9 episodes

During the 1-900 number craze of the Nineties, one company provided the vast majority of phone sex. American Telnet was an empire founded by the man who called himself “The Telephone Pimp.” He ran the company “like General Motors” and got filthy rich doing it. But for the (mostly) women who answered the calls and delivered fantasies 24-7, it was a different story. The powerful stigma against sex work was always lurking just beneath the surface, until it threatened to tear apart the whole company. Hosted by Tina Horn (Why Are People Into That?), OPERATOR is an eight-part series about big ambitions, Shakespearean-level corporate backstabbing, men and women at the cutting edge of a technological revolution...and on the front lines of a sexual one.
Listen to new episodes 2 weeks early and to all episodes ad free with Wondery+. Join Wondery+ for exclusives, binges, early access, and ad free listening. https://wondery.app.link/Operator

Operator Wondery

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.4 • 50 Ratings

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

During the 1-900 number craze of the Nineties, one company provided the vast majority of phone sex. American Telnet was an empire founded by the man who called himself “The Telephone Pimp.” He ran the company “like General Motors” and got filthy rich doing it. But for the (mostly) women who answered the calls and delivered fantasies 24-7, it was a different story. The powerful stigma against sex work was always lurking just beneath the surface, until it threatened to tear apart the whole company. Hosted by Tina Horn (Why Are People Into That?), OPERATOR is an eight-part series about big ambitions, Shakespearean-level corporate backstabbing, men and women at the cutting edge of a technological revolution...and on the front lines of a sexual one.
Listen to new episodes 2 weeks early and to all episodes ad free with Wondery+. Join Wondery+ for exclusives, binges, early access, and ad free listening. https://wondery.app.link/Operator

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    The End of the Line

    The End of the Line

    This episode comes out for free on 12/20, and is available early and ad-free for Wondery+ subscribers.

    With the internet slowly encroaching on the phone sex industry, Mike Pardes hires a group of Cuban exiles to replace Michael Self’s team of tech nerds. By 2004, the FCC has banned 1-900 numbers, and with profits plummeting, American TelNet is forced to close. Life after ATN looks different for everyone: Michael Self attempts to use his tech skills towards something other than servicing ‘horny dads’, Victoria continues to be every employer’s dream, and Mike Pardes lives a bachelor life in Florida - while also trying to reunite his actual family.

    The Coup

    The Coup

    This episode comes out for free on 12/13, and is available early and ad-free for Wondery+ subscribers.

    Michael Self betrays Mike Pardes and stages an elaborate company takeover, in a last ditch attempt to save First Call, his off-ramp from the phone sex business. What Self doesn’t realize is that the bad blood between the ATN partners has long been brewing, and he’s about to be double-crossed himself.
    Host: Tina Horn
    Writer: Michael Connors and Tina Horn
    Series produced by Daryl Freimark and Michael Gottwald
    Created by Daryl Freimark and Michael Connors
    Editor: Chloe Prasinos
    Sound Design, Scoring, Mix: Jeff Schmidt
    Executive Producers: Michael Connors, Daryl Freimark, Michael Gottwald, Chloe Prasinos
    Executive Producers for Topic Studios: Maria Zuckerman, Christy Gressman, Lisa Leingang, and Leital Molad
    Executive Producers for Wondery: Erin O’Flaherty, Marshall Lewy, Jen Sargent

    It’s Not Personal

    It’s Not Personal

    At ATN headquarters, Victoria works harder and longer than ever, only to watch everyone else get a raise except her. Meanwhile, Michael Self starts a “cleaner” offshoot of the company, but Mike Pardes is less than enthused when it doesn’t take off. Desperate, Self decides to take matters into his own hands...




    Support us by supporting our sponsors!

    Talkspace- Match with a licensed therapist at talkspace.com, and get $100 off your first month with promo code OPERATOR

    Simplisafe- Operator listeners get 40% off an entire security system at simplisafe.com/Operator

    Modern Fertility- Get $20 off your fertility test when you go to ModernFertility.com/CALLME  

    See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

    • 34 min
    Being on Top

    Being on Top

    ATN’s business is at its peak, but a national exposé on Dateline brings unwanted attention to the 1-900 industry. Pardes thinks there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but Michael Self disagrees and starts looking for a way out.




    Support us by supporting our sponsors!

    Talkspace- Match with a licensed therapist at talkspace.com, and get $100 off your first month with promo code OPERATOR

    Simplisafe- Operator listeners get 40% off an entire security system at simplisafe.com/Operator

    Modern Fertility- Get $20 off your fertility test when you go to ModernFertility.com/CALLME  




    See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

    • 34 min
    Hang Time (Explicit)

    Hang Time (Explicit)

    Okay, you’ve waited long enough. This episode takes you inside the phone room to hear phone calls based on the manuals, the stories, and host Tina Horn’s own years of sex industry experience. We’re taking a break from the behind-the-scenes drama at ATN to go deeper into the sex part of phone sex — while also showing the hard work of sex work. (Note: This episode contains graphic sexual content.)




    Support us by supporting our sponsors!

    Talkspace- Match with a licensed therapist at talkspace.com, and get $100 off your first month with promo code OPERATOR

    Simplisafe- Operator listeners get 40% off an entire security system at simplisafe.com/Operator

    Modern Fertility- Get $20 off your fertility test when you go to ModernFertility.com/CALLME  




    See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

    • 39 min
    Who’s Going to Stand Up for Us?

    Who’s Going to Stand Up for Us?

    As the dial-a-porn business is booming, the folks at ATN constantly face new hoops to jump through: Federal regulators. Outraged politicians. Anti-porn crusaders. Victoria’s operators need to keep the calls sexy and selling without running afoul of FCC language regulations. Meanwhile, Michael Self works around the clock to build tech despite his own embarrassment at being in the phone sex industry.




    Support us by supporting our sponsors!

    Talkspace- Match with a licensed therapist at talkspace.com, and get $100 off your first month with promo code OPERATOR

    Simplisafe- Operator listeners get 40% off an entire security system at simplisafe.com/Operator

    Modern Fertility- Get $20 off your fertility test when you go to ModernFertility.com/CALLME  







    See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

    • 28 min

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5
50 Ratings

50 Ratings

Mabes84 ,

Great podcast, great host

Great storytelling and depiction of a world not many of us know much about. Appreciated hearing a balanced historical view of this industry.

LisaLovesBeaches ,

“How I built this” 900

Very professional storytelling. Fascinating world that most of us have not experienced. Worth a listen.

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