Riswold wrote some spots with Denis Leary talking about Bo Jackson’s rehab from a hip injury. Denis had done a great comedy rant for MTV that Jim saw. Later we shot a campaign with Denis and Deion Sanders. Deion was surprised when Denis showed up on the set, wondering who he was. I guess he hadn’t read the scripts (not unusual). I think the spots helped jumpstart Denis’ career. Phil Dusenberry had a film script he had written and when he saw the spots we had a meeting to see if Denis could do it. Nothing happened then but Denis moved on to a successful movie and television career.
Much later, we worked together on an IBM campaign for Lotus but it was pulled when Denis trashed the Pope in a bit. I think Riswold’s prescience about Denis and particularly Spike Lee helped their careers immeasurably. Spike’s first movie, SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT was seen by maybe a million people or so. That’s about point three percent of the population of the U.S. His Nike commercials with MJ were seen by hundreds of millions of people. A lot of Spike’s success is from his unique persona and Jim’s use of him exposed it to a section of the public that would have never seen him. Just like Ray Charles’ fame from the Diet Pepsi stuff, the reach and power of commercials is amazing. Cindy Crawford’s celebrity went through the roof when she did the Pepsi spot TWO KIDS. Anyway, Leary was always exciting and stimulating to work with. Every time I see him now in a film or television, I miss that original, abrasive, funny character that now seems to have been tempered too much.
It may be his time again.