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The Days of Billy Mays

Billy Mays was a successful sales man who pitched housecleaning products and had gained notoriety   through teleshopping advertisements   in America and even though he would be sorely missed as a  popular  salesmen whose voice became legendary in television shopping and will always be synonymous with the brand of Oxiclean  and ‘direct  response advertising ’.

LA times described his fame and fortune as   “the king of direct response marketing. he and Anthony Sullivan were able to rack up  one billion dollars in infomercials ,  he was an icon in  the field of hard sell  and was successfully hosting the show ‘pitchmen’”( Fausset, Los Angeles Times.). Associated press describes Mays “as an icon and his pall bearers wore blue shirts and khaki trousers to commemorate his death, it was a quiet affair at McKees Rocks, Pa.”

Though his death was sensationalized as having been caused due to the use of cocaine which created media outrage the story in actuality remains that he died in his sleep and his death  was caused due to a cardiac arrest , While Lady Diana’s death was caused due to the   rash driving by their  driver’s drunk driving  , while trying to escape  the media.

Billy Mays death is an example of the commercialization of today’s world, where even the death of a celebrity is milked for all its worth by media moguls.  There were re-runs and tributes paid to Billy Mays  on various TV channels so that  their ratings for advertisement  space went up  and their rival  production companies couldn’t  profit by airing current incidents and get a greater audience.  

According to nydailynews.com, “Discovery channel paid a special tribute to Billy Mays by carrying out a Thursday night special on Billy Mays life and family “(nydailynews.com) and the social drama which was carried out was watched avidly by fans of Billy Mays  while  the production company raked in  the moolah for  the entertainment  provided by the death of a celebrity.

Billy Mays death shocked his fans and various internet support sprang online, his death was in no ways as permanently etched in the hearts and minds of people as that of Princess Diana. Though his loss will be felt by family and friends, salespeople and infomercial audiences all over the world.  His popularity can in no way be compared to the following of Princess Diana’s death. Mays funeral was a modest affair when compared with the funeral arrangements of Princess Diana and can only be marked by the stickers that were distributed by Sullivan  during his funeral that commercialized the incident and  the reruns of ‘Pitchmen ’ on discovery channel.

Diana’s death proved that even the web and social sites like Facebook play a   major role in sharing information about news and in providing a universal support for the incident. Especially in the case of Diana there were millions of virtual candles that were lit for her by surfers on the internet as an act of identification and support with fellow mourners (Taylor, 250 ). Even the news of the passing of Billy Mays was shared all over the internet and various support systems and blogs were created in his memory.

Several websites came up like the Project Inflora   that suggested that a royal  conspiracy caused the death of Diana and also said that the “Di thing was a way of assuring the continuance of the monarchy  the floral tributes are an example of flower power ” Deaths like Diana’s have universal appeal, her name became synonymous with humanitarian causes. Her audience were inspired by the global appeal as she stood for causes ranging from “AIDs, to eating dis-orders, unhappy marriages, to the working of the media neo colonialism and globalization”(Taylor,232).

Diana’s persona was larger than her real life and inspired millions all over the world, thus a global audience was inspired by the princess and was she was often called the ‘Queen of People’s  Hearts ’.Diana described her own childhood in Parral as one of shyness and overcoming   chubbiness for Diana Taylor, Princess Diana was the mythical virginal princess  for her ,who was beautiful, blonde and tall  and had  married her Prince Charming  in royal pomp and ceremony .She was idolized by people all over the world  and yes it was a false identification because  the Real Diana was fallible and was prone to her human drawbacks (Taylor , 230)

The media created the glorified image of princess Diana, she was the media ‘s darling and  they followed  her every action and romance  after her separation  from Prince Charles as Taylor describes “  The Diana we knew was  a stylized product  the product of stylized acts – royal protocol ,fairy tales, designer styles and Hollywood .  A real princess, a royal model and a model for royalty”(Taylor, 243)

It is fate that Diana died  in a car accident , when she was just about to begin her new life with Dodi  trying to escape the media   that had created her  and it was the same media that mourned her death and castigated it members  for causing  the accident. Turners model is a good example of how celebrity social dramas are captured by the media .Victor Turner’s model (23-59) of social drama “located four main phases of public action in social drama and these were breach, crises, redressal action and reintegration or schism”( Tim Ingold, 626). According to Gold, Breach takes place when individual actions differ from community norms and escalate into crises when the incident or action can no longer be ignored and requires immediate action.

Redressive action , are the steps  taken to resolve the conflict which either results in a mitigation of the conflict or a schism where the individual or group causing the conflict form their own community.(Tim Ingold, 626).Diana’s life had been reduced to nothing more than a social drama which the populace tuned into to catch  the latest episode “about the cruel mother-in-law  and  the insensitive husband . this private drama which was so publicly enacted  had  transfixed both  protagonists and spectators alike”(Taylor, 233).

The Redressive action  took place when the royals along with the common  people were present as “the funeral  which was weighed down in splendor out did all the royal funeral  that happened before her “(Taylor, 235)Death of celebrities like Diana, Evita and Selena have played a crucial role throughout history in conforming with existing cultural norms and as Elisabeth Bronfen argues “over her dead body cultural norms and are reconfigured and secured because   the death of an innocent and virtuous woman serves as an inspiration and a dangerous serves to reestablish an order that was momentarily suspended by her death”(Taylor, 240)

Diana’s death has proved that even after a celebrity is deceased, millions can still be raised for the charity and issues that they used to support. Taylor states that “one caption of a  London  newsstand states  that  one might imagine  that the death of Diana never took place as the press is keeping her alive  and the cover of Peoples magazine says that in death and in life she has raised millions for charity  ”(Taylor, 142)

According to Taylor some deaths like Evita’s had a major impact on the people of Argentina who enshrined her tomb and it is said that her ghost still haunts the people and any female who has political aspirations has to dress like evita  but her popularity did not exceed  the borders of Argentina , in America she is still considered  to be a “fascist and an oddity”(Taylor , 247).

The death of Princess Diana touched the hearts of millions all over the world, people from different cultures wept for her and idolized Diana even after death. She became an international icon because “Diana’s death precipitated a series of transformations and resolution in multiple levels. She was buried a mother and a model of humanitarianism”( Taylor , 244-245). 

She was a part of the British royal family and the social drama between    the royal families kept Diana in the news. Her death made people realize their power the Royal family when they insisted that her funeral be conducted with pomp and splendor as is customary for any Royal family member.  The media sympathized with Diana and her death gave a new image to England one of a gentler kinder approach where “a changed England performed its emotions and showed a humanitarian side of the country” (Taylor, 246).

Diana lived every women’s dream in countries all over the world when she was the fairy tale princess who wed Prince Charles; they sympathized when she became fallible and gave into Bulimia and her transgressions made her only more human and endearing to  the global audience and that is why Diana’s death had global implications while Evita’s death did not.

Derrida calls hauntology the flip side of performances’ ontology and says that “Performances are only for the present and cannot be saved, recorded, documented or otherwise represented. However hauntology differs in the sense that “the ghost is a repetition also known as Derrida’s revenant.  Hauntology signifies post performance and the pomp and splendor of the funeral makes the death sacred which is theoretically different to the fundamental principles of performance. There are various citings of the deceased all over the world and the shrine housing the deceased’s remains becomes proof that  reconfirms the performance of resuscitation (Taylor , 237).

Celebrity death these days are nothing more than commercial events that the media uses to attract universal appeal and to increase their ratings the world over. The humanity of these events has gone and has become media circuses with no privacy and dignity lend to the mourners.  Though we will all mourn the passing of icons like Mother Teresa ,  the death of Lady Diana  and Billy Mays fades in to the audiences memory  as the next sensational news enthralls a global audience who avidly watch  the social drama  enfold on television.

What is worry-some is that few celebrities are able to match the  the appeal of  evita and selena  in local minds ,  the idolization of martyrs like Martin Luther King Jr or the charismatic appeal of stars like Marilyn Monroe,   as Diana Taylor herself claims   that  her daughter and she are already forgetting  the  murals  that marked  the passing of Lady Diana  and she no longer feels  the loss  or pity for the children of Lady Diana,  as  new incidents  take place Diana will also be truly forgotten by the public that once worshipped  her.

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