800-257-1257 after 40 Years of NPR
As I read throught the pile of books written about public broadcasting, I saw a picture on pg. 11 of “This is NPR: The First 40 Years” that fascinated me. It is a 1980, black and white photo of Ellen McDonald, Michael Richards and Nina Totenberg. But the phone number on the TV near the upper left corner of the photo is what drew my eye. The number is 1-800-257-1257. For some reason, I got stuck on wanting to know the history of that phone number.
1 – In July 1983, the Louisville Kentucky Courier Journal ran a classified ad for a subscription to Barron’s Magazine that featured that number (https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/110689641/)
2 – In 1991, the number was listed as a contact number in Starlog Magazine, December issue #173 in association with a Space Calendar sold by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (https://archive.org/stream/starlog_magazine-173/173_djvu.txt)
3 – In 1992, it appreared in the Lifestyles section of the Adirondack Mountain Sun Newspaper, December 24, 1992 in a rant over corporatism on Christmans Eve and the number in TV commercials (http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn93063680/1992-12-24/ed-1/seq-14/ocr/)
4 – cjb.net, a free reverse phone number search engine with a Canadian address (96 Mowat Avenue, Toronto) that WHOIS Icann says has been in existence since 1998, associates the number with a 23rd Street address in Ragland, Alabama (http://www.cjb.net/800/257.html)
5 – Teletech Communications, Inc., that WHOIS Icann says has been in existence since 1999, associates the number with a fax line belonging to the telecommunications service provider, the Gary Larsen organization in Conifer, Colorado (http://teletech.8m.com/)
6 – I visited toll free directory assistance (www.tollfreeda.com), the toll free directory (www.inter800.com) and toll free numbers.com before posting and could find no listing or use of the number. But Toll Free Numbers dot com says the number has been in use since 1999 to an AT&T customer.
7 – Cityfreq.com, another phone number search engine with the same Canadian address that WHOIS Icann says has been in existence since December 2000, says it was the phone number for Lakiesha Sicard (http://www.cityfreq.com/phone/800257.html) I found nothing that associated the name with the address of #4.
8 – The now-defunct Infomercial Index website, which had copyright notice dates at the bottom of its webpage from 1996 to 2002, listed the number to call for a collection of Zamfir’s Songs of Romance (http://www.magickeys.com/infomercials/nffull.html)
9 – In 2003, the Astral Pulse message board asked if anyone had heard of a condition known as synesthesia and a commenter recalled late night commercials with the number in different colors (http://www.astralpulse.com/forums/welcome_to_metaphysics/anyone_heard_of_synesthesia-t3199.0.html). According to Wikipedia, in this form of the condition, known as grapheme-color synesthesia or color-graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored.
10 – In 2010, a blogger for the site “Liner Notes” mentioned how he remembered seeing a Canadian commercial for Zamfir, King of the Panflute (http://hitparadelinernotes.blogspot.com/search?q=1257)
11 – In April 2013, a post on the RetroJunk message board mentions the number connected with commercials run on CNN in the 80s (http://www.retrojunk.com/community/post/index/51323)
9 – Facebook shows a conversation of lovers of WTBS Night Tracks (an competitor to VH1), between 2013 and 2015 about the ad which appeared in 2004. The commenter on a mobile phone remembers seeing the number (https://m.facebook.com/groups/NightTracks/?view=group). This comment shows up in the Google search of the number but does not appear in the post itself.
12 – Between November 2015 and May 2016, numerous complaintants received scam calls on everything from social social security, online dating, payday loans, credit cards and general harassment from the number (https://2000i.net/8002571257.who.called)
13 – In May 2016, a commenter on USPhoneScams.com said it was the number used by a phone scammer that was pretending to represent the IRS (https://usaphonescams.com/800-257-1257.tel)
That number, in a strange way, is now a part of NPR’s history. I wanted to know what that history has been since 1980. From Barron’s Magazine subscriptions to phone scams, how far it has fallen in fortunes. The number hasn’t fared nearly as well at National Public Radio.