The Simpsons has been a television staple for over a quarter century. Considering that most of the states in the US have a town called ‘Springfield,’ which is home to Homer Simpson + his family, the exact whereabouts of Springfield have been debated over the years. However, when it comes to the famous Moe’s Tavern from the show, there’s no debate: it was inspired by a former Jersey City bar called Tube Bar, formerly located in Journal Square. This bar and its gullible bartender, “Red” Deutsch, were the inspiration for Bart Simpson’s famous phone pranks and for Moe’s Tavern overall. Read on to learn more about this iconic spot from The Simpsons and its Hudson County connection.
The Infamous Phone Pranks
Jersey City was not only the inspiration for Moe’s Tavern, it also inspired one of the show’s most endearing gags — Bart’s phone pranks.
In the 1970s, two Jersey City natives, John Elmo and Jim Davidson, regularly prank-called Tube Bar — a Journal Square bar located across from Loew’s Theater (currently located near Duane Reade).
Tube Bar was owned by heavyweight boxer Louis “Red” Deutsch, a large man with a gruff voice, dirty vocabulary, and a memorable way with threats.
(Photo credits: @thesimpsons)
Like Bart, John and Jim would call the bar and ask for nonexistent people whose homophonic names were actually dirty puns — such as “Al Coholic.”
Like Moe, Red would call out the names, oblivious to the prank. Once Red caught on, he’d respond with hostile threats in a profanity-laced tirade against the pranksters.
(Photo credits: @hankazaria)
Among his threats, Red shouted, “I’ll cut your belly open and show you all the black stuff you got in there!” or, “Why don’t ya come over and be a man? Why don’t you show yourself, eh! I’ll give ya’ a hundred dollars to do it. I’ll give ya five hundred! Show your face!”
Going Viral Before the Internet
John and Jim recorded the calls and began circulating the cassette tapes to their friends, who then recirculated the tapes to their friends, then friends of friends, until the tapes became an underground sensation. By the 1980s, dubbed cassette tapes were being called the Red Tapes, or the Tube Bar Tapes, and were being shared between the staff of many major league sports teams such as the New York Mets, LA Dodgers, and the Miami Dolphins. Before the internet, these tapes went viral, spreading through sports leagues, sports reporters, and then to the media at large. By 1981, one of John and Jim’s gags was adopted into the movie, Porky’s.
During the 80s, record labels released various copies of the tapes until John and Jim came forward in the 90s to claim copyright of the tapes, officially releasing their own version under the name the “Bum Bar Bastards.”
(Photo credits: @spotify)
From Jersey City to The Simpsons
The Simpsons creator, Matt Groening, had gotten his hands on one of the tapes and it inspired the development of Moe and his bar.
(Photo credits: @thesimpsons)
Matt has since professed his love for the tapes, especially the “Garden Grove calls,” which you can still hear today on YouTube. Matt describes the similarities between Bart’s pranks and Tube Bar calls as “creative synchronicity” while co-developer, Sam Simon, explained on The Howard Stern Show that the jokes are an “homage to, or parody of, the classic Red tapes.”
What Became of Moe’s
Tube Bar was located at 12 Tube Concourse, adjacent to the entrance of the Journal Square PATH station (now 46-78 JFK Boulevard). In 1980, Red sold Tube Bar, and in the mid-90s, the bar was relocated to 50 Journal Square and renamed The Journal Square Pub (most recently the shuttered JSQ Lounge).
After selling the bar, Red moved to Florida and died in 1983.
While Tube Bar has closed, its legacy lives on through The Simpsons and within the hearts of troublemakers everywhere.