Phone sex lines heyday revived in ‘Dirty Lines’ series

Calling to listen to a moaning woman tell an erotic story, on a tape, for a fixed rate per minute. At the end of the eighties of the last century, porn was not that easy to get in and a big business around this calling concept. The comedy drama series Dirty Lines is about the rise of one of those companies that suddenly made tons of money. The story follows the rise of Teledutch, the first European company in telephone sex lines. The brothers Frank (Minne Koole) and Ramon Stigter (Chris Peters) run their businesses in their own unique way from an Amsterdam office. There is partying, drinking and racing around in overpriced cars. At brothel Yab Yum, the bills are mounting. Meanwhile, 24 hours a day calls come in at old-fashioned lockers where dirty talk is played.

Sex sells, including over the phone. “Turnover is profit, VAT is holiday pay”, the undisciplined Frank repeats regularly. The more calculating Ramon takes a more professional approach, although he also has his shortcomings. The story of the brothers in Dirty Lines is loosely based on the brothers George and Harold Skene and their company Teleholding.

The viewer is introduced to the wild world of Teledutch through the female protagonist Marly Salomon. In the series, the psychology student, played by Joy Delima, gets a side job at the company and sees the growth of phone sex up close. The different storylines are linked to the introduction of party drugs ecstasy and the dance culture that originated in legendary nightclubs such as the RoXY.

Great to play

The protagonists, all in their twenties, meet shortly before the launch of the series on Netflix to talk about their experiences in dance museum Our House (at club AIR). They were not yet born at the time the series is set, but the decoration on the set was so good that according to Minne Koole it was not difficult to put himself in his character. “You ended up in a warm bath,” he tells NRC in a colorful corner of the club. “The clothes, the cars, everything was real.”

Mark de Blok / Netflix

Koole plays a man who likes to make a show of life and who knows how to generate a lot of attention for his company. “The characters are bold, but not flat. Frank is an insecure boy who succumbs to any temptation. Wonderful to play. He really wants to do good and yet destroys everything.” This to the frustration of his brother, played by Chris Peters. “Chris and I have known each other for a long time and he is like my brother in real life. We can annoy each other like brothers can. Chris is more of a fun-trapper in his own right, I’m a bit more serious and have a little more control. In the series it is reversed.”

Abbey Hoes plays Frank’s wife Anoek, someone who also suffers from her husband’s unpredictable behavior. Koole tries to make his role authentic by getting into his role before shooting on the set. “Blurring reality and fiction a bit, that helps me. But sometimes Abbey would say: what the fuck do you? Then it won’t work.” Hoes: „I love Minne. Because this man is such a cracking actor, he once took the blood from under my fingernails when we had to film an argument. It did work well for the scene.”

female perspective

The series tries to look at the sexism of that time with a contemporary eye. The writers made the smart choice to incorporate a female perspective into the series through college student Marly. In the six episodes, Marly addresses the viewer directly as the narrator, among other things to explain how female lust was hardly discussed. “I also thought that was important when I read the script,” says Delima. “Without that aspect, it would have just been the view back then. Women called slot animals, that sort of thing. It’s great that you hear a dissenting voice in the series. It’s in there, without being pedantic. Because yes, it is the eighties. Then they knew nothing about the clitoris.”

Initially, the sex lines focused purely on heterosexual men, but gradually the companies also made efforts to reach other target groups. Think of a gay line and a line aimed at women. Koole: “These brothers just want to earn money with sex, nice and easy. Marly explains to them how wide fantasies are and how complex lust is.”

Dirty Lines gives a picture of Amsterdam in a rougher time, less swept than now. “It is a period that evokes nostalgia in the Netherlands, but also internationally,” says Peters. “I see the sentimental value, but it’s not necessarily a time I’d like to live in. It was buzzing in Amsterdam, there seemed to be more chance to be yourself. All that freedom was there, but you also had to be brave enough to grab that freedom. Because everything can change because you have that freedom. That’s the fight my character is fighting.”

In order to portray the time as authentically as possible, the RoXY was recreated as accurately as possible for this production. Peters thought it was special to be in such locations, especially in the middle of a pandemic (the series was filmed in 2021). „Then you are filming on Rembrandtplein in a full Café Schiller; back to what you missed so much. We’ve been running for months in the pandemic and we haven’t actually had any delays. That was really unbelievable, because everywhere there were film sets that had to be shut down for weeks.”

During filming, the actors tried not to think too much about the fact that the series will go around the world via Netflix. Peters: “You can’t really imagine it. While shooting you are not concerned with who is going to see it, you are only concerned with each other.” Delima: „We weren’t yelling: ‘Netflix! Netflix!’ It felt big because of everything around it, but on set it just felt small and casual.”

Koole: „It felt safe, together with these actors. We are of the same generation, have no egos. We really went in as a club. We understood each other.”

Dirty Lines will be available on Netflix from Friday, April 8.

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