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In NYC, Trash Baskets Talk

May 21, 1963 - While passing through Times Square today, a woman put a piece of gum into her mouth and, with no apparent guilt, tossed the gum wrapper onto the sidewalk, ignoring the trash basket nearby. “Madam!” exclaimed the trash basket. “A cleaner New York is up to you!” She froze. She turned around slowly, as Lou Costello once did in ghost movies. She glared at the metal basket on 42nd Street. “I’m Lively Louie,” declared the receptacle. “I’d like to be of use.” A crowd of curious pedestrians clustered around the basket. Some peeked through the swinging lid. “Is there a midget inside?” someone asked. Not a midget — just a small, two-way microphone. Also concealed, standing two stories above the street behind the Venetian blinds of an office, was a Department of Sanitation worker. The talking basket is just one of many gadgets, gimmicks, and catchy slogans now visible in New York to call attention to the trash basket. It has been operating in various parts of New York City since 1956, a department spokesman said today. It has rarely received more attention than it did today on 42nd Street. The Sanitation Department’s hidden “voices” are John Rubino and Charles Humphry. They said they were strictly “ad libbers” — never rehearsing such scenes.


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