A Washington Ringtone Symphony By Mike Musgrove Do cellphone ringtones reveal
anything about their owners? Maybe they do, and maybe that's why a lot of
official Washington avoids the things.
"Please," offered political-thriller novelist Brad Meltzer by e-mail. "Only a
fool isn't on vibrate at all times. Especially in D.C."
I conducted a highly unscientific survey over the past few weeks and found that
while image-conscious politicians generally follow Meltzer's line of thinking,
plenty of other prominent Washingtonians do not.
Fox News personality Greta Van Susteren's phone rings to "Hello Dolly" when her
sister calls, the "Twilight Zone" theme song when her brother does, and the
William Tell Overture when her producer rings. When her husband calls, her phone
belts out the "American Bandstand" theme.
There's a thought process behind some of these selections. Her producer gets
William Tell when she calls because it's a ring that sounds appropriately
important, and "Hello Dolly" was a song she heard around the house as a kid. As
for "American Bandstand," there's no real explanation. "It just makes everybody
who hears it laugh," she said.
Emil de Cou, associate conductor for the National Symphony Orchestra, hears B.B.
King's "Lucille" whenever he gets a call. The bluesman's guitar licks have, on
occasion, popped up during rehearsals, de Cou admitted, when he's forgotten to
turn off the phone's ringer.
De Cou says his colleague Leonard Slatkin had part of Stravinsky's "Rite of
Spring" as his ringer for a while. "It was very strange as a ringtone," de Cou
said. "It didn't make you want to pick up the phone."
Jason Caddell of the local indie band Dismemberment Plan, which reunited this
weekend for a benefit gig, has a few ringtones selected as private jokes with
his friends. There's Duran Duran's "Rio," Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" and Run
DMC's "It's Tricky." But most of the time, he said, his phone is set to vibrate.
My calls to Washington politicos didn't turn up as much.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign team declined to look into
the matter, and Sen. Barack Obama's team didn't respond, though I did wind up on
the "Obama for America" e-mail list. Rudy Giuliani's people say he has some
normal default ringer on his phone -- they know this because it went off by
accident while he was giving a speech Tuesday.
Also, in case you ever wondered: The White House says the president and vice
president do not carry cellphones.
In lobbying circles, the chairman and chief executive of the Recording Industry
Association of America, Mitch Bainwol, has a song by "American Idol" finalist
Chris Daughtry: "It's Not Over."
As the recording industry has begun to look at ringtones as a fresh source of
revenue, it has started to give gold and platinum awards for bestsellers. Last
week's No. 1 track on the Billboard ringtones chart was "Poppin' " by Chris
Brown, a young R&B singer from Virginia. We checked with Brown's manager and
-- you guessed it -- that's the same tune that plays on the singer's phone when
he gets a call.