Marijuana: William Breathes outed as late New York Times restaurant critic?

Categories: Marijuana, Media

craig claiborne.jpg
William Breathes?
By 9 a.m. today I had received at least three e-mails asking how I felt about my "real identity" as Craig Claiborne being outed in a New York Times opinion piece today by Frank Bruni. Last I checked, though, I'm not a long-dead Times food critic. Or am I? Nudge nudge, wink wink.

The confusion stemmed from this quirkily worded paragraph from Bruni's piece, "Colorado's Marijuana Muddle" It reads: "Certainly, there will be a bigger workload for Denver's Craig Claiborne of cannabis, who began reviewing Colorado's medical marijuana dispensaries for the alternative newspaper Westword in 2009. Last month, the critic, who writes under the pseudonym William Breathes, added a weekly advice column called 'Ask a Stoner.'"

craig claiborne.jpg
Craig Claiborne.
Even I had to take pause and Google Claiborne, and I'm not alone: Out of eight reporters our newsroom this morning, six were in the same boat.

Not knowing who Claiborne was is probably the first sign that I'm not him. But then again, if I was Claiborne, I would be 91 years old if I hadn't died in the year 2000 -- which he did. And plenty of 91-year-olds have no clue who they are.

Anyway, it turns out that Claiborne is known as one of the most important food critics in American journalism. He's credited with changing the newspaper food column from a toss-away intended only for housewives to what it is today: a snapshot not only of the food, but of the atmosphere and culture restaurants bring to their cities. He was a major advocate for ethnic and regional foods like Mexican fare and true, Deep South soul food.

Thumbnail image for william breathes smoking marijuana on the daily show.jpg
In comparison, I'm not that important in the world of cannabis; I would say people like Jack Herer and Ed Rosenthal take that distinction. But I am the first medical marijuana dispensary critic to be hired by a newspaper in this country -- or any other as far as we can tell. And while pot news before was limited to the occasional bust or arrest, our coverage currently includes everything from pot politics to paraphernalia reviews. I've also introduced readers to our own cannabis-related regional delights. Like Essential Extracts hash, the Colorado-bred genetics of Rare Dankness and New House Seeds, and fine glassware from Colorado glass galleries like Heady and Illluzions.

Okay, I'll admit that discovering an oil rig isn't as profound as discovering a love for fajitas -- but the two can be equally as euphoria-educing when done right.

Perhaps Claiborne's biggest accomplishment was in 1975, when he raked up a $4,000 bill at a French restaurant, consuming some 31 courses, including foi gras, lobster, caviar and buckets of vintage wines. Not only did he not eat just a few bites from each of the dishes (sounds like me when my stomach is acting up): Claiborne eventually wrote a mediocre review of the place. More notable was the amount of hate mail Claiborne received from a few humorless readers upset over the extravagance of the whole thing.

Meanwhile, the most controversial thing I've written is "Ask a Stoner" -- and I'm not racking up $4,000 bills of OG Kush, shatter oil and cannabis cake. However, I do still manage to get a few comments from humorless readers.

And that's about where the (very thin) connections end. Most importantly: Claiborne was paid to eat and I can barely muster an appetite on some days thanks to a Crohn's disease-like stomach condition.

Even so: Is it possible Claiborne didn't die a dozen years ago? Maybe his/my dream was to eventually fake his/my own death so that he could write not about food in the nation's most bustling city but about his secret passion: cannabis in Colorado.

Read more from Westword's medical marijuana dispensary critic, William Breathes, in our Mile Highs and Lows blog, and keep up with all your Colorado marijuana news over at The Latest Word.

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Joe Rogan, there's something you don't know about me. I smoke rock.

I am looking forward to visiting DonkeyHotay's website for my cannabis news. 


Coming soon to the westword, pharmacy reviews by Tyrone Biggums: prescription narcotics patient and junkie.  Here is a preview.

Went to score at the 'greens on e colfax.  This place looks legit and the location is down but the pill tender was whack so I bounced.  Here's how it played:

Tyrone - "How much coin for my fat boy 80s?"
Walgreens pill tender - "Excuse me?"
Tyrone - "Oxy bitch!  What's the co-pay?"
Walgreens pill tender - "Uh, security!?!"
Tyrone - "Fuck this, I'm out!"

Matt Leising
Matt Leising

Lol that's not you but we all know who you are in the in the industry but keep silent. It's not hard to track someone that writes about exactly what they buy when they have to give over all their information now is it?

Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@word Of course, the nature of current medicinal cannabis environment is due to 75 years of prohibition. I'm pretty sure you'd see a very corporate pot environment if it had not been banned.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Matt Leising ... WOW! ... the planets must be in alignment as Matt Leising finally gets one right.

Billy is a sooper seekrit undercover stoner in his own imaginary world ... like when he repeatedly visits and re-re-reviews the same handful of local favorite dispensaries to the exclusion of the 100s he never bothers to visit or review.

What's funny is that Patty C. is so out of touch and over-the-hill that she buys into the pretend anonymity nonsense ... or even the entire absurd pretense of reviewing dispensaries, by a recreational stoner pretending to be a medical patient.

Why not have Drunkards review Liquor Stores ... and tell us about the entryway, decor, art work, furniture, clerk fashion statements, tattoos, etc ... and then take photos of shots of whiskey, vodka and tequila ... telling us how drunk they got from it.

Or have REAL medical patients review Pharmacies ... with the same inanity ... focusing on how helpful the technician was filling their scripts for Vicodin and Zyprexa, and how "dank" the meds smelled, or how kewl they looked before ingesting them.


patricia.calhoun moderator editortopcommenter


Here's why you try to keep a critic anonymous: when he/she goes into an establishment -- a restaurant, a dispensary -- you want the critic to be treated the same way any customer would be. If the establishment figures out after the visit that the critic was there -- and yes, they can go through receipts for food/MMJ and figure out who bought what -- the critic has already done the research.

Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay Are you in pain? 

You must be in some serious pain to lash out at someone like Patricia Calhoun. I don't think anyone agrees all the time with her or this paper's views, or the way it's run, but she's always respectful and thoughtful. 

Whatever is making you so hateful, I'm sure everyone here would like to help make it stop.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@patricia.calhoun ... Bars are DESTINATION hangouts. Dispensaries are not.  

... and how'd that work out for you anyway? ... about as successful as Modern Drunkard magazine? ... LOL!

Future Features for WW:

Hire a critic to review the Prostitutes on Colfax, -- or the "escort/massage" services that advertise in WW --from a John's perspective. 

Run "Ask a Crack Whore" advice column.

patricia.calhoun moderator editortopcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @patricia.calhoun  

thanks, Donkey. I did pay attention and we will continue to review dispensaries, imperfect as the system may be. (And BTW, per an earlier suggestion, we have had drunks review can look in our Drunk of the Week archives.)

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@patricia.calhoun ... do pay attention Patty ... Billy is NOT anonymous to anyone in the Dispensary Industry ... from the earliest of his "reviews", it was trivially easy for any Dispensary in question to determine his identity -- comparing the day/week mentioned in the review, a new customer, exactly what he purchased and wrote about and the Red Card + ID he had to present to get in the door -- all part of that "Seed to Sale" REGULATION and TRACKING the clueless pot clowns BEGGED the Goverment for.

The reviewed dispensaries -- especially the ones who got burned --  then gave ADVANCE WARNING to their friends and associates at OTHER dispensaries exactly who the WW critic is, so they could be on alert IN ADVANCE when Billy shows up to do his dog and pony show.

His identity is/was long ago outed among any Dispensaries who give a shit, and they are prepared to give him special treatment / product if/when he does arrive and shows his mandatory ID at check-in ... do you really think the average Joe Patient gets a tour of the grow facilities? 

You're only fooling yourself with this pretense of anonymity, it was always a Stoner review anyway, and rarely if ever bothered to maintain the slightest charade of "medical" use, and Billy's lassitude of ignoring 100s of unvisited dispensaries while re-re-reviewing his nearby handful of favorites rendered it all the more meaningless.

You can't smoke the decor, furniture or couture of the dispensary, and since they are not destinations to hang out and consume -- it's illegal -- the ambiance is utterly irrelevant to the quality/value of the product -- "medicine" [snicker] -- itself. 

The preposterous premise of reviewing dope dispensaries is just another bong-sucker's delusion -- as absurd as reviewing Pharmacies and Liquor Stores for ambiance or style.

You would have been better off hiring "wildflowerseed" ... as least she would have pretended to keep it all about the "medicine", while leaving the puerile pot punkery in the stoner's basement where it belongs.

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