The driest little cracks in St. Louis County are all the rage in the New Yorker these days.
Bob Kodner, CEO of the Crack Team foundation-repair company, reports that he has sold more than $60,000 worth of "Mr. Happy Crack" boxer shorts, T-shirts, ball caps and bobbleheads since commencing in November to run a microscopic advertisement in the highfalutin rag.
The august mag's ad milieu, dominated by quirky gift suggestions for the intellectual-about-town -- your croquet mallets, your videos for cats -- has proven a boon for the Crack Team's merchandise, which relies upon drug- and butt-centered innuendo featuring the company slogan: "A dry crack is a happy crack!" (Kodner's basement-sealing business and its crack-gear sideline were featured last March 5 in Mike Seely's news story "Crack Up.")
"I think our ad campaign is so lowbrow that it's almost highbrow," reasons Kodner, whose postage stamp-size piece of New Yorker real estate figured prominently in a story about such ads in the Washington Post's Style section last month, and whose ads also appear on the Onion's Web site. "I think there's an element of appeal to people who are somewhat intelligent. So I figured if some schmuck could sell French berets in the New Yorker, Mr. Happy Crack has to be there. He's a cosmopolitan guy, Mr. Happy Crack."
Kodner reports that the apparel boom, complete with Web site (www.mrhappycrack.com), has even yielded prospective foundation-repair franchises in areas like Toledo and upstate New York.
"Mr. Happy Crack" ads in Rolling Stone haven't been quite as successful, however.
"People see our ad in the New Yorker and order online," says Kodner. "People see our ad in Rolling Stone and call up fucked up at three o'clock in the morning wanting a catalog."
You Don't Know Dick
Only five days to go till election day for Dick Gephardt -- election day meaning the Iowa caucuses, which will make or break the Gepper's presidential prospects. For a closer look at how things are going up Iowa way, Unreal checked in last week with Sam Barta, 49-year-old proprietor of Sam's Sodas and Sandwiches on West Fifth Street in Carroll, Iowa (population 10,000), as the restaurant prepared for a rousing Countdown to Victory With Carroll County Democrats.
Unreal: Sam, are you a Democrat?
Sam: I'd rather not say one way or another, because I have to feed everyone.
Very diplomatic, Sam. What sort of sandwich are you preparing for Dick Gephardt, and what flavor of soda has he pre-selected?
Up this way, he always talks about peach pie. Last time he was looking at a club.
Okay, but did he eat it?
He didn't have time. We served all the media people, and by the time he got his order in, they were pushing him out the door.
How did Gephardt's campaign select your restaurant for its event?
In my opinion, I represent the middle class. And I'm the only restaurant in mid-downtown. I represent the four- to five-dollar meals, not the ten- to twenty-dollar meals. And the homemade pies.
In your experience, how stage-managed are these events?
Basically, all week long they keep calling me, talking over different situations. Then, one hour ahead of time, they'll come in and redo my restaurant. Tear it apart. But it's good -- they put a good show on.
What do your customers think?
Pretty much, it's a conversation piece. It creates conversation. I do have a George Bush doll. It talks -- one button is for Democrats to push and one's for Republicans.
If Gephardt ran for statewide office in Iowa, would he win?
If he loses Iowa, is he toast?
He's run before, so he's got to have some support, especially in the St. Louis area.
No, he's toast.
December was a beautiful time in St. Louis, and Unreal ain't only referring to the weather. Dueling Miss Bosnia pageants last month crowned both Miss Bosnia St. Louis and Miss Gypsy Bosnia St. Louis.
Twenty-year-old Maryville University student Dzenana (pronounced je-NA-na) Delic took home first prize in the former competition, besting twelve fellow contestants at jam-packed Bosnian hot spot Club Aquarius. Topping two categories (evening gown and casual wear), Delic snared the first prize of $750.
Two weeks later, on Christmas day, seventeen-year-old Azemina Secic beat out five rivals to snag Miss Gypsy Bosnia St. Louis at Restaurant Hollywood. Secic, who works at the McDonald's on Kingshighway and Chippewa, got no money for her triumph, but she did take home a snazzy gold ring.
Both events received substantial coverage in the Astoria, New York-based newspaper SabaH. Photos of the winners took up nearly half a page each in the Bosnian-language weekly.
But the question remains: Who is St. Louis' real Miss Bosnia? Though Gypsies differ slightly from their fellow Bosnians in complexion and religious affiliation, Secic would have been eligible for the Miss Bosnia contest. Delic, however, likely would have been discouraged from entering the rival pageant. On those grounds, Club Aquarius owner David Bilic dismisses the legitimacy of the Miss Gypsy Bosnia crown. "Don't write about that," he admonishes Unreal. "Our girl was better."
Secic says she would have entered the Aquarius tussle had she known about it, because it was more glamorous. "To be honest," she says, "I think theirs was much more better."
A Season on the Brink
The Sanford-Brown Indians were only able to practice once in the three weeks prior to their date with Bible Baptist College on January 8, and boy, did it show. Given ample opportunity to score by way of floor general Gary (eighteen points) Lenoir's deft breakdowns of the opposing Patriots' press, normally reliable center Jeremey Harris botched a plethora of gimmes that would have kept the Indians in the contest, which they ended up dropping 83-70. Harris, mind you, was playing with a staple embedded in his left hand, courtesy of an on-the-job accident at his part-time construction gig, once again reminding the sports world at large that the average Indian hardly fits the stereotype of pampered, PlayStation-addicted college athlete. Up next for the 4-7 Indians: St. Louis Christian College on January 16 at 6:15 p.m., as part of a tournament at Concordia Seminary.
Shine On You Crazy Comedian
Jules Summerville shines shoes at Lambert Airport. He's also a stand-up comedian, which may come in handy in the wake of news last week that his entire profession may be gone from Lambert by fall. Barring an outside company stepping in and picking up the business, he worries he's going to have to "get something in labor." He prefers shining shoes.
"It's independent work," says Summerville. "You don't have nobody over your back yelling at you to flip the burgers, or if you leave the fries in the grease for two minutes you get fired."
Now in his ninth year on the job, Jules used to get more than 30 clients a day, but that number is now down to a dozen. Many of them are old men, and their shoes require a lot of work.
"They have the nastiest shoes I've seen, lawnmower grass all in them. That's because they don't do shit but work around the yard all day."
White guys in general aren't much for shoes, explains Summerville, who goes by Master Jules when he emcees a talent contest every Wednesday night at Lady A's in Pagedale.
"White people ain't into the flashy shit. They into saving for the future. Black people -- we into flashy shit, the hell with tomorrow. We might not make it to tomorrow." It goes back to elementary school, Summerville maintains. "The white kids at my school had Doc Martens with duct tape all over them, but at least they had lunch money. The black kids had nice shoes, but we had to beg the white kids for lunch money."