City Desk

Alt-Press Ads Used to Be Better

Thirty years ago, consumers of alternative journalism were less concerned with long-form narrative or the perilous state thereof.

Mostly, they liked to read about music. And get high. Really high. Richard Pryor-on-fire high.

At least that's what's indicated by the March 1979 copy of Unicorn Times that I found while packing up my office (CP's business and editorial departments are moving to one floor at the end of the week; we don't need so much space these days).

The editorial is a collection of things that no longer seem possible. The cover story is about a local band who, if this page is correct, had their promising career derailed–seriously–by a review in Rolling Stone.

There's an avalanche of music coverage, including a review of Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. Perhaps not coincidentally, there's an ad for the original TokeMaster.

And there is an ad for equipment to freebase cocaine.

Seriously, this was even possible? I used to think my parents were unnecessarily harsh for restricting my D.C. visits to the immediate area around the Mall. Now I realize they were exactly right. In fact, they were probably too liberal having children at all during an era when PEOPLE ADVERTISED EQUIPMENT FOR FREEBASING COCAINE (a process whose product, the ad says, Colombians call bah-say). There's no dancing around the subject like with water pipes (they smooth out harsh tobacco smoke) or whip-its (I always wondered why Penguin Feather, where I used to buy records as a kid, sold whipped-cream accessories)–no, this is an ad for equipment that will allow you to vaporize cocaine base in a highly flammable water-ether solution. The closest the ad comes to caution is the warning that freebase "does not toot well."

Amy Austin, our publisher, says Earthworks (a "Smoke and Coke Shop"!) used to advertise in City Paper, which started up around the time Unicorn Times folded (years after this ad ran, by the way).

UPDATE: 11:14 a.m–I changed the headline because, duh, Unicorn Times was a monthly.

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  • Reid

    My heart is somewhat warmed that the location of the Head Shop is now occupied by a nail salon/spa. It would be a little depressing if it were a Starbucks or Comfort One Shoes. Sure, you can't buy a free-base kit at a nail salon, but I bet you can still get some "candycaine", if you know how to ask.

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  • Pop Cesspool

    I wonder when federal law expressly outlawed the sale and/or marketing of coke gear.

  • Orr

    Urban Verbs? Didn't they do the soundtrack for "Rural Juror"?

  • Dave

    "...when you're really serious about your smoking pleasure..."

    I'd like to see someone use that in front of a judge or a cop. "But officer, the only reason I have this crack pipe in my car is because I'm really serious about my smoking pleasure. I'm not one of those amateur drug users who smokes crack recreationally. I'm really serious about my crack usage and I simply must have the most sophisticated equipment available."


  • Aaron N.

    Wow. What a find. Reagan really ruined everything.

    NPR just did a big piece on the Verbs not so long ago...

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