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April 23, 2021
When you see phone numbers in popular media, you regularly often see the number start with 555. There’s a reason for that — and we’ll get to it in a minute — but plenty of other numbers are used in TV shows, movies, and songs.
Over the last three decades, we’ve seen lots of memorable digits come and go, so we thought it would be fun to explore some of the most famous phone numbers in pop culture …
The Baby-Sitter’s Club books famously used phone numbers starting with KL5 (a.k.a. 555) and countless other TV shows and movies also used “555” as the first three digits of a phone number. (Call 555-2368 and see if you reach the Ghostbusters.)
So why is that? Why “555”?
Well, back in the 1960s, no one had a phone number beginning with 555 — except in a few places where 555-1212 was the number you called for Directory Assistance. So using “555” as the start of a phony number meant you weren’t going to have a ton of crank calls going to some poor individual.
People tend not to use 555 numbers anymore in books, movies, and TV shows. They either choose real phone numbers that aren’t used, or they’ll actually purchase a specific phone number and use it as something of an Easter egg — designed for fans to call.
In TV’s Scrubs, an episode included the number 916-CALL-TURK. If you called it, it took you to a voicemail recording of actor Donald Faison, the man who played Turk, telling you how excited he was that you call him. Pretty fun!
Back in 1992, U.S. rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot released the controversial hip-hop track Baby Got Back, which became a hit and is still a beloved song almost 30 years later.
Most of the song is a commentary on the rapper’s love women with big butts (and that he can’t lie about it), and at one point he makes reference to how women should call 1-900-Mix-a-Lot to “kick them nasty thoughts.” It doesn’t appear that the number was ever actually real though.
In another musical instance, an artist put a real phone number in her song with the hope fans would call it. In 2004, R&B star Alicia Keys used her real phone number in her song, Diary. She just sang “489-4608” without including an area code, but when prefixed by a New York 347 area code, you could call the number and heard a recording of her.
While that number is now no longer in service, what makes this significant is that Keys set a trend of putting a real phone number in a song. Soulja Boy, Mike Jones, and Big Sean, just to name a few, have since copied this idea.
Perhaps a little obscure if you’re not German, but the band Spider Murphy Gang created phone number controversy in 1981 with their song Skandal Im Sperrbezirk. In the song, a phone number is repeatedly mentioned as a popular sex hotline (although in reality, it was an unused number in the city of Munich).
The song was a hit in Germany, leading to many people calling the number. But the problem was that while the number didn’t exist in Munich, it did exist in other area codes in Germany — much to the chagrin of the owners of those other numbers.
It became such a problem that the band was charged for the costs of having at least one person’s number changed after an overwhelming number of people called asking if it was a sex hotline. Oh my!
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