Tube Bar Prank Calls

tube bar

The Tube Bar prank calls are a series of prank calls made in the mid-1970s to the Tube Bar in Jersey City, in which pranksters would ask the proprietor of the bar if they could speak to a fictitiously named customer. The fictitious names given by the pranksters were pun-like/homophones for other—oftentimes more offensive—phrases. Recordings of the calls were circulated widely on duped cassette tapes and may have been the inspiration for a running gag in ‘The Simpsons.’

John Elmo and Jim Davidson, later known collectively as ‘Bum Bar Bastards,’ would call the Tube Bar, operated by heavyweight boxer Louis ‘Red’ Deutsch, asking for customers such as ‘Pepe Roni’ (pepperoni), ‘Hal Ja-Like-a-Kick’ (how’d you like a kick), ‘Phil My-Pockets’ (fill my pockets), ‘Al Coholic’ (alcoholic), and ‘Mike Hunt’ (my cunt). Most of the time, Deutsch would call out the names.

At times Deutsch would catch on, and when he did, he would respond with extreme hostility, shouting profanity, obscene sexual references (usually involving the caller’s mother), and threats of physical harm at the caller. He would utter threats such as, ‘I’m gonna break dem bones in your feet, so you’ll never be able to walk right again!’ as well as ‘I’ll cut your belly open and show you all the black stuff you got in there!’ Sometimes Red would offer the two pranksters a reward of $100 or $500 if they would show up at his bar in person, but they never took him up on the offer.

By the 1980s dubbed cassette tapes of the calls were shared between staff of several major league sports teams such as the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Miami Dolphins. These dubbed copies of the calls were unofficially referred to as the ‘Red Tapes’ or ‘Tube Bar Tapes.’ The popularity of these prank calls spread throughout respective sports leagues, branching out to sports reporters and then into the larger media world. The 1981 movie ‘Porky’s’ included a scene with characters calling a bar asking for ‘Mike Hunt.’ Animator and cartoonist Matt Groening apparently obtained a copy and incorporated the phone hijinks into a running gag on ‘The Simpsons’ with barkeeper Moe Szyslak, who is partially based on Deutsch. Although Groening is a fan of the tapes, he describes the apparent connection between Red and Moe as ‘creative synchronicity.’

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