aNl n 9
ERN EM E RA I N NE M EN NIN E ME N S EE MEREMEIRE
Four Detroit business icons find fame and
profit starring in their own ads.
DAVID ZEMAN STAFF WRITER
n this town, mention the words "Sexy
Specs," and the only debate that comes
to mind is which setting D.O.C. President
Richard Golden will be dancing in. Will it
be a Western motif or Harley Davidson?
Mr. Golden has certainly raised eye-
brows with his dancing. Others glide. A
few simply stand before a camera and talk.
But in each case, several high-profile Jew-
ish entrepreneurs in metro Detroit lend
their faces — and reputations — to
their ad campaigns.
Ego, they concede, plays some part. But the ads
also convey a clear message: These honchos stand
personally behind their products; the buck stops
at their highly glossed desks.
"I give you my word," Mr. Belvedere, the home-
improvement king, promises customers.
"You have my word on it," echoes Mr. Golden.
Personal-injury lawyer Sam Bernstein ex-
plained his television role this way: "People want
to see what they're getting."
This eclectic trio, along with spa queen Mira
Linder, took some time from their busy workdays
to discuss their ad strategies:
"At one time, I used to be much more popular,"
said the man known as Mr. Belvedere as he moved
busily through his modest office on Eight Mile
Clockwise: Richard Golden: Eyes and feet man.
Maurice "Buddy" Lezell: Just call him Mr. Belvedere.
Mira Linder: Spa queen.
"I used to be called on to give about one speech
a month. I didn't realize how popular I was until
they started asking me less and less."
His round face may be older to us now, and at
74, somehow softer. And if it seems that Maurice
"Buddy" Lezell has been around forever, perhaps
it's because the sales pitch for his construction
business has been so indelibly burnished into the
minds of Detroit television viewers:
"Have no fear with Belvedere."
"You'll look at it, love it, and take your time pay-
ing for it."
And, of course, his personal pledge to customers:
"We-e-e do good work."
The message has barely changed over three
decades. Its durability has gone beyond quaint to
become retro — hip, even. Other ads are glitzier,
certainly. What you get with a Belvedere spot is
Mr. Belvedere, sitting at his desk, talking.
"I was doing this before 011ie Fretter," he de-
clared. "I was doing this before Nusbaum, I was
doing this before, urn — who's that guy over at
Chrysler? — Iacocca, before Iacocca.
"I didn't originate the idea, but I made it pop-
Mr. Lezell launched his business after serving
in the Coast Guard during World War II. He bor-
rowed the name from a popular comedy film of the
time, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College.
At first, his storefront office on West Grand
Boulevard in Detroit thrived on sheer moxie. "We
had four salesmen on the second floor, girls on
the phone in the basement" — and Mr. Lezell
knocking on every door in the neighborhood.
'What a tumult!" he sighed.
He taped his first radio ad in the early 1960s.
"It was $5 a spot," he said. "When it went
up to $7, I said, That's too expensive. If I'm go-
ing to pay that kind of money, I'm going into
His formula was uncomplicated.
"If you make the phone ring, you're doing
the right advertising. If it's not, you're not."
A local television personality had Mr. Lezell
on his show and asked, "Why should I call you,
Mr. Belvedere, rather than some other com-
"Conrad," said Mr. Lezell as he turned and
looked squarely at the camera, "We-e-e Do
Thus are advertising slogans born.
The Belvedere jingle — "... Call Tyler 8-7100
g for a home improvement date" — was sung by
the daughter of a company staffer and a guy
named Hank. "Some of your
Ili. best ideas are formulated in
E the basement," Mr. Lezell
"I'm not much of an ac-
2 tor," he said. The key is "just
Of course, not all of his
ads caught fire. In one spot
he reminded viewers,
"You're going to live in that
home and you're going to die
in that home, so you might
as well enjoy it!"
He grimaces at the mem-
`The phones didn't ring,"
BUSINESS ICONS page 38