Like a lot of people, I’ve seen a lot of things on the internet. Probably too much. I don’t mean “too much” in the sense of “I’m desensitized to sex and violence what is becoming of 21st century humanity wahhhhh,” I just mean that I don’t usually come across anything that strikes me as particularly weird. These days, a subreddit filled with pictures of cartoon horses having lesbian sex will make it to Buzzfeed in no time; obscure corners of the internet get light thrown on them by mainstream sites all the time. Nothing stays undiscovered for long anymore.
That said, Grandma Party Hotline is one of the odder websites I’ve visited. It’s basically just a phone number—no ads, no links, no indication of authorship. When you call the number on the site (559-492-6238), it goes straight to the voicemail inbox of what sounds like a nice old lady. “It’s so good to hear from you! I’ve missed you so much! Leave me a message, or sing me a song!” she says. The messages, which are compiled on the site (there are nearly 500 of them) range from people who are confused by the message to children singing songs to “grandma” to people who describe what they’d like to do to grandma in graphic, sexual detail.
The propreiter of the site (who wants to go only by “Grandma”) emailed me a couple weeks ago to show me the site, and naturally, I ended up calling him up to ask, basically, what the hell it was.
VICE: So how did this website start?
Grandma: I’ll quickly take you through the basic timeline. During my college days in Orlando, Florida, around 2005, there was a very Elephant 6-y art scene. Everyone was getting high all the time and we started calling our weed “grandma.” It would be like, “Did you pick up grandma?” “Where’s grandma?” Eventually everyone just started calling each other grandma. There’d be events that would be held, like parties, and even these bigger, bazaar-type events. They’d be called “Grandma Party” and “Grandma Party Bazaar.” If you google “Grandma Party Bazaar” you’ll find a bunch of weird videos, some of which I made. I remember there were teepees, balloons, dog animals, and then weird downtown Orlando bands playing all day.
Anyway, I was sort of involved in that scene, and I had watched that documentary about They Might Be Giants, where they explain that Dial-A-Song thing they did.You would call their house, and they had an answering machine that would play you a new song every day. I wanted to do that in reverse, where people call and leave songs. It naturally clicked with the grandma stuff going on to have a Grandma Party Hotline. It would be a grandma that wanted to hear a song from you. At first, what I mostly heard is my friends and friends of friends. It was that close-knit Grandma Party community goofing off with each other.
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