City Zoo: Fools' Paradise

April 02, 1992|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

Callers outnumbered visitors yesterday at the Baltimore Zoo. It was April Fools' Day.

"We had over 1,300 phone calls," said zoo spokeswoman Jane C. Coyle, referring only to the April Fools' pranks.

She batted off a few of her favorites: "Is G. Raff in?" "I'm returning Ellie Font's call." "Returning Al Gator's call."

"One asked for Mr. Wolfman," Ms. Coyle said. "I think my favorite was Harry Wolf or Ted Bayer."

The callers for the most part were the prank victims -- returning what they thought were telephone calls to them.

"These are people who genuinely had been had when they called," Ms. Coyle said. "One guy called for Ellie Font from his car phone."

For the record, the greatest number asked for Mr. Lyons -- 284 of them.

Overworked zoo receptionist Janet Biscoe had to answer all the critter callers, starting at 8:30 a.m. and continuing until closing time at 4:30 p.m.

To the very end, she felt sorry for people who seemed embarrassed at having been fooled.

"We had a lot of 'excuse me's,' 'I'm real sorry,' 'I have the wrong number,' and just plain old dead silence and the hang-up," Ms.Coyle said, noting that the hanger-upper count was 480.

"Some were just 'ohhhh,' or complete laughter. I had one guy who completely broke down, who said it was the funniest thing that ever happened to him," she said.

Zoo Director Brian Rutledge was pleased so many had a sense of humor but said, "It's hard to run a business when the switchboard is full of bears and elephants."

Although they did not have an exact count, zoo officials said they had fewer visitors yesterday than callers.

Ms. Coyle had a ready suggestion for easing the zoo's April foolery next year: "Call McDonald's and ask for Mr. Berger."

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