Did you know that the musical “Bells Are Ringing” and Belles Receptionists™, also known as Belles Celebrity Answering Service, have a lot in common?
The successful 1956 Broadway production by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Jule Styne focuses on Ella Peterson who works in the basement office of a telephone answering service. Before the days of answering machines and high technology, the only choice was to hire a service to answer your phone when you weren’t home.This “Sweetheart of a Musical” opens with eight girls complaining about the doldrums—they’re just not getting enough telephone calls. The solution is simple, announces an advertisement: A telephone answering service!
Mary Printz founded Belles in 1956—an answering service used by many of New York City’s professionals and people in show business. Mary was known for her ability to serve her clients, going beyond just listening to her customers to the point where she would pick up their laundry, walk their dog or water their plants–even making an emergency run to get some needed scotch. Adolph Green, one of her customers, based the Broadway play, Bells Are Ringing, on Mary Printz.
In the 1977 article, Confessions of an Answering Service,” Cosmopolitan Magazine, Lawrence B. Eisenberg, wrote:
The Belles may well be the most famous answering service in the United States, even though until four years ago its own number was unlisted. It was founded in 1956 by a smashing brunette named Mary Printz, whose nicknames range from ‘Ma Belle’ to ‘The Witch of the East.’ Mary had been in business for just a short time when two of her clients— songwriters Adolph Green and Jule Styne—told her they were going to write a musical about an answering service and base its main character on her. The result was Bells Are Ringing and its opening song.…
It is said that of all the switchboard operators Mrs. Printz trained, few were better than Miss Holliday herself, who reported for instruction after she was cast in ‘Bells Are Ringing.’ Apparently, Miss Holliday became so proficient, People Magazine reported in 1979, that Mrs. Printz offered her a job.