As the old joke says, that's no fortune, cookie, but it ain't bad for a 28-year-old would-be novelist. (Dr. Wing Tip Shoo is one of Strasser's fictional characters.) The son of a Long Island dressmaker whose factory is distributing headquarters for the fortune cookie business, Strasser spent "most of the 1960s completely stoned." For a time he was a disciple of Scientology. The turning point in his life came when his cousin died of a drug overdose in 1972. "I still can't write about it," admits Strasser, who subsequently went back to Beloit College in Wisconsin for a degree in English and found a job on the Middletown, N.Y. Record. Two years later he switched to a Madison Avenue ad agency, then became a researcher at Esquire magazine before quitting to free-lance.
"It seemed okay to be a poor starving writer until I was 26," says Strasser, "but not all my life." Last November he came up with the idea for X-rated fortune cookies and enlisted his roommate and half a dozen friends to sort, package and ship the cookies. Now, with a pool of college students (at $3 an hour) to draw on, he sells to 100 stores and clients across the U.S. and Canada.
The 70 risqué fortunes were mostly written by Strasser, with a lot of help from Playboy ("I went through every back issue we had"). His girlfriend, Pam Older, objects to their chauvinism—one concerns a woman who lies on a sunny beach and gets "ultraviolated"—but Todd insists, "We pick on men just as much as women."
Strasser is awaiting publication in September of his first novel, Angel Dust Blues, about a teenage drug dealer. Meanwhile he is heeding the advice he once read in a PG-rated cookie: "Only man to find fortune in Chinese fortune cookie is man who makes them."
They come packaged in the same little white cardboard pails and taste just like the fortune cookies in any Chinese restaurant. Even the messages are printed on the familiar paper slips. But there the similarity ends. Instead of pearls of Confucian wisdom, Dr. Wing Tip Shoo's X-rated fortune cookies contain observations more suited to a stag smoker than the dinner table, ranging from the mildly prurient ("When in Rome, ask for Florence") to the unprintably raunchy. This year Dr. Wing Tip Shoo's creator, Todd Strasser, expects sales of over $50,000, with an estimated net of $15,000.