My Pretty Red Panties
For years, an audio phenomenon baffled and infuriated users of Citizen Band Radio’s Channel 19 – also known as the “Truckers’ Channel” – in the Oklahoma area and beyond. It was How Curious Listener Alex Lanphere who brought this to KGOU’s attention. He used to hear it when he had a CB radio in his truck. He recalls it as “this powerful full blanking signal that drowned out everybody else who was talking. And it would read: ‘I got my little pink panties on, my night gown, and I’m ready for bed.’ And that message went on for years. I was just always really fascinated by this because it was just so strange and bizarre."
Alex had already done some web-sleuthing of his own before he turned to How Curious. He’d found an obituary notice for the man behind the strange message which showed that his name was Klaus Kramer. Alex asked me to find out more about Kramer and any other characters involved in the weird communication.
I quickly learned that Klaus Kramer also went by the name of Mike and that his CB handle was “Bam Bam.” But before I went on the trail of Kramer himself, I wanted to see if I could find anyone on Channel 19 who remembered Bam Bam. KGOU listener Kyle Fore kindly allowed me to use the CB in his truck. Alas, I got no response, though Kyle himself recalled hearing about the message from a friend.
Someone I knew must have heard it was Texas songwriter and musician, Dale Watson, because he had based a song on it. It’s called Truckin’ Queen and Dale explained how came to write it: “The inspiration was going through Oklahoma City and hearing that broadcast. He had it on a loop and the truckers were very annoyed by it and they’d get their dander up big time. Also there was this episode on the TV show Cops and they had this trucker who was a transvestite, and he just looked like a bearded trucker, so I imagined that’s what this guy looked like. I tell my audience whenever I do this song ‘It’s kinda like a Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot; something you hear about but never see’, so I made the story go along with the song."
After chatting with Dale, I wanted to talk to someone who’d known Kramer personally. By coincidence, it turned out that KGOU’s Chief Engineer, Patrick Roberts, had been friends with him. Patrick told me that Kramer had owned Mike’s Cycle Shop in Oklahoma City. Patrick described him as an interesting character who was comfortable breaking rules. Kramer’s repeating Panties message was certainly doing that. The strength of the signal that Kramer used to ensure his voice cut across everything else on Channel 19 was well over the legal limit of 4 watts for CB radios. When I asked how Kramer had managed this, Patrick said: “Keep in mind the guy was pretty good with electronics. And, with Mike, the more he got a reaction out of something, the more he wanted to do it. Hence he’ll build 1500 watts of power out of the house, cos 500 wouldn’t do the job.”
Thanks to Patrick, I was able to get in contact with Kramer’s daughter, Martha, and went to visit her at her busy family home in OKC. She told me more about the lengths her father went to ensure that his message would be shared loud, far, and wide. They included renting the roof of a physicians’ office on Shartel Avenue in to put up transmitter towers. He also had some at his cycle shop and had a 500 foot tower erected at his home in Bridge Creek. Martha recalls that he offered her $500 “if I would climb to the top and put a pair of red panties on the top of it. I got about a quarter of the way up and I got so scared, I came down. But he, at the age of 70, climbed up and he tied a pair of red panties on the top of that tower, and they were there the day that I sold his house.”
From what I heard from Martha and Patrick, it seemed Kramer had created a very elaborate hoax that required a fair bit of technological know-how and presumably also cost quite a bit. Martha agreed that it had been very expensive. But why did he do all this, I wanted to know. Was it really just to annoy truck drivers using CB Channel 19? Martha confirmed that this indeed been the case. “That was his whole purpose,” she said. “A lot of times he would hear them, and they would talk ‘where are you at? We’re gonna come find you’. And he’d be like ‘Yeah. F*** you’. He would mess with them so much. It was crazy, but it gave him so much joy.” When I commented that he sounded totally nuts, Martha immediately agreed: “My dad was completely nutty. And the more backlash he would get, the stronger he would make the signal.”
I wanted to know how Kramer had come up with his infamous message. Would Martha know? As it turns out, not only did she know, but she had unwittingly helped to generate it. She would often play with the CB radio alongside her father: “he would have me get on there and pretend that I was a lot lizard. A lot lizard is a prostitute that stands outside of truck stops. And so I would. I would just say ‘Hey, I’m here at the Love Stop on I-35. And I got my nightgown on and I have pretty red panties on. And I’m ready to get in your truck’. Then they would say ‘Well who’s your handler?’ and he would say ‘Bam Bam’. And it was hilarious.” Martha told me that she would have been around 14 or 15 at the time. I was rather taken aback. After all, encouraging one’s teenage daughter to imitate a prostitute is hardly standard parenting practice. However, Martha – who is mother of four and has worked as a nurse for over 20 years – insists that the experience brought no adverse effects, only treasured memories.
Meanwhile, the strength of Kramer’s various technological concoctions was exceeding the legal limit of 4 watts many times over. In 2001, the Federal Communication Commission cracked down on him. They initially just confiscated his equipment but when Kramer responded by setting up more and continuing his broadcasts, they issued him with a fine for $10,000 which he eventually paid. Even after that, Kramer continued cramming up Channel 19 with his message but using significantly less power.
Martha spoke of her father’s strange hobby with affection: “It was his entertainment and he loved it. He didn’t have a lot of family. He came here when he was 13 from Germany. His mother had passed away. So he really just had me and my children. He was a lonely guy and that’s what he did for fun.”
If any reader of this page happens to have a copy of a recording of Klaus Kramer himself saying his infamous message, please do get in touch with me at email@example.com
Special thanks to Robby Korth and Mark Kleine.
How Curious is a production of KGOU Public Radio. It is produced by Rachel Hopkin. The editor is Logan Layden and David Graey composed the theme music. If you have an Oklahoma-related question, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to the How Curious podcast on your favorite podcast app.
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