trivia question- TY-8-7100 was the phone number for what local TV pitchman? If
you were within rabbit ear distance of the Motor City in the 1960s and 70s, you know
that the answer is the Sultan of Aluminum Siding, the Prince of Porches, the
legendary Mr. Belvedere. For more than five decades Maurice Lezell, AKA Mr. Belvedere,
attempted to remodel and beautify Detroit, one home at a time.
Maurice Joseph Lezell was born on November 29, 1921.
He attended Detroit’s Central High School, then served three and a half
years in the Coast Guard during World War II. Lezell dropped out of Wayne
University after a year, and got a job selling aluminum screens and storm
Lezell started Belvedere Construction in 1948, naming the company after
the popular series of Mr. Belvedere films starring Clifton Webb. Initially
Lezell pitched remodeling jobs door-to-door, subcontracting the work to a
construction crew when he made a sale.
By the mid 1950s Lezell turned to radio advertising to promote his business. When the radio advertising rates increased, he decided to give television a try.
Almost overnight TV made Lezell a local celebrity. With his
wooden but honest delivery and low-key personality, Lezell was the antithesis of the
smooth, fast talking TV pitchman that viewers were used to seeing.
1970s Belvedere Construction became one of the biggest local advertisers in
Detroit, spending a reported $750,000 a year.
Detroit TV viewers fondly remember Lezell’s
commercials with movie maven Bill Kennedy and CKLW’s go-to-guy Conrad Patrick.
Motor City Memoirs, Lezell describes how the company’s biggest catch
phrase was created by “happy accident.”
“Conrad Patrick was on Channel 9. At that time, Channel 9 in Canada was beamed to Detroit, and they had Detroit advertising. Conrad and I made tapes in Windsor – two-minute tapes, which is almost an impossibility today. They were tremendous sellers, great for results. We used to make them extemporaneously; we didn’t have anything typed. So one day, Conrad said to me, in the very hard way, as he always would, “Why would I call you before I called anybody else? Why would I want you to do my work for me?” Without thinking, I said, “Conrad, we do good work.””
Click on Mr. Belvedere to hear classic Belvedere Construction jingles.