Crack Up

How to gain success and notoriety in the crack trade

"Benetton did racial stuff early on, then went to gay-oriented issues," says Dillon, referring to the international clothier's edgy print campaign. "They deliberately developed the campaign with the idea of developing talk value, knowing full well that it'd be controversial, so it'd be written about. Whatever side of the issues you may be on, the publicity was worth it. This [the Crack Team's campaign] is on a more base level."

Kodner maintains that he'd rather shake things up -- for better or for worse -- than not shimmy at all.

"I would rather generate negative response than apathy," says Kodner, who garners more than half of his clients through direct referrals from area real-estate agents. "You look through ads in the Yellow Pages, they all say the same thing. 'Customer service' is an overused, trite comment. We don't even use it. The residential-service business has a horrible reputation. People are thrilled if you just show up on the day you say you're gonna show up."

Bob Kodner
Jennifer Silverberg
Bob Kodner
Jason Bauman
Jennifer Silverberg
Jason Bauman

Although the Crack Team's approach draws chuckles and raised eyebrows from the real-estate agents and contractors Kodner works with, nary a complaint emerges.

"It's not the way I'd advertise," says Rick Heyl, president of ABA Inspection Services, "but for his [Kodner's] business, I thought it was pretty slick. More important, people remember stuff like that. [Appliance and mattress salesman] Steve Mizerany was the father of craziness in St. Louis. He wears a bad toupee, he'd come out and roller-skate on TV -- he'd make an ass out of himself. But he was a true-blue character."

Stafford Manion of the Gladys Manion real-estate firm credits the Crack Team's bulletproof nature to the wink-wink Kodner charm bred by papa Mike.

"His [Kodner's] dad comes into the office and makes a presentation. All the girls like him -- he's a cute old man," Manion says. "These are all women here, and they laugh at it [Mr. Happy Crack]. I wear the 'Dry Crack' T-shirt to play squash in all the time, and it always gets a reaction. They recognize it. A lot of people hear it and don't associate it with a crack in the foundation."

What, then, do they think it might mean?

"Let your mind wander," says Manion.

Lately the Happy Crack campaign has gained international notoriety. Orders for apparel have arrived by the Internet from as far away as England. When Saturday Night Live comic Tracy Morgan swung through town for a Funny Bone gig last summer, he requested Happy Crack gear. And to top things off, Jay Leno introduced Mr. Happy Crack to the late-night nation, featuring Kodner's campaign in the news-clips section of a Tonight Show episode last fall.

But beyond chinging cash registers and mass-media recognition, the question remains: Medically speaking, is a dry crack really a happy crack?

Absolutely, says Dr. Lawrence Mendelow, a St. Louis colon and rectal surgeon.

"If people walk around in the wet all day, a dry crack can be more of a happy crack, to a certain extent," says Mendelow. "You can overdo anything, obviously. But, yes, a drier crack is a happier crack, in general."

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