BROOKE GLADSTONE: Have you ever had a dream of chatting on the phone with Tom Cruise? Or maybe you've fantasized about a call from Catherine Zeta-Jones. Well, you may have to get over those dreams, but thanks to a new website, you may get a call from some dimmer stars. On the Media's Hal Humphries reports on Hollywood Is Calling dot com. [KEYBOARD CLACKING]
HAL HUMPHRIES: Surfing the net the other day, I came across the website Hollywood Is Calling dot com. It's a service that allows us, the fans, to order phone calls from some of our favorite but not quite so famous any more stars. Scrolling down the list of celebrities, I spotted one of my childhood heroes. [MUSIC UP & UNDER] I actually started singing the theme song. [SINGING] WELCOME BACK, YOUR DREAMS ARE YOUR TICKET OUT. ["WELCOME BACK, KOTTER" THEME CONTINUES UNDER] Credit card in hand, I placed my order: $19.95 for a call from Horshack to my best friend Jay.
RON PALILLO: [A LA HORSCHACK] Hello, Jay! [LAUGHS] Hi. This is Ron Palillo. I'm calling to say hello to Jay Osborne. I hope you have a wonderful and prosperous year, but most importantly, I'd like to wish you the best of luck in the pursuit of all your dreams and wishes for the coming year.
JAY OSBORNE: [LAUGHS] Oh!
RON PALLILO: Thanks. Take care. [A LA HORSCHACK] Goodbye now.
JAY OSBORNE: [LAUGHS] [IMITATING] Bye now. [LAUGHS]
HAL HUMPHRIES: Jay loved it.
JAY OSBORNE: Is Vinnie Barbarino on the list? [LAUGHS]
HAL HUMPHRIES: No. Vinnie Barbarino is not on the list. You won't find megastar John Travolta. You won't find Russell Crowe or J-Lo. But you will find Lou Ferrigno, the Hulk, and John de Lancie, Q from Star Trek; and ESPN commentator and all-star pitcher Tom Candiotti. You may wonder how Hollywood Is Calling landed such stars. Michael Stevens, the spokesperson for the website, says they sent out blanket mailings and waited for the callbacks.
MICHAEL STEVENS: Fans themselves get a tremendous kick out of picking up the phone and finding, you know, the live voice of a celebrity on the other end, and, and the celebrities themselves really love talking to people, you know? And there's that emotional two-way street that goes on between the two that, you know, sort of makes everybody feel good.
HAL HUMPHRIES: It is Hollywood, and this is work. The celebrities get paid, though they won't say how much. Stevens claims that Hollywood Is Calling dot com is the first and only company in the world which allows the public to purchase live phone calls from celebrities, and Stevens says business is great, and the stars are calling him now.
MICHAEL STEVENS: It really has become the hottest gift around.
HAL HUMPHRIES: If this is, indeed, the hottest gift around, you have to wonder -- where does this idea of celebrity phone calls fit into Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?
PETE HAMPSHIRE: That's as much id as it is ego in that it --there's something primitive going on. [LAUGHS]
HAL HUMPHRIES: Dr. Pete Hampshire is a clinical psychologist in Nashville, Tennessee. He has a theory about fame and need and the desire for security.
PETE HAMPSHIRE: Kind of a primitive sense of that I'm never going to be abandoned again, because I'm going to be famous. So if I'm famous, I'll never be lonely.
HAL HUMPHRIES: I asked for an interview with one of the celebrities -- sort of a chance to pick the brain of someone in the know - find out what this is all about. Money? Ego? What? Stevens hooked me up with Kato Kaelin -- you know, America's best-known house guest? Kato says it's not just fun.
KATO KAELIN: I guess because of-- it's fulfilling to me to hear how happy they are to talk to me, [LAUGHS] so it's a win-win.
HAL HUMPHRIES: Yeah. It's got to be kind of an ego boost to have people just say "Oh, my God -- It's Kato on the phone!"
KATO KAELIN: Yeah. I don't know even if it's so much of an ego boost; it's a really nice feeling to know that you can make someone, make someone's day.
HAL HUMPHRIES: But there is a risk. I asked Kato to call my dad. [PHONE RINGING]
TOM HUMPHRIES: Hello?
KATO KAELIN: Hello?
TOM HUMPHRIES: Hello?
KATO KAELIN: Tom?
TOM HUMPHRIES: Yeah.
KATO KAELIN: You're screening Kato's call?
TOM HUMPHRIES: Who?
KATO KAELIN: Kato Kaelin. How are you?
KATO KAELIN: Who?
HAL HUMPHRIES: Undaunted, Kato asked who else he could call. I said "Hey -- call my wife." [PHONE RINGING]
KIM GREEN: Hello?
KATO KAELIN: Hi. Kim Green?
KIM GREEN: Yes.
KATO KAELIN: Kim Green, this is Kato Kaelin from Hollywood Is Calling dot com calling for you -- Kim Green-- [LAUGHTER] Oh, my goodness, it's so good to hear y-- I want to tell you one really, really great thing.
KIM GREEN: Yes?
KATO KAELIN: [SHOUTING] Hal is in love with you. [LAUGHTER] He wanted me to let you know he is in love with you -- [SHOUTING SING-SONG] forever.
KIM GREEN: Hal who?
HAL HUMPHRIES: That's my girl. Let's get back to the list. There's the Professor from Gilligan's Island. There's Raven of WWF notoriety. Lorenzo Lamas and Todd Bridges. All of this gets me thinking --what kind of celebrity call would a self-proclaimed public radio fiend, someone like my friend Phil Newman -- what kind of call would they want?
PHIL NEWMAN: The ultimate would be to have Carl Kassell on your own answering machine leaving, leaving a message for people calling you. That would be the ultimate.
HAL HUMPHRIES: So would you pay $19.95 to have Carl Kassell call?
PHIL NEWMAN: I would pay $99.95 to have Carl Kassell call.
HAL HUMPHRIES: [LAUGHS] What are the chances of that?
CARL KASSELL: Hello! This is Carl Kassell, calling to wish you a happy holiday season. [THEME MUSIC UP AND UNDER] Hello. This is Carl Kassell, calling to wish you a happy holiday season. Hello, this is Carl Kassell....
HAL HUMPHRIES: For On the Media, I'm Hal Humphries.
BOB GARFIELD: That's it for this week's show. On the Media was directed by Katya Rogers and produced by Megan Ryan, Tony Field and Jamie York, and edited-- by Brooke. Dylan Keefe is our technical director, and Jennifer Munson our engineer. We had help from Anne Kosseff and Dave Nolan. Our webmaster is Amy Pearl.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Arun Rath is our senior producer and Dean Cappello our executive producer. Bassist/composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. This is NPR'S On the Media, produced by WNYC. I'm Brooke Gladstone.