Across country, Joe Plumbers awash in publicity

DALLAS (AP) - October 18, 2008 At least one is already better off, thanks to references by presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama to Ohio resident Joe Wurzelbacher - now famously "Joe the Plumber" - as they debated tax policies Wednesday night.

Phones rang off the hook Thursday in the Amarillo office of plumber Joe Francis, whose Web site became an instant Internet curiosity the day after the final presidential debate. About 1,200 miles from the Ohio plumber, Francis found his business suddenly in the spotlight.

Entrepreneurs hoping to cash in on a quick buck called about buying the Web address. Many others want T-shirts with the company logo, featuring a droopy-eyed cartoon plumber revealing the ubiquitous "plumber's crack" above his pants.

"I'm taking orders," said Ronnie Bishop, who works with Francis. "It's kind of wild."

Francis was elk hunting Thursday and couldn't be reached for comment. But he did see the debate Wednesday night, Bishop said. Bishop said their small plumbing outfit started getting calls during the debate. The publicity kept Bishop busy again the next day with offers for the Web address, T-shirts and interviews with media.

Francis, a 38-year-old father of two, could stand to part ways with the Web site address, Bishop said.

While Francis was weighing that option, Joe Griesbach was signing autographs and granting television interviews in southern New Jersey, according to The Press of Atlantic City. He goes by "Plumber Joe" - the name painted on the side of his van.

In recent days, other drivers have honked and saluted at Griesbach, 39, the paper reported.

And in Oxnard, Calif., plumber Joe Lara said the debate prompted a flood of phone calls to him, some from as far away as London, the Ventura County Star reported. He racked up dozens of calls and voice mails and has done interviews with news organizations. "They're trying to get insights on my political views," he told the paper.

Lara, 49, works for himself as Joe the Plumber and said he works seven days a week to support himself, his wife and handicapped daughter.

"But that's just the way it goes," he told the Star.

He said he watched the debate for only about 30 minutes and is still undecided about his vote.

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