The One With the Asimov Phone Call

Sometime in the spring of 1966 when I was 17, I was gathered with a group of my fellow high school classmates at Maryann Shelhamer’s house on a Sunday afternoon. Maryann had a tape recorder, and I had a telephone tap (a simple one that attached to the back of the receiver via a suction cup, if I recall correctly), and we were amusing ourselves by making crank phone calls.

When that turned out not to be as amusing as we expected, we decided to try to call a celebrity. I’m not sure just whom we considered, but at some point I suggested trying Isaac Asimov, who was my favorite science fiction writer.

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Isaac AsimovIsaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov

I don’t know why the others acquiesced, being I was the only science fiction fan present. (After all these years I no longer recall exactly who was there. Maryann, of course. Probably Mary Lou Bliss and Gary Wells and Randy Klopp. Maybe Dennis Keener. Possibly Debbie Miller and Carol Hill. Arlene Herr and/or Eric Blouch? Conceivably one or two others. Of those I named only Gary, Eric, and possibly Dennis had ever read any science fiction, but none of them were major fans, as far as I can recall.)

Since it was my idea, I placed the call, and I’ve preserved the recording for all these years even though it embarrasses the crap out of me. However, I’ve been assured by everyone that who has heard it in the intervening years that I need not be embarrassed by it. Doesn’t matter, I still am.

Anyway, I’ve converted it into a Youtube video so that I could add subtitles and a few other explanatory notes. I’ve also tried to enhance the audio at points where it needed enhancing. So here is the entire recording, including the interaction with the operators with nothing suppressed.

I’d just like to point out that my reasons for feeling embarrassed by it are as follows:

  • It’s painfully clear that I didn’t expect to get through to Dr. Asimov, so I didn’t have any idea what to say to him. Thankfully I did think of something to ask him.

  • I forgot that he had a PhD, so I addressed him as “Mr.” rather than “Dr.” This is especially painful for me because in science fiction circles he was affectionately referred to as the “Good Doctor”.

  • My Pennsylvania Dutch accent, which I have long since suppressed, is readily apparent.

  • Just my general fanboy demeanor. I’m such a dork on that call.

One last comment. If you listened to the whole thing you will have noticed that I said we were all great fans of his and had all read his novels. That was a lie, of course. But I figured he could hear the others laughing in the background so I felt I needed to address the fact that I was not alone. So I lied to Isaac Asimov.

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