I hear Ray’s Pizza on Prince Street will soon be closing up shop. But for me and my friends, it and the dozens of other pizzerias with some iteration of “Ray’s Pizza” in their names (like Famous Ray’s, Original Ray’s, even Brooklyn’s Not Ray’s) will live on forever.
Back in the days before Caller ID, sophomoric teens like me misspent many hours of our precious youth engaging in telephone pranks, the all-but-forgotten art of tele-tormenting others for our own amusement. Among my high school cadre of wiseasses, I was as good at phony phone calls as the next guy — provided the next guy was not my friend Fisher.
Fisher’s brain seemed especially well-built for calculated telephone hoaxes the way Lex Luther’s was hard-wired for global chaos. Armed only with a phone and a tidbit of information, he could wield his talent for inventive deception to instill panic on the other end of the line.
It was sometime during the Reagan administration when three-way “conference calling” became available to the likes of us and with it a new era in Fisher phony phone calls began. With the ability to connect two unsuspecting people, Fisher could just dial, listen and laugh. And his masterpiece came on the day he connected Famous Ray’s Pizza to Original Ray’s Pizza. It played out something like this:
Famous Ray: Hello Famous Ray’s…. Hello . . . . Hello?
Original Ray: Hello. Ray’s Pizza.
Fisher and me: (muffled hysteria throughout)
Famous Ray: Hello.
Original Ray: Hello.
Famous Ray: Famous Ray’s, can I help you?
Original Ray: This is Ray’s pizza. Would you like to place an order?
Famous Ray: Who is this?
Original Ray: Ray’s Pizza.
Famous Ray: Yes, this is Ray’s.
Original Ray: This is Ray’s Pizza. Who is this?
Famous Ray: Yes, this is Famous Ray’s Pizza. Do you want to place an order?
Original Ray: What?
Famous Ray: This is Famous Ray’s.
Original Ray: You mean Original Ray’s.
Famous Ray: No, Famous Ray’s is the original Ray’s.
Original Ray: No, this is Ray’s, the original Ray’s.
Famous Ray: This is the original Ray’s. Famous Ray’s.
Original Ray: This is the original famous Ray’s. Do you want to order something?
Famous Ray: Am I going to order something???
Original Ray: Hey you !@#$ jerk, are you going to order something or not?
Famous Ray: Yeah, where are you located, Original Ray? Cause I’m gonna come there and kick your original butt.
Original Ray: I’d like to see you try, you X#%!!!
Famous Ray: Go to hell!
Original Ray: Screw you!
Famous Ray: Screw your mother!!
Almost 30 years later, it is time to say goodbye to one of New York’s most iconic pizza parlors, as it prepares to go the way of the rotary phone.
Ray: Do not ask for whom the phone rings. It rings for thee.
Mark Katz operates The Soundbite Institute, a creative think tank that deploys humor in the name of strategy. He is also contributing editor of The Daily Beast and author of a book about his eight years as the in-house humor speechwriter of the Clinton White House called “Clinton & Me,” where a version of this story first appeared.