The Phone-Call-Chain:
Theory on Phone Call Chain - (Detective McKnight)
3 quick phone call sequence (hairy arm guy) - (unc84steve)
Telephone, Pynchon, and Lynch - (sichelshnitt)
The girl is still missing. - (gandalf36)
That Damn Arm - (FormicaRing)
Hairy arm in 'The Big Lebowski' - (Bob Brooker)

The Telephone:
I found the answering machine - (kid_with_helmet)
No Answering Machine
- (deepmovie)
The History of the World... - (Griff_MR)
Red Lampshade Revisited - (Misslinda77)
Weird anachronisms in Mulholland Drive - (Offramp)

Related: The Red Lamp Shade

It's no secret that Mulholland Drive loves telephones. All shapes and sizes and colors and types. Ringing. Shuddering. Screaming. Ceaselessly attempting to communicate something, anything, desperately trying to connect the different people, different realities, different worlds, different dreams, different loves, different Others. But when all ended in a cloud of blue smoke, it was but a roar of relays, monotone litanies of insult, filth, and fantasy. - (sichelshnitt)

I want to point out that the phone call to Diane's is actually repeated three times in the movie. The first is Mr. Roque and the phone relay: "The girl is still missing", "Talk to me", "The same"; the second is when Rita remembers the name Diane Selwyn and she and Betty call the number that matches the name, getting the answering machine ("Maybe it's not me", and then the machine answers "Hi, it's me."); and then the third time is in the Diane-awake-and-remembering portion, where the two scenes come together: The pone rings and we see the exact same shot as in the phone relay; then Diane comes into the room and listens as the machine picks up: "Hi, it's me." Then Camilla Rhodes starts to talk, Diane picks up the phone: "Diane, the car is waiting." - (ASCOTT)

The Hairy-Armed Man

Another important thing about this scene is that it gives us insights into the nature of the third character in the phone chain. He is the one in the grungy, beat up apartment or kitchen who knows Diane's number. In the film's credits he is called "Hairy-Armed Man." We never see his face, so we don't know who he is, but we do learn something about him. We see that even though the place where he is located is not being taken care of very well, he has a phone that is very important to him. In fact, the round neon light that is shining on his phone encourages us to think that the phone is the most important thing in that room, as it would be for a pimp in his profession. The Hairy-Armed Man must have access to a lot of phone numbers because he has to have a direct line to all of the call girls.
Hairy-armed man with yellow phoneThis is not the only thing that we learn about the Hairy-Armed Man. We also see that the place he is in is similar to the apartment Adam rented from Cookie at the Park Hotel, because of its run down state. When Adam shows up at the Park Hotel, it is difficult to understand why a man of his prominence would choose such a seedy hotel when he still thought he had access to all of his money. However, the logic of the dream suggests that this was where Diane ended up at one point in her life. And when the Hairy-Armed Man calls Diane, he doesn't use a normal phone number. It seems more like a number that connects him to an extension within the same building. This is very telling because we know the Hairy-Armed Man is calling Diane. However, rather than calling her at her current location at 2590 Sierra Bonita, he seems to be calling her at a place where she lived at some time in the past, at some place like the Park Hotel where perhaps she first became involved in the call girl business. In her dream, we see many elements of her past and her present merge together and by decoding which is which, we begin to understand her state of mind better. So the phone chain makes an important connection between where she was and what she is doing now. - (Alan Shaw)

Related: Ed as Diane's pimp?

I keep emphasizing that Lynch gets off on duality and loves multiple clues to things. There is nothing I've ever posted than is more true than that statement. Note the greenish, textured walls. It is a clue to another Harry, Harry Lime (as in the color of the fruit) Orson Welles' character in "The Third Man". And naturallly I've already mentioned that the man is the one-armed man so that is a second clue. - (ctyankee)

Here’s an idea. In the phone-call chain that calls Diane into the dream, the Hairy Armed Man is the guy who calls the phone by the red lampshade. We’ve all noticed that he does some strange things with the phone before he connects. That double click of the receiver thingy accompanied by two different dialing tones. Now notice how the location is a little beat up and scruffy in a similar way to Adam’s room at the Park Hotel. Now think about the possibility that what the Hairy Armed Man is doing is getting a different line, say an internal line. Like they have in a hotel, for example. That could put the red lampshade phone on an internal hotel system. Also observe that he dials only two numbers after he gets the tone – 7 and 4. Room 74? - (blu)

The Call Girl Scenario

The call in the fantasy was the result of a chain of phone calls that led up to the phone of an unknown person at that time who never answered the call. Based on the symbolism and plot line, whoever owned that phone was most likely a call girl. We also saw the arm of the "Hairy-Armed Man" making the call to the call girl's phone. Again, based on symbolism and plot line, we can guess that whoever made that call was the call girl's pimp. This is how the call girl operation that Diane was involved in probably worked: 

Mr. Roque

Back of Head Man Hairy-armed man Phone by red lamp Diane picking up

A call would be made by a client, also known as a John, to a middleman in a fancy hotel. The John would arrange to rent a room from the middleman in most cases and have a call girl sent to that room. But the John might also have the call girl sent somewhere else. The John would explain what type of call girl he wanted and then the middleman at the hotel would call a pimp to have him send over someone who fit the bill. The John would then never have to deal with people like the pimp. Call girl pimps would not have their girls on the street. Instead they would just need the phone numbers of the call girls, allowing the call girls to hide their involvement in prostitution from the rest of the world. Call girls can live a double life, as can their Johns. Because it was Diane's phone that rang at the end of the chain of calls, we learn that she is a call girl living a double life. - (Alan  Shaw)

Camilla as Diane's Pimp?

Diane's involvement in the call girl business has already been uncovered, but Camilla's complicity in Diane's plight has not been explored as thoroughly. Now, the mystery is resolved with a twist, in the great tradition of the Moebius strip. Diane turns out to be the one answering the call girl's phone, and Camilla is the one making the call. Because Camilla has made the phone call that was associated with the Hairy-Armed Man, we know that Camilla has had something to do with the pimping of Diane in Diane's real life. I believe this scene tells us that the Hairy-Armed Man is not a real person, but instead a symbol of something hairy that strong arms people within its reach like Diane in some way. The hairy thing is Camilla's beauty, represented by her long black hair, and the strong arming concerns the way Camilla essentially uses her beauty to seduce people like Diane to get them to do her bidding.
This is the smoking gun that points to the abusive nature of Camilla's relationship to Diane. We must now question Camilla's motives in wanting Diane to come to Adam's party. Is there some person that she wants Diane to meet there like "Luigi," a character who shows up later at the party? It is very possible that this is part of her motive, but other dark motives of Camilla become apparent as well. When Diane begins to realize all of this, in her mind Camilla's corruption becomes similar to the filthiness of the Hairy-Armed Man's apartment that we saw in the earlier scene of the fantasy. - (Alan  Shaw)

Back of Head ManThe "hairy arm guy" scene was filmed for the pilot. In the pilot, after THAG makes the call, the next scene shows a high tech phone in a modern office that makes high tech sounds (like a fax number). This dialing pattern might have been a code to reach the HT phone in the pilot. In the film it just shows Diane's phone ringing. I don't know why it's left that way in the film. - (richdubbya)

Trivia: The scene with the Back-of-Head man was shot inside the Tower theatre - the same location that was used for filming Club Silencio and Park Hotel (Adam & Cookie).

  • Could the hairy-armed man represent Joe, Cookie or even the Cowboy? On IMDb neither the actor Richard Mead (Hairy-armed Man) nor Enrique Buelna (Back of Head Man) have a credited movie history other than for Mulholland Dr. Are those "red herrings"?

  • We get to see only the back of someone plus another man's arm while speaking off screen. This might point to some illegal Hollywood conspiracy going on. »Lynch's clue #2

  • The phone call chain between Mr Roque, the back-of-head man and the hairy-armed man corresponds to the strange telephone sequence between Adam and the Cowboy to fix a Rendezvous, using a go-between in the person of Cynthia, Adam's secretary.

  • Note, Diane's phone by the red lamp shade doesn't have an answering machine even though we hear one when Camilla calls. Is this scene supposed to reflect reality?

Diane by the phoneDiane's tries to see it in the dream that it is the "inside" job (phone call not to an outside line but only within Roque's Co.) of the displacement of her responsibility/guilt of the hit to be on the head of Mr. Roque and his men, BUT it still "traces back" to her as she commissioned the crime. It is not only conceptual of implicating her responsibility for the hit on Camilla that she doesn't want no part of the guilt ("It wasn't me" type of deal as she avoids it and "escapes" as Betty), but it is also to tell her that "we're in deep shit if we don't clean this up and find the girl [who's missing] before the Pigs get their hands dirty on this case". 
My theory does not depend on hairy arm man to be Joe the hitman to work, but is only a bonus if it were to be true. I guess not and he's just an anonymous henchman. - (TristanLove)

Two Groups of Bad Guys

We can interpret the chain of phone calls as the Mafia diffusing the information that they are looking for a new lead actress to replace Rita who has disappeared. First observe that that chain of phone calls is before the scene in which the two Castigliane brothers present the blonde Camilla Rhodes. Otherwise it would be a contradiction.

Then I see two independent groups of bad guys in Diane's dream:

  1. The Mafia with essentially M. Roque, the two Castigliane brothers (two bishops?), the "beast" (the big guy looking for Adam at home) and the cowboy (two knights?).

  2. The two guys in Rita's Limo and the hitman and other pairs of guys in limo. The second group is to my point of view completely independent from the first.

The first put the pressure on Adam and tries to control movies at Hollywood. The second group is send by the bad Diane, the one who wants to kill Rita and that crook with long hairs. - (gandalf36)

"The girl is still missing" refers not to Rita, but Diane - she remains in her dream world, lost to the realities of her actual life of failed career, followed by the murder of Camilla. It's also notable that the phone call to Diane is immediately followed by Betty's arrival in Hollywood - and that this is Betty's first appearance in the film. During a moment when the possibility for a self-understanding and self-realization is possible, she retreats further into a fantasy world with an idealized version of herself."

Wrapped in Plastic #57

Location of the answering machine

Interesting to note that (taking a straight interpretation of the dream story) when Rita and Betty ring the number they find in the phone book for Diane Selwyn we hear Diane's voice on the same answer machine message that we hear later in the film. One can only assume (in the dream) that's located at #12 Sierra Bonita, the location guarded by the lamp lady. Note that the phone book doesn't specify apartment 12, but Diane is listed at living in #12 on the apartment listings
Further, perhaps the reason that the lamp lady has to go back to answer the phone is so that the machine message doesn't click on and the girls hear it, thus giving the game away about the hokey swap story and them realising that she is lying. - (blu)

What Number is the Hairy Armed Man dialing? - (MullOver)

The dialSince we can't see through the hairy-armed man's big hairy hand, we cannot get a good look at what he dialed. But analyzing the evidence available suggests that the first number was a 7 and the second number was a 4.

First number dialed = 7

At 17:51 on DVD, we can see the entire dial, with ten register holes on the clear-plastic rotor for the ten digits, plus closed-section covering the space corresponding to two unused digits clockwise from the 1. If you keep your eye on the seventh hole on the rotor, corresponding to 7, you can see the shadow of the hairy-armed man's finger select this on his first dial.

Also, as the dial starts to rewind, you can see the counter-clockwise end of closed-section of the rotor over the spot where the 4th hole was initially, which lies between the yellow base's labels of "3" and "4" from the angle we are viewing.

Second number dialed = 4

From the angle we are looking at the phone, the fifth hole on the clear-plastic rotor, corresponding to 5, sits between the labels of "4" and the "5" on the yellow base. Stepping through the DVD, we can see that the clockwise edge of the closed-section of the rotor is over the bottom of this spot as the rewind starts to occur. This would correspond to the hairy-armed man having dialed 4 for the second digit.

History of the Dreamworld in Phone Numbers - (HarryTuttle)

1- 2 - 3 - Phone Call Chain (anonymous) to Diane ("The girl is still missing"; "the same")
4 - Adam calls office ("everyone is fired")
5 - Joe takes the Phone Book
6 - Rita refuses to call the police or the doctor.
7 - Betty calls aunt Ruth about Rita. Betty will claim the phone line was bad when she called aunt Ruth and was misunderstood.
8 - Adam calls secretary. The Cowboy has called, but cannot be reached directly, Adam has to wait for the secretary to confirm the appointment.
9 - Betty calls the police to find out about an accident on MD.
10 - Coco brings the script to Betty from the Fax (anonymous).
11 - Betty calls "herself" at Sierra Bonita answering machine.
12 - Laura DeRosa is called in on the phone (anonymous!) when she wants to join Betty and Rita to apt. #17
13 - phone (anonymous) rings when Diane masturbates
14 - Camilla is calling to invite to the party (relate to dream phone call #3)


  • In the scene where Diane goes to answer the phone to be invited to the party there is no answering machine. We hear a machine that picks up, but there is no machine on the table - it's all a recording. - (deepmovie)

  • When Betty tries to call D. Selwin, she dials 225-2323. It also looks like she forgets to hit the CALL key.

  • Similar phones are featured in various other movies.

    The Crazies (1973)

    Blood Simple (1984)

    Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)

    Lost Highway (1997)

    The Crazies (1973)

    Blood Simple (1984)

    Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)

    Lost Highway (1997)


    Mulholland Dr. (2001)

    Twin Peaks (2017)


    Mulholland Dr. (2001)

    Twin Peaks (2017)