What does it take to corner the market on the illegal club drug ecstasy? A megabrand . . . and a drive to succeed. Forget such passé ecstasy brands as Versace (the name illegally snagged, of course), McDonald's (likewise), and Geminis (named for the astrological sign). A line of pills stamped with Mitsubishi's triple-diamond logo has lately been garnering universally ecstatic reviews from clubbers, the likes of which haven't been heard since the rave scene's legendary "Summer of Love" in 1988.
While it's impossible to ascertain whether this brand, affectionately nicknamed Mitsubish-E, MB, and Mitsi by customers, packs a purer hit of MDMA than previous brands on the underground market, it has nonetheless established a reputation both here and abroad as clubland's most reliable high. (Dance-music star Fatboy Slim even name-checked the brand in Interview.)
One high-level dealer who has sold the brand thinks the original batch came from Amsterdam and speculates that the current waves of Mitsubish-E flooding the market -- "It's the most copied E in history" -- are coming from Texas. He sampled one batch of Mitsubish-E, he says, and the quality didn't impress him: It was "dopey" (as in heroin). "Pills like Rolls-Royces and Batmans are equally good -- or better. It's all marketing, kind of like AOL. It's so big that you believe it's good." The best way to judge a Mitsubish-E, he adds, is by its thickness: The bad ones are thin.
The Mitsubish-E craze stands in stark contrast to ecstasy's recent history, in which complaints about weak or amphetamine-laced pills had become routine. "Ecstasy was so unreliable for such a long time that it had lost its privileged place among clubbers," explains Simon Reynolds, author of Generation Ecstasy. "But Mitsubish-E's have changed all that. I've heard nothing but glowing reviews about this pill."
Not surprisingly, the Mitsubishi company itself isn't too happy with this illicit form of brand extension. "We have heard of a drug being marketed with the Mitsubishi logo," says a spokesperson for Mitsubishi International. "It is, obviously, in no way connected to any of our companies. We are very concerned and would like anyone with knowledge about the manufacture of this drug to forward such information to our legal department."
The company has had a harder time distancing itself from Mitsubish-E in England. does mitsubishi make mitsubish-es? blares a headline in the current issue of The Face. The British dance mag Muzik reprinted a Mitsubishi truck ad with a wink-wink emphasis on its "See Your Local Dealer" tag line, and dance-music monthly Mixmag endorsed the drug in the "Best Of" section of its year-end issue.
While Mitsubish-E use has yet to reach headline-grabbing proportions in the U.S., the return of dilated pupils, back rubs, and blissful hands-in-the-air dancing at Manhattan superclubs -- where sensuous tunes like Armand Van Helden's "You Don't Know Me" and Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You" have replaced impersonal techno-house -- suggests that the rise of this megabrand might signal something more than just a drive-by phenomenon.