Since the year began, I've been dreading hearing the inevitable 10-year anniversary of the great celebrity death streak in late June 2009. This, as most will remember, was when Michael Jackson died. But others who died during that were Ed McMahon, two days earlier, and Farrah Fawcett, the same day. But the King of Pop got all the hype, naturally. And three days after MJ was Billy Mays, the TV pitchman who promoted products such as Oxi Clean. A little-known fact about Mays is that he was the same age as Jackson.
Here is what I wrote on the five-year anniversary in 2014 (click to read more):
This week will mark five years since the celebrity death streak that occurred in late June/early July 2009. As all of you remember it was the week of Michael Jackson's death. But it started on June 23, 2009, with the death of Ed McMahon. He was best known as Johnny Carson's sidekick on The Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992, as well as a pitchman for Publishers Clearing House, host of Star Search (the American Idol of the 1980s), and co-host with Dick Clark of TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes. Next came the death of Farrah Fawcett, a first-season cast member of Charlie's Angels, just several hours before (and several miles away from where Fawcett had died) the world learned of Jackson going into a coma. His death naturally overshadowed that of Fawcett, and 80s music fans were devastated. His records began to sell out on Internet sites and at used record stores and other store that sell CDs and DVDs. His death was the most hyped out of the three.
I remember exactly what I was doing that day. It was a Thursday and I had just come home from work and was on Facebook and Twitter. Naturally Jackson's death was all over both sites. And on the even news I happened to watch that night. After work the following day, I passed by the USA Today kiosk near CVS Pharmacy and I'm sure you can guess what was on the front page. The next day I stopped at Barnes and Noble and as I entered the movies and music section there was a display of Jackson's work, naturally. His death was still on everyone's mind, but it didn't stop the media from covering other celebrity deaths that followed.
The following Sunday, June 28, I looked on Twitter and saw OxiClean as a trending topic. I wondered why that was, and a click on the link revealed why. My mom then called and I suddenly I asked the following:
"Did you hear who just died?"
"Yes. Michael Jackson."
"No, I mean just now."
"The man who did the commercials for OxiClean."
That man was Billy Mays. I did not know his name at first, and I still refer to him as "the OxiClean guy." I then posted this as my Facebook status that day, saying that "Now the OxiClean pitchman has died. Three deaths last week, will there be two more this week?" One friend responded "I loved Billy Mays! His commercials always made me want to buy his stuff." I then pointed out that the OxiClean guy was the same age was Michael Jackson, a fact that no one seems to have known. I've asked many people if they knew that fact and every one of them has said no, they did not know that fact. Mays was a little over a month older than Jackson. An obit for the OxiClean guy appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle the following day along with that for another celebrity I did not had died that weekend as well. (I kept and still have this section of that edition of the paper) And one the day after that, yet another I didn't know about either. Unfortunately, the two celebrities in this case were not high-profile ones like McMahon, Fawcett, Jackson or Mays, and thus their deaths were not Twitter-ed about, limited only to obits in major metropolitan newspapers such as that one. Those two were 50s actress and singer Gale Storm (star of the 1950s sitcom My Little Margie) and impressionist/comedian Fred Travalena. And as June turned to July, the death streak continued, with actor Karl Malden and NFL star Steve McNair. Those two celebs got more hype than did Storm and Travalena. Many will remember Malden's commercials for American Express, urging viewers to "Don't leave home without it."....
Here is the famous commercial Mays did for Oxi Clean:
I remembered going out to get some Oxi Clean after Mays died, just as everyone else was buying MJ's records. I even blogged about it then. And I am currently working on a story based on then. It was the story I dictated on my phone. I began adding it to my Wattpad page yesterday. Click to read the first two parts. I will be adding the rest, so keep checking back.
I've been sure that most people will ignore Mays, McMahon and Fawcett, giving MJ all the hype once again.
How many of you remember what you were doing that day?