Construction pitchman ‘Mr. Belvedere’ dead at 95

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Maurice “Bud” Lezell, known as “Mr. Belvedere” in his local Belvedere Construction commercials, became a famous pitchman with local ads and slogans like “We do good work.”

He’d toss out another phrase: “Have No Fear with Belvedere” that before anyone ever heard of The Home Depot, served as a remarkable calling card. He punctuated his ads with “Remember: You’ll look at it, you’ll love it and you’ll take your time paying for it.”

The secret to his success, he once said, was that he was a regular guy, “not a Madison Avenue type.”

Mr. Lezell died Sunday, March 26, 2017, in Florida. He was 95.

His construction business gained popularity in the late 1960s when, donning a suit and tie and staring into the camera, he urged viewers to call Tyler-8-7100 for aluminum windows, vinyl siding or other home improvement needs so they could say “bye-bye paint brush. Who needs it?”

He became such a star from these local ads that people wore T-shirts bearing his image, asked for his autograph and held a Mr. Belvedere look-alike contest.

“He was a very large personality,” said his daughter Amy Heber. “Incredibly vibrant. He knew the right angle to take on things. He was ahead of his time in advertising on TV.”

Mr. Lezell was born Nov. 29, 1921, in Kentucky to Russian immigrants Isaac and Dora Lisman Lezell. His family moved to Detroit when he was 3 years old, said another daughter, Lisa Lezell Levine.

Mr. Lezell graduated from Central High School and spent three years in the Coast Guard. After taking some college business courses, he began selling storm windows, according to his family.

In 1948, he started his own company. In a 1991 article in The Detroit News, he said he chose the name after the well-known “Mr. Belvedere” movies about a British butler.

“It just had a good ring to it,” Mr. Lezell said. “Belvedere was someone who did good things for people and made them feel good.”

Levine said she learned a lot about life and values from her father, who she said was always giving back to the community. Mr. Lezell appeared on television with actor Danny Thomas to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“He sort of looked like Danny Thomas so that worked,” she said.

In the early 1990s, Mr. Lezell led a group of local business and civic leaders in an effort to save a struggling Michigan State Fair. Mr. Lezell drew on his straight-to-the-point TV personality to urge people to attend the iconic fair.

Mr. Lezell retired in 2004 and sold his construction business to employees, Heber said. The company has since gone out of business.

Levine said her father loved to play tennis, travel and take care of his family. She recalls the concern her father showed about her health issues as a small child in the 1950s. At the time the family lived in a modest duplex on Detroit’s west side, she recalled.

“He always loved me and worried about my heart,” she said. “He wasn’t famous. I was just 2. Air conditioning wasn’t really around. I could only imagine what it took for him to buy that for me because I needed it. From a personal point of view he was a really good father.”

Mr. Lezell was predeceased by his wife Hilda Lezell and three siblings, Alvin, Samuel and Hyman. Other survivors include daughter Claudia Lezell.

A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield. Rabbi Harold Loss and Cantor Neil Michaels will officiate. Interment will be at Oakview Cemetery.