THE "RED" TAPES

Probably the most famous prank in the history of phone-foolery is a series of calls made to one Louis Red" Deutsch, the pit-bull-like proprietor of the Tube Bar saloon in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Over the course of a dozen-odd calls believed to have been recorded some 15 years ago (the eightyish Deutsch is rumored to have died in Florida about ten years ago), pranksters telephoned the bar and asked Red to page a variety of nonexistent customers with funny" names-Mike Hunt," Al Koholic" and Phil DeGrave," to name a few.

Although the crusty Red is a mite slow on the uptake (Stu Pid? Nah, no one here by that name."), the bartender eventually realizes that someone's pulling his chain. What follows is a barrage of obscenity (imagine Fred Mertz in a steroidal frenzy) that easily enables the hotheaded barkeep to dethrone Prince Albert as the Patron Saint of Prank Calls.

Red's wrath is hampered by one of the most severely limited vocabularies this side of a bathroom wall, but he verbally does more with less than anyone this side of Marcel Marceau. When he's up to speed, the man is a guttural geyser of 4-, 10- and 12-letter words. Nearly a decade after his death, the Red" cult continues to grow-so much so that the notorious Tube Bar now hides behind an unlisted telephone number. The tapes appear to be the uncredited inspiration behind Bart Simpson's weekly telephone calls to Moe the Bartender" on TV's The Simpsons, and the heavy-metal group Anthrax sampled" the calls in last year's song I'm a Man." Over the past several years, at least two small record companies have released copies of the calls. Snippets from the Raging Bull" of prank calls even serve as answering-machine messages in some enlightened households.

Thanks to one aficionado's obsession, fans will soon be able to see Red" as well. Los Angeles filmmaker Christian Gore recently completed postproduction on Red, a gritty, black-and-white video featurette based on the tapes, with veteran Hollywood hothead Lawrence Tierney (Dillinger, The Devil Thumbs a Ride) cast as the bombastic barkeep. Using the actual Tube Bar tapes as an audio track, Gore fleshes out the story with a fantasy sequence: After Red receives one call too many, he pulls a shotgun out from under the bar and blows away everybody in the joint. (Available only through mail, the video can be ordered from Film Threat Video, P.O. Box 3170, Los Angeles, CA 90078.)

Why the big hang-up with Red? As mad as he'd get, he'd never hang up," explains the 26-year-old Gore, who publishes the alternative film magazines Film Threat and Film Threat Video Guide. Other people would get mad and just hang up. Not Red."

There's one other fact that sets Red apart from the prank-call pack. Despite the tapes' widespread popularity, the callers have never come forth to identify themselves. Gore's film ends with a haunting tribute to the pranksters flashed onto the screen: They are my heroes. The motherfuckers."

A ONE-MAN TRAFFIC WAR GRIEVING OVER A Y... v4-15-92

 
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