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One of Utah's more colorful characters was a gregarious entrepreneur named Art Brothers, who drove local, state and federal regulators crazy.

He died in Salt Lake City last week at age 85 of causes incident to age.

Brothers owned Beehive Telephone Co., which served some remote areas in Utah and other spots in the West that otherwise would not have telephones.

One area he served until his license was revoked by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was to a brothel in Nevada. He used radio telecommunications — authorized for emergencies only —from a boat on Lake Mead.

During the revocation hearing, an FCC commissioner noted that most of the calls from the brothel were to the closest liquor store. He asked how that was an emergency.

Brothers shot back: "If you've never seen a cathouse out of booze, you don't know what an emergency is."

He was able to operate in out-of-the-way places with sparse populations because he did much of the line work himself, tapping parts and gadgets he personally crafted. He even owned a small plane he flew to reach his customers.

That landed him in trouble with some sheriffs because he insisted on touching down on rural highways. He even hit a couple of cars during his landings, one causing serious injuries to a truck driver in Millard County.

His plane was confiscated one time in Millard County for landing on a highway and then taxiing into a nearby town, where he filled up his tank at a gas station.

"I kind of sympathize with the small-business man to a degree. He needs his airplane to get around," Millard County Sheriff Ed Phillips told United Press International (UPI) Salt Lake City Bureau Chief Peter Gillins, who wrote a profile of Brothers in 1980. "But we couldn't let him continue landing on the road."

Brothers, however, sneaked into the impound lot, taxied the plane around some barricades and flew away.

Beehive served about 150 customers spread throughout an area about 10 times the size of Delaware, according to the UPI profile.

"They live on remote ranches and in towns like Grouse Creek, Park Valley, Garrison, Eskdale and Ticaboo," Gillins wrote.

Brothers frequently battled then-telephone giant Mountain Bell, which had to pay Beehive Telephone thousands of dollars in long-distance interconnect fees from the customers he was licensed to serve.

David Irvine, a former PSC commissioner who later became Brothers' attorney, said Mountain Bell's lawyers "went nuts" over a moneymaking scheme Brothers concocted involving Santa Claus.

"Art was able to secure the number 12345678," Irvine said. "That was before you had to punch in the area code, so hitting 1 would automatically make it a long-distance call. He then put a recording on that line from Santa Claus to all the little boys and girls.

"Kids often punched numbers in sequence while playing on the phone and then get Santa Claus," Irvine said. "So they would call the number over and over again. And each time, it was money in Art's pocket because Mountain Bell had to pay him the long-distance fees. And Mountain Bell would get all the complaints because the long-distance charges would show up on their bill."

Hey, at least he never landed his plane in Ma Bell's parking lot.