Monthly Archives: May 2019

When Phone Numbers Had Names like “MUrray Hill” or FIreside”

When I was a kid, all phone numbers began with names like MUrray Hill, FIreside or DAvis. This was a holdover from the very earliest days of telephones. The phone company executives (and there was only 1 phone company) thought that people would not be able to memorize large strings of numbers.

Lucy's phone number was MUrray Hill 5-9975
Lucy’s phone number was MUrray Hill 5-9975

Consequently, the first 2 numbers of every phone number were expressed in words. MUrray Hill meant the first 2 numbers were 6-8. DAvis meant the first 2 numbers were 3-2. That’s why the first two letters of the exchanges were capitalized.

Glen Miller used to call his fiance from PEnnsylvania 6-5000
Glen Miller used to call his fiance from PEnnsylvania 6-5000

But there is a natural human tendency to believe that all names must mean something. Consequently, people had ridiculous discussions about which phone names (exchanges) were “better”. My phone number as a kid was DAvis-4-2427, while the Brett’s who lived right next door had a phone number that began with FIreside. Frankie Brett insisted that their phone number was “better” than ours since FIreside sounded so much cooler than DAvis.

Butterfield 8 was the exchange for the Upper East Side of Manhattan
Butterfield 8 was the exchange for the Upper East Side of Manhattan

The funny part is that having phone numbers begin with names really did help people remember them better. In fact, some of those old phone numbers remain a part of American culture. Here are just a few examples:

PEnnsylvania 6-5000 was the title of a famous Glen Miller song. It was the phone number of a pay phone from which Glen Miller used to call his fiancee when he was on the road. Somehow the song would just not be as good if it was called 73-65000.

MUrray Hill 5-9975 was the phone number for Lucy & Ricky Ricardo. To this day, some people remember that number but cannot remember the number of their own cell phone.

BUtterfield -8 was the title of a classic 1960 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor. The significance of the BUtterfield-8 – exchange is that it was limited to the wealthy Upper East Side of Manhattan

The phone number MUrray Hill 7-0700 was burned into my brain by Saturday morning T.V.
The phone number MUrray Hill 7-0700 was burned into my brain by Saturday morning T.V.

MUrray Hill 7-0700 was the phone number for the furniture reupholstering department of Macy’s. When I was kid, Macy’s had a local television commercial that repeated this number at least 15 time. You could not watch Saturday Morning T.V. without hearing the words “MUrray Hill 7-0700” over and over and over. This phone number has been permanently burned into my long term memory, even though I have never gotten a piece of furniture reupholstered.

Having a 212 area code is like having "Old Money"
Having a 212 area code is like having “Old Money”

Now that phone numbers don’t have names, each individual number or exchange no longer seems that important. Of course, there are 2 exceptions to this.

You are not a real New Yorker unless your phone number begins with 212
You are not a real New Yorker unless your phone number begins with 212

212- is the coveted “original” area code for Manhattan. To have a 212 area code signifies that not only are you in Manhattan, but that you have been there for a long time. People with 212 area codes look down on other Manhattan dwellers who only have a 646 or a 332 area code. This is very similar to the way families with Old Money used to look down on the Noveau Riche. If your phone number does not begin with 212 you will never be accepted as a real New Yorker.

Never mention the phone number 867-5309 to a woman named Jenny
Never mention the phone number 867-5309 to a woman named Jenny

867-5309 is the phone number that all women named Jenny have learned to hate. The song Jenny was written by Alex Call and Jim Keller and performed by Tommy Tutone. The song is about a woman with a “certain reputation” who is so popular that her phone number is scribbled on bathroom walls. If you ever date a woman named Jenny, never make the mistake of mentioning this song or phone number.

Be sure to read all our Nostalgic Stories



A Gentleman in Moscow – a beautiful novel

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is the most beautiful novel I have read in many years. It begins in 1922 , after the Communist Revolution, with the trial of Count Alexander Rostov. Normally at such a trial Count Rostov would have been sentenced to death, simply for having been a close friend of the Tsar. In addition, Count Rostov is a lazy “man of leisure” who has never worked a day in his life, and who occupies a luxurious suite at the Moscow Metropol Hotel. Not exactly the type of man the Communists admired.

The Moscow Metropol Hotel
The Moscow Metropol Hotel

However, in 1913 Count Rostov had written a beautiful poem praising the working class and the revolution. This poem saved the Count’s life. Instead of being condemned to death, Alexander Rostov is declared a “former person” who must live the rest of his life in the Metropol Hotel. He will be immediately executed if he ever steps foot outside. To make Rostov’s humiliation complete, he is moved from his grand suite into a tiny room on the top floor of the hotel.

A Gentleman in Moscow - a beautiful novel
A Gentleman in Moscow – a beautiful novel

A Gentleman in Moscow chronicles Count Rostov’s life in the hotel over many decades, as both he and Russia undergo changes. Rostov is not confined to his room, but has the run of the gigantic hotel, which is in the center of Moscow, and where all the power brokers of society meet.

It may sound like A Gentleman in Moscow would be limited in scope as it is confined to a single hotel. However, that is not at all the case. For although Rostov may not go out into the world, the World comes to Rostov.

Somehow the ballet survived the Communist Revolution in Russia
Somehow the ballet survived the Communist Revolution in Russia

Communist party leaders, ballerinas, actresses, mistresses, American spies and reporters all stay at the Metropol. As a former person, Rostov himself is almost invisible and unnoticed, and thus is in a perfect position to observe it all and see the changes in his beloved Russia.

Over the years Rostov himself changes as much as Russia. In a way, his sentence to the Metropol is the best thing that ever happened to him. For the first time in his life he must work, and takes a job as a waiter in the grand dining room. As a former Count he is excellent at this job due to his knowledge of fine wine and elegant dining.

Amor Towles - author of A Gentleman in Moscow
Amor Towles – author of A Gentleman in Moscow

Rostov becomes friends with Nina, the daughter of a Communist Party official who lives at the hotel. Nina is only 9 and bored and she and Rostov explore the hotel together. Through the child’s eyes, Rostov sees things he never knew existed. Nina has discovered all the secret passageways, rooms staircases and hidden doors in the grand hotel. Together Nina and Rostov spy on everything.

A Gentleman in Moscow works so well as novel, because Count Alexander Rostov is such a wonderful character. At first he seems sort of ridiculous, trying to maintain the attributes of a gentleman as the world collapses around him. Count Rostov is concerned with reading great works of literature and keeping his hair perfectly trimmed, while Stalin comes to power and the Secret Police control Moscow.

However, as A Gentleman in Moscow progresses, we see that there is more to Alexander Rostov than meets the eye. He is a good person who is genuinely concerned about the people around him. Rostov is much tougher than he appears and tries to help those in need in whatever small way he can. Maybe that is the real definition of being a gentleman.

Read all our book reviews

Read our story The Last Connecticut Gentleman

Read our review of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich


The Lobster – A strange but compelling independent film

The Lobster takes place in a world where single people who cannot find their soulmates are turned into animals. They do get to pick which animal they will be turned into. The Lobster’s main character, David (Colin Farrell) has decided to become a lobster if he cannot find a mate. His logic is that he has always enjoyed the water and lobsters live a long time. Most people choose to become dogs, although beautiful horses are also popular.

Rachel Weisz & Colin Farrell in The Lobster
Rachel Weisz & Colin Farrell in The Lobster

As with a lot of strange independent films, The Lobster has a cast of well known incredibly talented actors. Most of the characters don’t even have names. Rachael Weisz is a nearsighted woman who is probably the soulmate of David. In the strange world of The Lobster, you cannot just fall in love with someone. You and your soulmate must have the same affliction. Thus, David is attracted to the myopic woman because he also wears glasses. If he had perfect eyesight, the two could not be together.

Lea Seydoux as the leader of The Loners in The Lobster
Lea Seydoux as the leader of The Loners in The Lobster

Lea Seydoux is the violent leader of The Loners, an outlaw group that has refused to be turned into animals. The Loners live in the woods where they are constantly hunted. They refuse to be matched with anyone, and in The Loner society any paring up is met with extreme punishments.

Ready to hunt Loners and turn them into animals in The Lobster
Ready to hunt Loners and turn them into animals in The Lobster

One of our favorite characters is a beautiful young woman with constant nosebleeds (wonderfully played by Jessica Barden). Ben Whishaw becomes her “soulmate” by purposely giving himself nosebleeds and pretending they are natural. He has decided that hurting his nose periodically is a better fate than being turned into an animal.

Jessica Barden & Ben Whishaw celebrate the release of The Lobster
Jessica Barden & Ben Whishaw celebrate the release of The Lobster

The Lobster is about 100 times more strange than we have been able to describe in this brief summary. Most viewers will hate it, but aficionados of quirky independent films will recognize it as an instant cult classic.

Normally we rate movies in terms of Stars. However, in unusual circumstances we rate movies with question marks. This is for movies where even after you have seen them you are still not sure what they were about. We rate The Lobster Five Question Marks. The last independent film to achieve this rating was Under The Skin starring Scarlett Johansson.

Whether you love The Lobster or hate it, once thing is certain. You will never forget The Lobster.

We give The Lobster Five Question Marks ?????

Read All out Independent Film Reviews

Alara Comes Back to The Orville- But it is only a Tease

Seth MacFarlane has made The Orville fans even angrier by pretending to bring back Alara (Halston Sage). In the most recent episode, The Orville enters an alternate time line where Alara is a guerilla war leader fighting the Kaylons.

Halston Sage
Halston Sage

But just when fans are thrilled by the return of Alara, they find out it is just the shortest of cameo appearances, with Halston Sage on screen for less than 4 minutes. Alara and Captain Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) do not even speak to each other. This has further fueled the rumors that Halston Sage wad dumped from The Orville after Halston Sage and Seth MacFarlane stopped dating.

Halston Sage as Alara on The Orville
Halston Sage as Alara on The Orville

Halston Sage deserves better than this. Her character was great, and we have heard from numerous The Orville fans who stopped watching the show when Alara was written out. For some reason, Seth MacFarlane has chosen to have a huge number of episodes focusing on the sex life of Bortus (Peter Macon) who who is about as erotic as left over dog food.

Peter Macon as the chain smoking Bortus on "The Orville"
Peter Macon as the chain smoking Bortus on “The Orville”

Bortus is a great character when he is used to comic effect. Like the episode where cigarettes are discovered in a time capsule and Bortus becomes addicted to smoking. However, the episodes that focus on the discrimination against females on Bortus’ home planet of Moclan are just a little too preachy and political.

Adrianne Palicki as Kelly from an alternate time line in "The Orville"
Adrianne Palicki as Kelly from an alternate time line in “The Orville”

One big improvement in Season 2 of The Orville is that the show has focused much more on Kelly (Adrianne Palicki). We have always loved Adrianne Palicki’s acting ability even back when she was trying to assassinate John Wick. In Season 2 of The Orville, Adrianne Palicki gets to play two different characters simultaneously, as the time line is split.

Even without Halston Sage, The Orville is still a great show. It would just be so much better if Alara were co come back for more than just a tease.

Be sure to read all our T.V. reviews.