Last week's look at the vanishing phone booth and the cell phone responsible for its continuing demise didn't go nearly far enough.
No attention whatsoever was given the String Cup Phone Booth in Ann Arbor, Michigan nor did the remarkable Cellular Phone Isolation Booth get a mention. The latter is the creation of Boston Performance Sculptor Nick Rodrigues and a true traffic stopper although probably not the best way to meet members of the opposite sex. Key word: isolation, meaning it's pretty tough to talk on a cell phone while shrouded in a metal and glass contraption carried on your back. Dog walking and "accidental" supermarket cart bumps work much better. And, before I forget, who are all these "performance artists" now confronting us and will our futures include the hauling of trash by performance waste managers?
Jenny L. Chowdhury of New York has done Nick one better by building a better man trap. Her invention, also mobile, is called the Atlantic Cell Booth. More user friendly, it shouts "woman's touch" while featuring blue plaid material--a stylish contrast to performance plasticity. Further, it is zippered, something of a come-on to zippy men who enjoy such challenges.
And, your attention is called to Celifoam, a firm specializing in making cell phones look like something from a Safeway fruit and vegetable department. Tired of your cell phone looking like a cell phone? Why not transform it into a zippered (there's that word, again) banana straight from Chiquitaland; guard it at all costs for fear someone will attempt to turn it into a banana split. Celifoam even has banana cell phone holsters in two sizes for $10 each and lucky you if you live in California thereby escaping a 9.5% sales tax. Californians need all the breaks possible these days.
While still on the subject of bananas, something or someone named Wouter Walmink (sounds like a terribly upscale Walmart) is offering an engraved banana featuring a great many Stars of David. I don't know what such a deal has to do with phone booths or cell phones but there it was: smack dab in the midst of cell phone information. I knew I was wandering far a-field when my next Google adventure momentarily introduced me to Scott Beale and his Laughing Squid Project. Beale describes himself as a "primary tentacle" and I, more of a red snapper type, opted to swim away.
The use of Alfred Hitchcock's name at this point seems a bit odd but there it was in connection with the film, Phone Booth, a 2003 feature starring Colin Farrell and an almost totally unseen Kiefer Sutherland. It seems Hitchcock was pitched the essence of a film shot in real-time (think Rope) by a concept guy named Larry Cohen. Hitchcock liked the idea but couldn't come up with a rationale for confining the film to a phone booth. Thirty years later (and slightly before the Beltway snipers appeared), the prescient Cohen revisited the idea and came up with, gasp, a sniper who keeps Farrell pinned within a phone booth.
The film, certainly minor but without question a good thriller packed into 80 minutes, was shot for $1.5 million by Joel Schumacher whose body of work includes two Batman films, two adaptations of John Grisham books (The Client & A Time to Kill) plus the 2004 version of Phantom of the Opera. Phone Booth was shot in 10 days and used a number of cost-cutting devices including "French hours" that skip normal lunch breaks. Why do I have the idea that corporate America and governors of financially-strapped states have already mulled the possibility of no lunch hours in various kinds of money-saving schemes?
In addition to a terrific performance by Farrell in another unlikeable role, the cast includes Forest Whitaker as a police captain, and Sutherland as "The Voice." The film will be shown four times in March on the Independent Film Channel beginning on the 5th at 3:15 p.m. (PCT). I almost forgot to tell you. The theatrical release of the film, originally set for November, 2002, was moved, ironically enough, to April, 2003 because of the the Beltway sniper attacks. Timing, as Hollywood in particular knows, is everything.
Then, there's Mojave Phone Booth, both the real thing and an independent film based upon what may have been the most famous phone booth in the world. It was located in what is now the Mohave National Preserve. Placed in the 1960s at the intersection of two remote dirt roads, it likely replaced a booth located 30 miles to the south. Fifteen miles from anything resembling civilization, the phone was rarely used until Godfrey Daniels, a computer nerd, initiated several websites devoted to the lonely booth. He blogged the phone number and, suddenly, people were calling and camping out at the site.
After three years of notoriety, the phone booth became a victim of its own popularity. It was the National Park Service that asked the booth be removed. By then, it had become graffiti laden and the focal point of an area turned into an environmental mess. Among the visitors hoping to be there when the phone rang was a man who claimed the Holy Spirit had instructed him to answer the phone. He stayed 32 days answering more than 500 calls.
It was in 2006 that writer/producer/director John Putch based a film on the phone booth. Consisting of the intertwined tales of four Las Vegas people drawn to the isolated structure, Mojave Phone Booth tells of their travels made in hopes of randomly connecting with callers. Deemed "delicious" by the Anchorage Daily News, the film also won plaudits from the San Francisco Examiner ("endearingly quirky") and the Syracuse New Times ("spills over with good vibrations and pitch-perfect performances"). Heading the cast are Annabeth Gish and Steve Guttenberg. The film also was chosen "Best of Fest List" by the Palm Springs Film Festival.
To make this column a bit more personal, my phone booth experiences include one that took place in Kansas City, circa 1960. It involved partying with actress June Lockhart (often referred to as "Lassie's mother), baseball's Charley Finley, and former K.C. mayor H. Roe Bartle. The location was the Hotel Muehlbach bar and Bartle, at close to 400 lbs., was a very colorful guy who often wore a Boy Scout uniform--short pants in the summer--in honor of his life-long association with the Scouts. Nicknamed "Chief," Bartle was America's best-known mayor with the possible exception of whoever held the job in New York and was responsible for bringing pro football's Dallas Texans to Kansas City in 1963. Owner Lamar Hunt re-named the team the Chiefs in acknowledgement of Bartle's many civic contributions including 27 years as Scout Executive of the Kansas City Area Council.
Finley, Mr. Aggressive, was all over Lockhart while Bartle and I spoke of our origins. I learned he was born in Norton, Virginia, a town near Bristol, Virginia-Tennessee where my wife, Betty, had lived.
"No kidding," said Bartle. "I have a dear friend who lives in Bristol. I call her 'Cope'."
"That's funny," I observed. "There's a woman by the name of Copenhaver who lives across the street from my mother-in-law."
"What street would that be?" asked Bartle.
"Park Street," I answered.
Pulling me out of my chair, Bartle said: "Let's call her" and that's how I managed to share a phone booth with the hugely expansive H. Roe Bartle. Somehow, I survived.
# # # #