consistent with sudden death,"Adams said.

An official cause of death will be issued after toxicology andother tests are completed in eight to 10 weeks.

"While it provides some closure to learn that heart diseasetook Billy from us, it certainly doesn't ease the enormous voidthat his death has created in our lives," his wife, Deborah, saidin a statement. "As you can imagine, we are all devastated."

Adams said Mays was taking the prescription painkillers Tramadoland hydrocodone for hip pain, but there was no indication of drugabuse. Mays had planned to have hip-replacement surgery Monday.

Mays told his wife he didn't feel well when he went to bedsometime after 10 p.m. Saturday. Earlier in the day, he said he washit on the head when his flight from Philadelphia had a roughlanding at Tampa International Airport. The airline said nopassengers reported serious injuries.

Adams said the autopsy showed no evidence of head trauma.

In a 911 tape released Monday, a frantic woman tells emergencyoperators she found Mays cold and unresponsive. The woman isn'tidentified, but police have said Deborah Mays found her husbanddead.

When asked what had happened, the caller says she doesn't know.

A second person got on the phone as the operator encourages themto get Mays on the floor to start CPR.

"We can't get him up, ma'am," the woman says. "He's gone."

Born William Mays in McKees Rocks, Pa., on July 20, 1958, Maysdeveloped his style demonstrating knives, mops and other "As Seenon TV" gadgets on Atlantic City's boardwalk. For years he workedas a hired gun on the state fair and home show circuits, attractingcrowds with his booming voice and genial manner.

After meeting Orange Glo International founder Max Appel at ahome show in Pittsburgh in the mid-1990s, Mays was recruited todemonstrate the environmentally friendly line of cleaning productson the St. Petersburg-based Home Shopping Network, now known asHSN.

Commercials and informercials followed, anchored by thehigh-energy Mays using them while tossing out kitschy phrases like,"Long live your laundry!"

HSN released a statement Monday morning, praising Mays as a"legend in the electronic retail history whose personality,entrepreneurial spirit and thoughtfulness for others have alwaysbeen larger than life."

His ubiquitousness and thumbs-up, in-your-face pitches won Maysplenty of fans for his commercials on a wide variety of products.People lined up at his personal appearances for autographed colorglossies, and strangers stopped him in airports to chat about theproducts.

"I enjoy what I do," Mays told The Associated Press in a 2002interview. "I think it shows."

Mays liked to tell the story of giving bottles of OxiClean tothe 300 guests at his wedding, and doing his ad spiel ("powered bythe air we breathe!") on the dance floor at the reception.Visitors to his house typically got bottles of cleaner andhousekeeping tips.

Besides his wife, Mays is survived by a 3-year-old daughter anda stepson in his 20s, police said.


Associated Press Writers Christine Armario in Tampa, SarahLarimer in Miami and Ron Todt in Philadelphia contributed to thisreport.


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