Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Inside the world of old-time Montreal sex phone lines



   A Montreal woman who worked the phones at one of those old-time sex phone hotlines explains her experience in this exclusive account.
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   Montreal is considered the capital of so many things, but no one comes even close to our leads in all things sex.
   The late 80s saw the emergence of a new form of safe sex: phone sex lines.
  It slowly evolved from the loop lines of the 70s, when someone realized there was coin to be had.
   Where the numbers followed a similar order (loop lines ended in 1175/1176), the 80s brought in 1-976, but also many local lines.
   Late night TV ads eventually had you believing that hot, sexy young things were waiting for your call, with a languorous voice becoming you to call “(moan)...onnnnnnnne, nine seven six...”.
   I can assure you, it was more like the Aerosmith Sweet Emotion video.
   It was mostly older, and often very heavyset women on the other end, watching TV, running through a script.
   I worked for an outfit often referred to as the top line here, Aphrodite.
   The owner was a lovely, but morbidly obese woman who went by the name Emmanuelle, and ran the biz out of a swanky apartment on St Marc.
   I was Corrine, as she wanted names that could be either French or English.
   We’d take the call, get the guy’s name and credit card info, then check its validity via some number game Emmanuelle figured out to determine if the card was legit.
   To her credit, there must have been some merit as I don’t recall every having a chargeback.
   Once all the very unsexy stuff out of the way, we’d get to what they wanted, usually straight up “tell me what you’d do if I were there,” or the more expensive calls for domination.
   Making someone bark like a dog while I watched the Price is Right was always fitting.
   It paid well, and we were given cash weekly.
   A normal week was around $500, not shabby for 1989.
   Was it sexy for us? No.
   Were there big names? Yes.
   Did I ever veer off-script? Once.
   Some poor bastard whose name I kept forgetting, and I referred to “my cock” instead of “your cock”. It was awkward, and high time I got out of that game. Especially when a known con was trying to track me down for “real life meetings.”

                                      ***       
Stories like this fill the must-read Montreal: 375 Tales of Eating, Drinking, Living and Loving, order your paper copy here now or buy it at Indigo or Paragraph.

                                              *** 

8 comments:

  1. Little known fact, the city of Montreal, showed up to the city Emergency Medical Service around 1994 with a bill of thousands of dollars of calls to these sex lines. Seems that some staff using backup phones if the 911 lines went down were calling on slow overnight shifts.If you really miss the 80's or 90's, you owe yourself a visit to a Montreal Icon, Cafe Cleopatre where time has stood still, which is a good thing. Hats off to the owner, who fought city hall and won...amazingly through his court battle, the joint never burned down around 430am...

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  2. I had a gay hairdresser cut my hair from his house. One day he branched into this career which by mid 90s could be done from home. As soon as my hair was done the phone would ring and it was my cue to split.
    His character was a woman. I asked him do the clients truly believe he is female? He said he has a totally convincing voice so... hey.

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  3. Life on the Loops - Part One

    Regarding those so-called "loop lines", I first became aware of them in the late '70s when a friend I was talking to on Citizen's Band (CB) radio mentioned them as a way to contact someone in private without having to give your real phone number over the air that anyone who happened to be eavesdropping could hear--not a good idea.

    I do not claim to know everything about the subject--far from it--so hopefully a former Bell or Nortel employee will join in the blog and anonymously enlighten us further? Perhaps Mr. MP&I may be able to inject some input?

    Loop line suffixes within the 514 area code ended in 1194 and 1195 with several but not all of the existing three-digit prefixes or exchanges able to generate such a loop contact, thus back then if one party dialed say 861-1194 and the other party dialed 861-1195 at exactly the same time, your calls would connect and you could converse thereafter as long as you liked--very handy indeed--although the line could go dead at any time depending on what Bell Canada technician was paying attention at the relevant Central Office (CO) prefix through which you were dialing. I can only assume that telcos frowned on such frivolous looping, particularly made by the "blind-date-lonely-hearts-hook-up" crowd. Anyway, many telcos eventually figured out that they could make a bundle of cash by creating legitimate pay-per-call "dating lines" which I assume continue to exist.

    Logically, however, the loops were officially created only for technical staff employed at CO test centres--at least that is what I was told at the time by various individuals including Bell employees and I can only guess that the very existence of the loops was accidently or deliberately leaked to the public by disgruntled telco employees or by those fired for whatever reason. It is entirely possible as well that the children of some telco employees got too curious for their own good and began "experimenting" when their parents were not at home, which immediately brings to mind the 1965 film, "I Saw What You Did" as well as a subsequent remake.

    Then there were infamous former phone hackers including the teenage Kevin Poulsen who befriended key California telco techicians, eventually managing to take control of strategic phone switching equipment in that state in order to set up scams and generally create chaos, thereby taking "phone phreaking" to an entirely new and illegal level with his antics for which he eventually served prison time. But I digress.

    Loop-liner fans will remember that on occasion a Bell tech would break in on a conversation and demand that you hang up. If you refused, he would cut you off. Not sure if he really needed to do that, but perhaps he was just following orders to deter the abuse which undoubtedly began to interfere with CO switches as the word spread. However, if cut off by the "party man" (as the tech was popularly referred to), a dedicated loop-line freak would simply re-dial another having a different prefix.

    I forget now exactly how it happened, but I once managed to engage a friendly test centre technician in a very long conversation about COs, how they operated, what equipment they used, etc. He told me that he was soon to retire from Bell and when I brazenly asked if it was possible to actually visit his CO sometime for a private tour, he said that I could--although I never did take him up on it. He seemed sincere, though, and I guess I should have. Not sure if he'd have gotten into trouble over it. Does Bell even give official private tours to students as well as to special groups from foreign nations who plan to upgrade their telephone networks from vintage Crossbar, etc.--if that even exists anywhere anymore in the third-world? Hmmm...

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  4. Life on the Loops - Part Two

    Returning now to what might occur during any initial loop contact: a total stranger--even someone from another province or state--might manage to eavesdrop and successfully break into your conversation and heckle you--that is, if they even wanted you to know they were listening in the first place. Such eavesdroppers could even monitor "their" line all day and night if they were determined to do so, and as more loop-liners became aware of such eavesdroppers, they became more wary of what they said, or at least should have! I have read that many such eavesdroppers were sometimes seeing-impaired or paraplegics having limited capability to socialize, thus their obsession with the lives of others.

    The loops came to an end (at least within 514) sometime in the late '80s during the emerging upgrade to Nortel's DMS switching (Digital Multiplex System). See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Multiplex_System, however, at is entirely likely that the loops still exist in some roundabout form or other, but again, only the telco techs know for sure--until someone spills the beans again, that is.

    As for those call-in sex lines: for many years there was a fiasco regarding the once-prevalent 1-900 numbers which, to the dismay of parents, their curious teenagers would ring up huge phone bills until widespread complaints forced most if not all of these "services" to be terminated. Needless to say, they simply reconstituted themselves in another form. A weird way to make a living but I assume they serve some purpose to those desperate enough to want them.

    Incidentally (and no, I will not reveal it here), but Bell has its own exclusive, internal exchange or prefix (XXX-0000 to XXX-9999 with some omissions and gaps) which connects to every single land-line in every Bell building and even to many of its sub-contractors. All COs and departments can be reached, including cafeteria phones, emergency phones in elevators, the pre-recorded message catalog including the "Sorry, but there is no service for the number you have dialed"-type, (remember that?)--even the actual 7-digit phone number of 911 which, sometime in the '90s, a public directory inadvertently published--to the anger of Bell.

    Be aware, however, that the aforementioned information will have been considerably altered and updated since ever since the cell-phone revolution took hold, so keeping up with all of this stuff can be daunting, time-consuming, and probably not even worth the bother.

    And yes, dear millennials, there are definitely better things to do with your life than having a phone stuck to your ear 24/7. :-(

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  5. I still see ads for these services on late night TV every day but only in Montreal. It's hard to imagine the sorts of people who keep these services going these days. This is one of the best examples of the "digital divide" I have seen. For the price of basic internet access and a crappy Android tablet, you can live in an ocean of graphic porn 24/7 if you wish but some poor bastards are still handing mom's credit card to these phone services so they can talk to an obese woman in a mumu while she watches The Price is Right.

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  6. Not sure if this would be considered a "loop line", but it's an interesting landline story nonetheless.

    Back in the very late 80's, at least in some parts of Laval, a strange glitch popped up that unexpectedly put you (and other strangers) into a party line of sorts. Back in those days calling some parts of Montreal from Laval (e.g. DDO, Point Claire, Dorval) were long distance calls even though they were both in the same 514 area code. If you tried dialing a the 7 digit number without a "1" prefix, a recorded message would play informing you its long distance and to add 1. Well, one day the message disappeared and all you get is total silence. What's interesting is anyone else who had attempted to dial a long distance number without the 1 would also hear silence, but if you spoke, they hear you, and visa-versa. More and more people would call and be confused to hear random voices, and before long, you'd have a half dozen or more strangers chatting with each other on any given day! Eventually it became known and people would intentional try a long distance number just to join this free chat line.

    I don't think it was intentional, it was obviously some glitch in Bell's system. It lasted several weeks I remember before Bell caught the problem and the normal recorded message played again. Seems like some kind of cross talk issue with multiple lines.

    Never understood quite what happened or why, but it's an interesting memory.

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  7. Apple IIGS,

    I suggest the following and other relevant websites to begin your investigative journey. It's a long, long ride.

    http://www.historyofphonephreaking.org/faq.php

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  8. UrbanLegend: Thanks for the link. Interesting stuff to read, though I've always known about Blue Boxes, the 2600 Hz tone (Captain Crunch whistle!) and other fun stuff about phone phreaking. Never did it myself though.

    In this particular case, there was nothing illegal or fishy being done. You just innocently dialed any regular Montreal phone number (minus the "1") and were connected to this weird party line. Countless people were connected without even realizing it, I mean dialing "694-8065" might've worked from NDG or downtown, but in Chomedey or Longueuil required you added a "1" prefix. Kinda bizarre certain parts of the city were considered long distance back in the day!

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