Sixteen years ago I created a radio piece called “Phoning the Kremlin” which consisted entirely of a recording of my [failed] attempt to place a call to the [cold war-era] Kremlin in Moscow. Largely because of a delightful collection of operators and “overseas telephone sounds” and some backing music from Supertramp, the piece came off fairly well. Alas all track of the recording has been lost and it exists only in the aural memory of me and the listeners.
A couple of years later I repeated the exercise by attempting to place a call to President Ronald Reagan at a meeting in Reykjavik. I failed again, but got some great tape of a U.S. Marine telling me that, no, I couldn’t speak to Mr. Reagan.
On today’s The Vinyl Cafe, host Stuart McLean demonstrated that he is a master of this art form, which might be called “telephone operator struggle art.”
Today’s episode consisted mostly of McLean’s attempt to get in touch with the Oxford, Nova Scotia family who had won his Christmas contest. Mere words cannot do justice to his audio escapades; suffice to say that it involved telephone operators in Sudbury, Kingston, Charlottetown and Halifax. And a taxi company. And he didn’t fail.
This kind of thing is like gold to a personality like Stuart McLean: he has the perfect combination of wry wit and persistence to take what could be Howard Stern-esque hijinks and transport it to a new level.
I bow before you, Stuart; you are a master.