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Sex, lies and audiotape

for The Brooklyn Paper

They say phone sex is anonymous. But in DUMBO this week, a one-night-only photo exhibition pulls back the covers on the delights of dialing-up.

Featuring the photographs of artists Phil Toledano and Rebecca Memoli, “Phone Sex: Real and Imagined” explores both sides of the handheld experience, tapping in to callers’ fantasies as well as the operators’ work on the other end of the line.

“I’m taking their fantasies and making them my own,” said 23-year-old Memoli, whose contributions to the show include a portrayal of a leather-clad lady fondling a green dildo while sitting in a caller’s car.

A case of art imitating life? Perhaps, considering that Memoli used to be a phone sex operator herself.

“It’s one of the most difficult jobs I’ve ever got because I was working on commission,” she said. “[But even] during some of the most ridiculous conversations — like one fellow wanted to f– a blowdryer — I was still concerned with keeping them on the line and giving them what they wanted.”

This unusual career history led her to meet with Toledano, who contacted her to appear in his new book, “Phonesex,” that features photos of actual phone sex operators (the best shots are the most shocking: morbidly obese women, chain smokers with more wrinkles than Keith Richards, girls next door who should definitely not be doing this kind of work).

Toledano, 39, said he was attracted to the quaint, old-fashioned technology of phone sex — phone receiver in one hand and, well, you get the idea — as well as its intrinsic sense of delusion.

Plus, phone sex is the great equalizer: people of all ages, backgrounds, socioeconomic status and place in American politics are doing it.

“The thing about the phone is the complete anonymity and that’s interesting, disgusting, horrifying,” he said. “And there’s no boundaries to what sort of madness people are into.”

But even wild imaginations need a few rules, said Memoli. Like any honorable profession, the phone sex industry has some much-needed limitations. Drug references and conversations with people under 18 are off-limits.

But almost everything else goes — as long as the operator can figure out, quickly, what her client is into.

“Sometimes I lucked out,” she said. “If I used a word that was too big, I would get hung up on. If I used the wrong word, like ‘underpants’ instead of ‘panties,’ they hung up immediately. So I learned, ‘OK, no ‘underpants!”

Phone Sex: Real and Imagined,” Nov. 6, 6-9pm at Pochron Studios (20 Jay St., 11th floor, at Plymouth Street in DUMBO). Phil Toledano’s book, “Phonesex” (Twin Palms Press), will be on sale in December at For other info, visit or

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joe from baby says:
was up
Nov. 17, 2009, 2:30 am

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