Commentary by Randall Rothenberg


From Spike Lee to Donald Trump

By Published on .

By now, it’s probably happened to each of you. You’re nestled into the center of a three-seater on the 7:32 from Ronkonkoma, when all of a sudden the calm of the car is shattered by a crescendo from the second of Satie’s “Trois Gnossienness.” Oddly, instead of gliding to the diminuendo, the section repeats twice, growing louder each time, until your seatmate reaches into her Prada shoulder bag, pulls out her mobile phone, and shouts into it, “Hallo?! No, I’m not at Penn Station yet!”

Welcome to the wild world of ring tones. Yes, in our collective quest for individuality, customized cellphone sounds have become the trend du jour. Music, voices, FX, you name it -- all downloadable from the Web -- are rapidly replacing the boring bells, beeps and buzzes loaded in from the shop. Third-party vendors are cropping up to compete with the wireless companies in offering new product. Last week, 2ThumbZ Entertainment announced that it had bought the cellphone rights to fabled Stooge Curly Howard’s “Nyuk, nyuk.” CNET estimates that the 167 million U.S. mobile users have already turned ring tones into a $1 billion annual business for some carriers.

And if cellphone sounds are that significant an industry, you know what’s next: consulting! To get in on the ground floor of what’s sure to be a burgeoning niche in the market for self-expression advisory services, I offer up some recommendations for singular ring tones:

  • President George W. Bush: Bars six through eight of Connie Francis’s “Who’s Sorry Now?”

  • Spike DDB Chairman Spike Lee: That line from the cinema ad: “Movies? Laundry? Same thing.”

  • Larry Page: A bit of kerfuffle from the forgotten Billy Rose lagniappe, “Barney Google With the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes.”

  • Sergei Brin: Less modestly, any random sentence from Suze Orman’s audiobook reading of her own best-seller, “The Courage to Be Rich.”

  • Advertising Age Proprietor Rance Crain: The opening measures of the Rodgers & Hart song, “Where or When.”

  • Richard Solomon: The haunting Cole Porter tune “I Love Paris.”

  • Sen. John Kerry: “Both Sides Now” (first two measures of the chorus, melody only).

  • Former Interpublic Chairman-CEO Phil Geier: The kind of belch that can only come from indigestion.

  • Martha Stewart: “See You in September” -- just a few bars, of course.

  • Donald Trump: What else? “You’re fired!” in his own voice.

  • Vice President Dick Cheney: Clark Gable delivering the famous final line from “Gone With the Wind.”

  • Sen. John Edwards: Noel Coward’s “Mad About the Boy.”

  • Grey Advertising Chairman-CEO Edward Meyer: The soft harmonies of the Mills Brothers’ rendition of the Alec Wilder tune, “I’ll Be Around.”

  • Viacom Chairman-CEO Sumner Redstone: Exactly the same thing.

I’m open to other recommendations, of course -- there’s sure to be plenty of business for everyone! Just give me a call. I’ll be the last man standing whose cellphone still rings like a bell.

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