Sunday, February 26, 2006

Somebody in the World Who Wants to Do a Lotta Good for a Lotta People.

That titular mensch would be, according to one source you'll hear from shortly, a guy I worked for around late 1989, maybe 1990. This was in Plainview, not long before I bailed on the Island. I had done some telemarketing for a company with utility contracts but they went into the toilet, so I thought I'd look for something in the same field. It turned out the job I had there was unique in that there was very little cold-calling; that is, the people we were scheduling home energy audits for had requested the service. That is not real telemarketing.

The job I briefly took with the guy in Plainview (I have absolutely no recollection of his name so I'll refer to him as Mr. Putz) was closer to the real thing, but probably at the far end of that spectrum. Mr. Putz had one of those horrible calling machines (much like Homer Simpson once acquired) which would call every number in a particular exchange, e.g. 935-0001, 935-0002, etc. The recording was an utterly generic pitch for home equity loans, and had no company identification or contact info at all. To add to the aggravation of getting one of these calls, you couldn't hang up on the friggin' thing. If you hung up and picked up again, it would still be playing, and it was a good three or four minutes long.

When I wasn't sitting in a tiny, shed-like addition to this jerk's house calling old leads that would have put Shelley Levine into foaming apoplexy, I was listening to the tapes from that infernal auto-dialer to cull the information left by interested parties. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), what the folks who left messages were interested in was mostly cursing us out. Not one message was left with an earnest query about a loan. There were many messages of hang-ups, spitting venom, or just plain silliness, but when the rare actual phone number was left, it was usually due to the confusion of children or foreigners. Although I had been specifically instructed not to take the tapes home, that is precisely what I did in order to dupe copies of my favorite calls. I present them here, in two SoundCloud uploads by colleagues The Sleeping Brothers, for your enjoyment.


WARNING! There is seriously salty language in here, and the volume and sound quality vary due to Mr. Putz re-recording over the same tapes 15,000 times. There were some annoying squealing sounds between many of the calls which I did my best to eradicate, but a bit gets through here and there. When you hear it, imagine what it was like sitting through entire tapes of that!

Listen closely at 1:47-2:03 of the first clip: I swear it's Howard Stern's parents, Ben and Rae. My favorite is at 3:20 in the second clip, the guy who says he is going to report Mr. Putz to the "telephone commission" and concludes with a terse "Ya buncha bastids!" The one that provides the title of my post is classic too, a perfect little soliloquy of vituperation that I have memorized for just the right occasion. It's at the :53 mark of part two.

For further edification, though I don't recall Mr. Putz's real name, I do remember that his character was rather like this guy's:
This is the quietly bullying Hollywood jerk, played by Ben Stiller on his old show, who walks around in a velour caftan and pesters celebrities in restaurants into saying the lines they are famous for. Eventually he would browbeat them into doing something special for his wife, like the time he made Casey Kasem dress like a waiter to serve her. "C'mon, do it. Do it. No, really. Do it." Thin out the combover a little, add William Kunstler sideburns and you've got Mr. Putz.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Who Doesn't Like Dirt?

Normally I couldn't care less about celebrity gossip, or at least the kind typically purveyed in the supermarket check-out rags. But this page, "The A-List," never fails to entertain me. It is simply a list of celebs with a brief mention of whatever perversions, criminal activities, sexual partners or personality failings they are allegedly associated with. (Whomever maintains it even manages to say some nice things now and again.) I used to have a link to it on my "Keep Prying" site, but it went kaput and I couldn't find it for a while. I found it again by searching for some choice terms--"hygienically challenged" comes up quite a bit there--but it says it hasn't been updated in years, which may be inaccurate judging from some of what I read. I would print some of my favorite bits here, but cheese 'n rice, where to begin? In any case, take a look before it disappears again, but be warned, you can't eat just one! (Also be warned that I haven't looked at the rest of the site it's on, so let's all hope it's not associated with Gary Glitter or the Bay City Rollers.)

Incidentally, part of the reason I'm posting this is because I wrote a previous entry disparaging Scientology, and linked to a list which named Beck as a member. On the A-List site, Beck's affiliation with Scientology (or "$cientology" as it is called there) is listed as disputed, so who the hell knows...

(If the link is dead, let me know--since it's croaked several times since I originally wrote this, I've now copied it so I can just post it myself if necessary...)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Three and a Half Minutes of Madness.

When I was twelve, I listened to a radio show that wasn't exactly a radio show. It was called "Hour of Madness," and aired on a station called WNYT, originating from the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury on Long Island. The station broadcast at the campus and on cable TV, where one could catch it on the "Swap & Shop" channel, playing over televised classified ads.

I forget what night it was on, but I'm guessing Saturday as its slot was from midnight to 1 a.m., and on Fridays that would have cut in on my SCTV Network 90 viewing (unless I'm getting my timeline screwed up). My pal Jeff would sleep over and we'd call in requests for the show, which consisted of Doctor Demento-type novelty songs. I have a few tapes of the show which were obtained by pressing a recorder up to the TV speaker. Jeff and I were well-known to host Gail Massey, probably too much so, as I recently found a tape of us pre-recording our requests to play over the phone to her as a strange sort of prank, with pauses and responses to what we thought she might say. I'm sure an NYIT student deejay loved nothing more than dealing with a couple of squeaky-voiced Plainview punks while stuck working on a Saturday night.

Anyway, here's an audio file from the show, recorded courtesy of Audioblogger. I thought I'd give the service a try, and achieved mixed results. It was fairly easy to use, but there are brief drop-outs at the beginning and end that aren't on the original tape. Be patient with the eight second pause at the very beginning and you will be rewarded with "My Name is Larry," one of my favorites from back then, by the indomitable Wild Man Fischer.
this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Washington Avenue Freeze-out!

...Washington Avenue being the road my Catholic grade school was on, and indeed, 28 years ago today, St. Pius X was frozen out as a monster storm bashed its way across Long Island. Here is the cover of the February 8th, 1978 Newsday (from which all the following information comes):

Route 110 takes a wintry beating.

The snow began falling Monday afternoon, and I'm sure I, along with every other tri-state area eight-year-old, eagerly looked out the window every ten minutes from supper 'til bedtime to check the progress. It looked like a lock, of course, with up to four inches falling in an hour at times, but in my house it wasn't official until WGBB (1240 am) announced the school closings in the early hours.

Tuesday morning awoke without a hint of school, which seemed like an embarrassment of riches considering that the Island had just been smothered with 17 inches of snow not three weeks earlier. That one, however, hit on a Friday, so we kids only got a single day's reprieve; this one would rescue us from almost an entire week of education! Here's a primitive satellite photo of the storm heading off to brutalize the rest of New England:


...and here are the totals when it was done, sometime Tuesday afternoon:


Twenty-three inches in Plainview---whoo-hoo!


Some storm stats: Three-thousand cars abandoned. 2000 motorists stranded in shelters. Three dead of snow-related causes. One finger amputated after an unfortunate decision to manually unplug a snow-blower. Eleven coastal homes collapsed due to flooding and high tides. 6000 LILCO (that's the Long Island Lighting Company to you, bunky) homes without power. The Long Island Railroad crippled for days by drifts, frozen switches and stranded trains. New York Islanders and Knicks games canceled.


Abandoned vehicles on the Long Island Expressway in Jericho.

A man lying prone in the snow was saved by the warmth and vigilance of his dog, Turkey. At the Melville firehouse, a man swiped a woman's chair right from her hands, and refugees became angry when the fire department wouldn't provide free beer. A man at a makeshift Huntington shelter complained about his complimentary ham sandwich. At Hermann's Restaurant in Melville, a hundred or so refugees had already gobbled up all the provisions on hand when a driver for Manella's Poultry got stuck outside. Everyone enjoyed chicken dinners after that. Driver Ray Schwerdt said, "I'm 150 miles from home, but I feel very comfortable here. There's a bunch of people here who don't know each other from Adam--businessmen, hardhats, all different kinds of people. I feel I'm part of the human race." The Playworld toy plant in East Farmingdale exploded from a gas leak.

In case you were wondering about Hank Scarino of Central Islip, it appears he's doing okay.


Catholics were given an Ash Wednesday dispensation due to the storm:

Instead of wearily enduring the equivalent of a mere two full meals (or the equally gruelling penance of "one full and two light meals"), Catholics were given a pass to load up as they pleased---and meat could be served. Thus, hardy Cat'lics weathered the storm with aplomb, not to mention second helpings of meatball ziti. Of course, my mom probably stocked up on Monday at our local Morton Village Shopping Center supermarket:

...possibly buying ricotta or mozzarella (but not pepperoni) from our brand of choice:


Elsewhere in Newsday, here is Wednesday's Figments comic strip, a corker as usual:

...and Johnny Wonder enlightens us with this historical sartorial tidbit:


Appropriately enough, the "Special Treat" on WNBC Tuesday afternoon (not to be confused with the "ABC Afterschool Special") is a kiddie adventure drama called "Snowbound," about a mismatched teenage boy and girl stranded in a blizzard fighting off predatory dogs. They should have just done like me and played Nerf football in the street. (Our beagles, Brandy and Sloopy, most likely had plenty of Alpo in their bowls, so the risk of them desperately gnawing our flesh was practically nil.)

Here's an ad from the TV section. Chillingly accurate.


The Coram Cinema seems like a fine, warm place to spend a blizzard...


Last and probably least, here is a "sketch story" I scribbled about snow, Long Island and me, which may or may not be related to this very meteorological event...

snow, rolling, rolling

there was a tremendous storm, a nor'easter i guess you'd call it, bellowing and barging, long island huddled below it. snow piled, drifted, was occasionally plowed into submission but not for long. streetcorners grew mountains for snow-day kings, cars were lost, and still it snowed. i was small, i want to say 1978, but that's not small enough. i want to say '78, february, because that was a storm, now that was a storm, and i have no other stories for it if i don't have this one. so it is.

me, of course. maria. brothers artie and jim and dave. friends and girlfriends. quite a few of us, maybe ten, give take. the worst over, snow now glittered sweetly under streetlamplight, and there above the light, just dark. dark, and tho it still became dark early, this was late dark, night dark. as dark as a sky bursting with white gets. not very dark really, but a beautiful unscary just-rare-enough dark. you suspect a frozen sun behind it.

i don't know if rolling a snowball was the purpose, or if it was started by one and finished by many. but there we were, in the deserted street, the air frozen mute but for an occasional murmur of wind, snow tickling and peeking into our ears, rolling a snowball, our hands pushing. smell of a fireplace pine, amber lights in neighbor's windows. we laughed and chattered and everyone was so young like in a christmastime commercial, but much better, especially for me, almost the youngest.

crunching up and down opal drive, soon the ball was bigger than me, then dave, then jim, then any of us, then all of us put together. I want to think twenty feet in diameter, but maybe five, six. a glove, a mitten really, came over the immense horizon of the ball into my view, stuck into the place where artie's girlfriend louise had pushed too deeply. the ball had taken her mitten and run away with it like an overgrown pup, and i laughed so hard, or harder.

louise says at some point, when we were all staggering, nearly unable to steer, and pondering where to park this behemoth, she says that we should leave it in the driveway of the guy who lives at the corner of ruby lane and garnet. you know, she says, that tight-ass who mows his lawn in summertime wearing a long-sleeved shirt and a tie, she giggles. of course she means mr. fenton, and of course the rest of us turn to look at jim's friend, robbie fenton, who has been assisting all along. the pencil-necked image of his dad. i don't recall his reaction, but i have a fair guess what mine was, and i'm sure it didn't help the awkward situation any.

we leave the snowball on the sidewalk in front of my house. why i couldn't say. it wasn't clever and it certainly wasn't practical. our mailman, keith, had to walk around the thing for months. but that's where we left it, and we went inside to a fine weary warmth, wet clothes drying, fingers and ears unreddening, and we looked out the front window every so often and laughed again.

i can still picture it, melted away to the size of a burly snowman's head, a gray early-may lump at the edge of our greening lawn. (winters really lasted back then.) soon it wasn't much more than a regular-sized snowball, the last snow left, alone. it had hardened into ice by the end, frozen to the ground and hard enough to withstand a solid punt, until one day it didn't. I felt nearly guilty, but at least I was there at the end, and it hadn't fallen prey to some malicious neighbor kid.

for some reason i remember that snowball well, how it fell to us, and how it shrank away.