Web editors Jason Woodmansee and Gannon Pitre don’t actually advocate drug use, but some fans of their online parody Crack Aficionado don’t seem to know the difference.
Their takeoff on Cigar Aficionado, the high-toned glossy, has gotten misguided e-mail missives from places ranging from Pensacola, Fla., to Findlay, Ohio. One Chicago man wrote, “As a business person, I don’t have time to be driving around trying to buy….I would love to just have my own supply of real quality crack finally.”
“There are quite a few people who don’t get the joke. They either want to know where a local dealer is or what’s the recipe,” says Woodmansee, who met Pitre 10 years ago at George Washington University.
What started as a group-house effort four years ago became www.thethirdrail.com a year ago with help from former housemate Chip Borman, who writes political commentary, and former co-worker Don Bruns, the site’s designer. Pitre came up with the idea for Crack Aficionado after perusing an issue of Cigar Aficionado, taking its hosanna-in-the-highest approach toward smoking to its most irreverent extreme.
One of the online features rates the best crack on the street, assigning fake brand names like “H Street” and “Red Tops.” In the “Lifestyle” section, the editors offer tips on how to “turn your crack house into a crack home,” complete with before and after decor pictures.
“It writes itself,” says Pitre.
“We’ll see things [in Cigar Aficionado],” explains Woodmansee, “like a review of smoking jackets, so then we’ll do crack-smoking jackets.”
Some of the famous faces to grace the cover of their site include those of Oprah Winfrey, NFL player Lawrence Taylor and, of course, Marion Barry. Upcoming covers will feature actors Daniel Baldwin and Robert Downey Jr.—who’s just been hauled back into court again.
“Certainly, the patron saint of crack is Marion Barry. We’re making a conscious effort to include him in every issue,” says Woodmansee. “He brought it from the back alleys…”
“…To the front office,” Pitre adds.
Pitre and Woodmansee hope that the site will lead to gigs doing Web design or other opportunities, but in the meantime they’re satisfied with getting a few laughs.
“We’ll know we have arrived,” says Pitre, “when a celebrity whose career is on the downswing will smoke crack just to get on the cover.”—Holly Bass