Joe Isuzu lives! David Leisure who gained fame playing the smarmy car salesman in late '80s TV ads just resumed hawking Isuzu sport utility vehicles in February. During his first go around, the actor finessed his way into a cushy seven-season stint as Richard Mulligan's Joe Isuzu-esque neighbor on The Golden Girls spin-off, Empty Nest. Now, he's actually managed to milk himself a comeback. "Andy Warhol was wrong," Leisure gleefully tells TV Guide Online. "You get more than 15 minutes of fame. I'm getting an extra 15, and I feel like the luckiest guy in Hollywood."
It's been 11 years since coach potatoes last saw Leisure doing his comic snake-oil routine in a series of award-winning ads, which featured the words "He's lying" flashing below him on-screen. "I was a little scared at the thought of bringing him back," Leisure admits. "I thought, 'Everybody who knew him is either dead or doesn't care anymore.' But I guess I was wrong. I'm getting a great response from people who either remember Joe or are getting acquainted with him for the first time."
For Leisure, getting reacquainted with Joe required spending four grueling hours in a make-up chair. The idea was to make him appear out of shape and then buff him up to get back into action. "I had a tummy pad to make me fat," he recalls, "but the tough part was all the prosthetics it took to give me a double chin. The best part was taking it off and thinking, 'Gee, I look really good now!'"
Though he portrays a stereotypical sleaze who'll say anything to cajole you into buying a car, Leisure's quick to defend the reps of real car salesmen. "I've met hundreds of them and most of them are really terrific people," he offers diplomatically. "Actually, when I first did Joe, some dealers took umbrage at the fact that we made him a liar. But that's what gave him an identity."
In upcoming commercials for the Isuzu Axiom a new SUV seen in the Antonio Banderas film, Spy Kids Joe gets the chance for a little action. "I'll be riding a horse, fat suit and all," Leisure deadpans. "It's a real glamour shot, galloping down the beach through the waves at sunset. I'm not lying about that."