Monday, March 2, 2009

Mary Printz, 1923-2009

Mary Printz, whose work at an answering service inspired the musical Bells Are Ringing (and its "Susanswerphone"), has died:

When clients dialed PLaza 2-2232, the agency's number for many years, they knew they could count on discretion and, when required, innovation. Some messages were routine — at least in the world in which Mrs. Printz's clients moved — involving little more than having the service tell the chauffeur to be at such-and-such a place at such-and-such a time.

Others required quick thinking. There was the time, for instance, that Mrs. Printz took a frantic call from Noël Coward, recalled her husband, Bob Printz, in a telephone interview on Friday:

"Mary," Mr. Coward cried, "Marlene has just had a bottle of Scotch and is finished with it, and it's Sunday; I don't have any more. What'll I do?"

Mary Printz, an Ear for the Famous, Dies at 82 (New York Times)
In 1956, Mrs. Printz started her own answering service, Belles Celebrity Secretarial Service. As Belles' owner, she made a cameo appearance in the July 6, 1969 New York Times article "Phone Users Dial FRustration, Too," about problems resulting from "a sharp rise in telephone traffic":
"Telephone service is the worst I've seen it since 1956," Mrs. Printz complained. "There's just no way I can estimate how much business I've lost."
Belles used what the article calls "the troubled PLaza 8 exchange."

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