The 2000 Tarty Awards

A Century in a Phone Booth

[A London Postscript.]

(Alf, mumbling to self): It's around here somewhere. Classification of tart cards ... hmmmm ... I wonder where ...

(Aside from Alf): Paul, I think you have it tucked away someplace. Never mind, we'll find it later.

There are invisible hands at work in this business. Some unseen fingers put things up ... others take things down. But, they are never caught sight of; the hands, that is. And they are at odds with one another: working at cross-purposes. Yes, yes! I am leading up to something.

A long time ago, a London prostitute had a clever marketing scheme. If men were all too willing to walk the streets of Soho and Mayfair looking for those tiny illuminated door buzzers that invitingly announcing that "Marie, a new and young French model" lived just one buzz away, or that "Nicola, a full service Italian girl" was one flight up….well, what would happen if the Maries and the Nicolas of this lush under-world had the print shops work overtime? Forget the simple plaque on the door; how about billboards in your face and skywriters in the air? Well, after much going this way…and then lots of turning that way…and after considerable polishing of this rough stone ... the best idea turned out to be the simple 4 x 6 card tastefully gummed into a phone booth. Yes, the thing we are all familiar with: the tart card.

And that seems to be what everyone is happiest with now. Well, not everyone. British Telecom is not pleased that its charming little red icons serve as the menu holder for pleasures of the flesh. Wives and girl friends don't like their men to whet their appetites when whining lame excuses over the phone of why they are going to be late for dinner. But, it does seem to work for the vendors and the buyers. And, those are the ones that count! Right?

This brings us full circle to the invisible hands. Several times a day dozens of motorcycles sweep through London busily refreshing the little red phone booths with the offerings of the day. Sandwiched between these restorations, happy buyers, pissed-off wives and entry level employees of the phone company do a credible job of removing the newly hung displays. The phone company people haul it away to some distant burner. The buyers sneak it into their pockets. The unhappy wives shred the whole remaining lot and toss it into the dirt (dear reader, please see one of my earlier tart musings: the poignant tale about the terrible fate of Mellisa the Stalked is particularly heart gripping).

So, what is this stuff and how do we classify it?

(Another aside from Alf): Paul, I found it over here.

OK, my earliest scholarly stab in this direction can be seen at:

This useful URL will take you directly to "Plain Vanilla"; at the bottom of that page convenient buttons will allow you to explore "Medicinal Purposes," "Teaching Aids" and "Exotic Foods."

But, is this classification still germane to the new century; or is it a hoary bit that should be tucked into an old drawer? Was the Golden Age of tart cards found in the last decade of the 20th century, or does it beckon us to the future? Is this golden orb a setting sun or but a rising star?

(Yelp from Linda): Jesus, Alf! We're talking about fucking whore ads, not Holy Cards!

(From Alf): Sorry ...

I think the basic classification that I laid down years ago remains defensible. However, some new and disturbing trends have become apparent. At one time, just like in the early days of Baskin and Robbins, plain vanilla was the hands down favorite. The more medicinal, instructional and exotic flavors were bundled closer to the margins of the menu. Now, almost the reverse is true: plain vanilla is found, if at all, on the bottom shelf in aisle 12B. At eye level ... and easily reachable ... lie the rest.

Enough said on that. All that remains is the awards ceremony for the best entries in each category. And, of course, the trophies for the cards with the best and worst overall appeal will be awarded at the tail end.

(Alf, to an off wing flunky): May I have the envelopes, please!




There is only one winner in this category: Vanessa


Finally, for EXOTIC FOODS:


The Editor reserves these two niches for the very best and worst efforts in "tartcardery":


Sweet Oriental


Spice Up Your Life


For the enthusiast, the "also-rans" (as well as the win, show and place entries) can be thumbed through by category:

Plain Vanilla | Medicinal Purposes | Teaching Aids | Exotic Foods

(Linda, chirping in): Hey, Alf! Give the girl some credit ... I was also really involved in this bloody hunt for tart cards ... what about a link to MY picture: the one of me in the phone booth? Huh?

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