The sad-sack bartender from The Simpsons, Moe Szyslak, is actually based on Louis “Red” Deutsch, a bartender in Jersey City who came to prominence following a number of popular phone pranks being played on him by Bum Bar Bastards, a group of prank callers in the 70s.
Deutsch’s reactions of anger and threats inspired the dynamic between Bart Simpson and Moe, where Bart frequently prank calls him leading to a barrage of over the top threats.
In the mid-1970s, two young men—John Elmo and Jim Davidson; later known collectively as Bum Bar Bastards, or The BBB—began calling the Tube Bar located at Journal Square in Jersey City, New Jersey. The bar was owned by heavyweight boxer Louis “Red” Deutsch, and most of the time Deutsch himself answered the calls. During a call, the pranksters would ask Deutsch to call out fictitious, pun-like/homophones names 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)or “Mike Hunt” (my cunt).Most of the time, Deutsch would call out the names, unaware that he was subjected to a prank.
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.
Animator and cartoonist Matt Groening has described himself as a fan of the tapes, particularly the “Garden Grove calls”. His series The Simpsons features a running joke of Bart Simpson making prank calls to barkeeper Moe Szyslak, asking to speak to patrons with joke names. Groening describes the similarity between these jokes and the Tube Bar calls as “creative synchronicity.”
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