I started making prank phone calls due to an AT&T malfunction in the late 1970’s. The phone rang and I picked it up to hear a phone ringing on the other end. “Hey, come here and check this out,” I said to my older brother. “I answered the phone, but it’s acting like I called someone!” After a couple more rings, an irritated man answered on the other end and kicked off one of the more surreal phone conversations I’ve had to date. “Hello?” “Uhhh, hello?” “Hello?” “Hello?” “HELLO?” “Hello?” “HELLO!” “Hello?” “GODDAMIT, WHO IS THIS?”
He then launched into a profanity-laden stream of abuse aimed at “you goddamn kids” that included an awful lot of words that an eight year old shouldn’t be expected to understand. Then my brother leaned a little closer to the mouth-piece and started laughing loudly at the man. “HAHA! HAHAHAHAHAHA!” This enraged the man further, and he unloaded another salvo of profanity until he caught his breath, paused, and said in his most authoritative voice, “Ok. This is it. You kids are going to give me your names and phone number RIGHT NOW, or you will be in a LOT of trouble. Right now. Go!” Needless to say, this tactic did not work. My brother said, “No, we are going to hang up on you, and you are going to sit there and like it! HAHAHAHA!!!” The last thing we heard before we hung up was a veritable atom-bomb of curse words. And as we hung up, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow! You can have a TON of fun with people on the phone.”
And so my new career started, first with typical childish pranks (“Is your refrigerator running?”), graduated into more sophisticated humor (“Hey, did you know that your phone number is 639-SHIT?”), and finally got to the point where the Secret Service opened a file on my parents when we prank called the White House. That started when my younger brother and I started escalating our pranks in an effort to outdo each other. So, hell, I figured I’d go straight to the top.
Me: Hi, can I have the area code for Washington D.C. please?
Operator: Yes sir, that area code is 202.
Me: Hi, can I have the phone number for the White House?
Operator: Yes sir, here you go…
White House: White House press desk, how may I direct your call?
Me: Yeah, let me talk to Ron.
White House: Ron who, sir?
Me: Ron who? Ron who-do-you-think? The Big Cheese! The Head Honcho! Ron Reagan! C’mon, hurry up, I’m very busy.
White House: Just a minute, sir.
Me: (to my brother) Holy shit, They’re transferring me somewhere!
(45 second pause with a lot of clicking noises)
White House: Sir, may I remind you that you are calling The White House?
Me: (starting to figure out what just happened) Uhhh… yeah. Good point. Thank you.
White House: Good bye.
Sitting somewhere in a storage room owned by the Secret Service is a box. And in that box is a folder. That folder is labeled, “Persons of Interest, July, 1982”. And in that folder is a piece of paper with my parents’ names, their phone number, their address, and a transcript of the phone call. We never told my parents about that phone call, because we were not retarded (although obviously we were hovering near the border line of that designation). But if they had found out, I’m sure I would’ve spun the situation appropriately. “Well, that’s got to be flattering! You know, being called interesting by the White House! I wonder if you can get that framed?”
But that didn’t really stop me, or even slow me down. One time, in college, I drunkenly called 911 and asked them to “turn off the rain” because we wanted to play wiffle ball. It was 4:00 AM. But technology finally took a lot of the fun out of fucking with the phone. Now almost every person blocks anonymous calls, and corporations have devised cruel and unusual ways of ensuring that they never hear from actual customers by sending them to Voice-Mail Hell. Still, occasionally I’ll call a small business and speak with someone, just for old time’s sake.
Bartender: The Man Hole.
Me: Hi, yes, this is the Man Hole? The Bar?
Bartender: Yep. What can I do for you?
Me: And you’re a… Well, that’s a … a gay bar, right?
Bartender: Uhhh… Yeah.
Me: Super. Great. Listen, I’ve got a business dinner tonight, and I’m having a hard time deciding between slacks and khakis. I mean, it’s not a super-formal event, so I think khaki’s would be ok. But then what do I wear with it? I think a Polo is too casual, but a dress shirt seems too much, so I may as well wear slacks. But then it’s kind of cold, so I thought slacks, a dress shirt, and a sweater vest. But it’s argyle. Do people still wear argyle? I don’t know. So what do you think?
Bartender: I think you should shove your head up your ass, fella.
Me: Whoah, whoah, whoah, let’s not mix business with pleasure there, guy. C’mon, I really need your help on this.
Anyway, here are some video clips of some prank phone calls I got a kick out of. First up, the kind of thing you’d expect to happen on a call-in cable access show in New York. You gotta hand it to the guy, he hung right in there. (The fun starts about 1:00 in).
Next up, a husband enlists the help of a radio station to prank phone call his wife. And it goes horribly, horribly wrong.
This next one is actually a prank email to a Christian cable access show. See how long it takes before you can figure out what’s going on.
Finally, what starts off as a lame prank phone call to a religious public access show turns into a 5 minute train wreck when the host cannot figure out how to hang up on the caller.
That’s it for now. Have a great weekend, and make sure you let Prince Albert out of that can.