“What’s up beautiful? This is America’s number one hustler, Ice-T.”
And so begins perhaps the most unlikely of conversations happening on phones across the country as startled recipients pick up the receiver to hear rapper-actor-director Ice-T on the other end of the line.
Or is he?
It’s Ice-T’s voice, for sure, but don’t let the personalized message fool you. While the message is heartfelt, the man behind it is not really there wishing you a Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas or Happy Fourth of July.
Ice-T is also a reality-TV star and here’s the reality: Your friends (or sister or brother or mother) paid him to do it. And they could get Snoop Dogg, Mike Tyson, Hilary Duff or even Ice-T’s wife, Coco, to call you, too.
“You’d be surprised at how many times I’m in an airport and someone says, ‘Do my answering machine. Call my brother. Say something to my mother,’” Ice-T told Goodmorningamerica.com in a phone interview – where, in this case, he was actually live on the other end of the line – of why he decided to join the roster of celebs on CelebCalls.com, a fee-based service that allows fans to have their favorite stars send a personalized message via either a phone call or e-card.
“A lot of times people want pictures but a lot of times they hand me the phone to talk to their relatives. I’ve had girls say, ‘Please, please, call my boyfriend and tell him we’re hanging out,’” he said. “And you do it, you do it for your fans. But this way they [the fans] can just do it.”
The “Law and Order: SVU” and “Ice Loves Coco” star, like the other nearly 50 celebrities signed up with the service, spent hours in a recording booth taping themselves delivering every possible message.
“We read like 500 things,” he said of his and Coco’s experience. “I didn’t know there were that many girl’s names, trust me.”
The recordings go into the automated system and from there it’s like a game of MadLibs for the fans willing to pay $3.99 to surprise their loved one with a call. The concept was dreamed up by its CEO, Chris Webb, an entrepreneur from Louisville, Ky., who was looking for a unique way to connect celebrities with their fans on a more personal level.
“There’s a basic conversation I give, then you plug in all of these parameters that make it personal. You put in your name, his name, his age, one of his hobbies. All these little things that are personal,” Ice-T explained. “It’s a way to give your friends a gift from a celebrity. It’s easy, it’s unique and it’s cheap.”
For the celebs, it’s a commission-based deal, meaning the most popular celebs on the site – Ice-T ranks high along with Snoop Dogg, NFL star Ben Roethlisberger and rapper Game – make the most money.
“Of course I want people to pick me the most. If you’re popular, you make money,” Ice-T said. “You want Ice-T to call you. It’s going to be funny.”
The rapper is not driving up his own ratings, however, admitting that neither he nor Coco has used the service to surprise each other or their family and friends.
Just the idea, though, got Ice-T thinking about who even he would be shocked to hear from. “I would make Charlize Theron call Coco; she’d freak out,” he said.
“I’d probably like Mike Tyson to call me because he has such an interesting voice,” he said. “That’d trip me out if Mike Tyson called wishing me a Happy Birthday, Christmas or Father’s Day.”