Apologies, collected from Tribeca in the ’80s

You may have heard about The Apology Line podcast: it’s a retrospective of the work of an artist named Allan Bridge who in the ’80s launched what could be called a social experiment: he invited people to leave messages on his answering machine and apologize for whatever — sort of like a phone bank confessional. “Tell people what you’ve done wrong and how you feel about it,” he said on the message.

To get people to call, he advertised it on posters — for 15 years! And where? In Tribeca. That’s the only real connection to the neighborhood, but the whole thing is so wacky that I had to record it here. The posters read, “Attention amateurs, professionals, criminals, blue-collar, white collar. you have wronged people. it is to people that you must apologize, not to the state, not to god. get your misdeeds off your chest!” And in his message he promised to play them back to the public.

His widow, Marissa Bridge, produced and hosts the podcasts, and here’s what she said about the downtown connection when I wrote to learn more:

“In the early 1980’s, Tribeca was a place where artists lived and hung out. Allan never lived there, but frequented the bars, went to parties, and visited artist friends who lived there. He postered first in Tribeca because he thought it was a place where artists and possibly criminals hung out. And once he was finished, he could go have drink at Puffy’s or Prescott’s!”

Yes, that’s us. Tribeca: land of artists and criminals.

And this teaser: “As thousands of callers flooded the line, confessing to everything from shoplifting to infidelity, drug dealing to murder, Mr. Apology realized he couldn’t just listen. He had to do something, even if it meant risking everything.”




  1. loved this story of the original Tribeca artist and every day confessing. Will be listening!!!!

  2. “From 1985 until 1995, Alan Bridge ran a toll-free telephone ‘apology line’ where callers could dial and leave a taped anonymous confession. Many called to apologize for small mistakes or indiscretions, a few for terrible acts. ‘I want to apologize,’ said one caller with a thick accent, ‘but wen I was in Israel for six months, I killed Arabs at night with a gang of other Jewish settlers.’ By the time of his death in 1995, Bridge was receiving around 100 calls a day.

    “Bridge was killed in the water by a jet skier who was never identified. Reportedly he was seen circling back to Bridge’s body, before taking off for good. Bridge’s wife Marissa insisted that had her husband survived, he would have forgiven the person who hit him.

    “To claim that Bridge was a ‘victim of noise’ or ‘a martyr for civility’ might seem overblown, but that’s how I tend to think of him. If his project seems dubious, that only serves to confirm what I feel. Not even Charles Komanoff could come up with a formulation to compute the social benefit of a work of art so radically quiet it could do nothing but listen. Were I to write a novel called ‘Loud America’ in which a character named Mr. Apology was struck and killed by a jet ski, reviewers would pan it for ‘hitting people over the head with heavy-handed symbolism.’ But this didn’t happen in a novel; it happened off Long Island, the only person who got hit in the head was Alan Bridge. He was 50 years old.”

    [This long passage is from Garret Keizer’s 2010 book, “The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise,” p. 189. A page or two earlier, Keizer reported on my work quantifying the noise-annoyance costs of jet skis. I was also the tipster who told him about Mr. Apology.]