Rent Dispute

Brian Parks shows selective memory in a recent item in the Stage Left column ["Facts in Trouble," October 20].

Parks writes that he killed my article on the plagiarism controvery inolving Rent playwright Jonathan Larson and novelist Sarah Schulman because he found only "minor similarities" between the musical and Schulman's novel People in Trouble. In fact, the similarities laid out in my piece, which was published in January 1997 in New York magazine, were basic to the characters, dramatic situations, and narrative structures of both the novel and the musical. More significantly, Parks does not mention that my story included a source who alleged that Larson had admitted his use of Schulman's material to him.

Given that the article was intended only as a report on the rumor of plagiarism rather than an attempt to prove it, and that I offered to refocus the piece on the differences between the two works, I thought Parks's decision to kill my piece strange.

Schulman's explanation in her book Stagestruck, that an intimidating phone call from the New York Theatre Workshop caused the article to be killed, seems more plausible than Parks's unsupported suggestion that there was insufficient evidence that Larson ripped off Schulman.

Dudley Saunders

Brian Parks replies: The story was intended as a report about facts, not rumors. After reviewing both the novel and the musical, I felt there was not enough similarity to justify a charge of plagiarism, and chose not to run the story.

Red Alert

Alisa Solomon, in "Back to the Streets: Can Radical Gay Organizers Reignite a Movement?" [November 3], dismisses "sectarian parties" who are "eating up time with rhetorical digressions. . . . " This red-baiting is a barrier to rebuilding a movement.

We in the International Socialist Organization argue for broadening the movement. The political atmosphere in this country has never been more favorable for involving working-class straights and gays in a movement to repeal antigay legislation and win civil rights. A Time/CNN polls show that 82 percent of all Americans oppose discrimination against lesbians and gays. AFL-CIO chapters from Texas to Iowa City unanimously passed resolutions against antigay violence after Shepard's killing.

Using the homophobes' language and flashing mirrors at Halloween night paraders to brand them all bigots alienates potential supporters and blames the wrong people for homophobia. "Queer" is probably the last word Matthew Shepard heard as two bigots smashed the life out of him with a gun. Why revive the inward-looking and radically anti-working-class strategies that crippled ACT UP, Queer Nation, and Lesbian Avengers?

Members of the ISO made up 10 percent of those jailed for 24 hours at Shepard's political funeral, initiated the call for the building of a new movement, and arranged for the meeting space to plan the new movement. Red-baiting dissenters and writing anti-Stalinist working-class fighters out of the history of gay struggle is not the basis upon which a new movement will be born.

Sherry Wolf
International Socialist Organization

Alisa Solomon replies: I'm all for a broad-based movement, but leaping to accusations of red-baiting whenever divisive tactics are questioned is not the way to build one.

I Didn't Impale

Re Nat Hentoff's "The Glitterati Attack Ken Starr"[October 27]: If President Clinton had been disbarred in 1992 for perjury in a federal civil action and before a federal grand jury, he would not have been nominated for the presidency.

No one would have dared to argue that he was fit for the presidency because his perjuries involved only consensual sexual acts. Now the same people argue that Mr. Clinton should not be removed from office because his federal perjuries, having involved only consensual sexual acts, are not impeachable offenses.

As an attorney, I can tell you that no lawyer would dispute that Mr. Clinton, if guilty of perjury involving only consensual acts, is disbarrable. Hence, those who think that Clinton is beyond the reach of impeachment are willing to continue him as president even though the courts would disbar him as morally unfit to represent anyone with respect to any matter.

It is hard to say which is the more dreaded: a lying president who, seeing that discovery is imminent, confesses and pretends to be contrite, or a people so morally weak that they will submit to be governed by a liar.

Harold J. Reynolds
Scarsdale, New York

Wire Traps

Nat Hentoff missed the point in his column "The Glitterati Attack Ken Starr": If President Clinton committed perjury before a grand jury, he should have been tried in a court of law, where he could have refused to answer questions about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky on the grounds of self-incrimination. He was asked questions that were irrelevant to Paula Jones's case.

The second charge, obstruction of justice, stems from a case that is built on tainted evidence— Linda Tripp's illegal taping of her conversations with Ms. Lewinsky— without which the independent counsel's attack on the president would have failed.

A court would have rejected the evidence as having been illegally obtained. Mr. Hentoff is riled by the FBI's "roving wiretaps"— well, what about someone being taped without knowledge or permission, and the information being used to build a monumental case against you?

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