Letters

Marie Martin
Manhattan


CURRENT AFFAIR

In his article "WBAI = Anti-Free-Speech Radio" [September 18], Nat Hentoff repeats the incorrect assertion of public broadcasting newspaper Current that public relations firm Westhill Partners worked for tobacco company Brown & Williamson during its dispute with whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand.

Brown & Williamson has never been a client of or in any way associated with Westhill Partners. In fact, Westhill Partners was not even founded until 1998, well after Mr. Wigand's allegations against Big Tobacco became public.

John Scanlon, who joined Westhill in October 2000 and worked with us until his death in May 2001, did work for a time as a consultant to Brown & Williamson several years before joining Westhill. To imply, however, that we were involved in any way with the campaign to cast aspersions against Mr. Wigand is wholly incorrect.

Current has acknowledged its error. Mr. Hentoff should do the same.

Edward J. Reilly
Founder, President & CEO
Westhill Partners

Nat Hentoff replies: Current did not acknowledge its error until September 14, and my column appeared on September 12. I join Current in correcting the record.


PUCKER UP

Bravo to Lynn Yaeger and her assault on the vacuous, self-important, and totally worthless fashion media ["Lifestyles of the Rich and Heinous," September 11]. I worked as a photo retoucher at Condé Nast for over a year and was also nauseated by this self-perpetuating sham. I toiled in a windowless sub-basement below Times Square, airbrushing away pimples, lines, pores, and arm hair. The trade secret is to reduce most of the crow's feet, eye bags and laugh lines without completely removing them so as to fool the reader into believing it's a natural look. One issue had the gall to place a headline reading "Lasers, Liposuction, and Lifts: Has Beauty Become Too Artificial?" right next to a picture of an actress I spent days Photoshopping into a replica of plastic perfection!

If any readers out there ever wonder how these starlets continue to look so good as the years take their toll on the rest of us, the truth is they don't. Teams of retouchers are kept running around the clock so fashion mags can keep foisting this dishonesty on the public. The most hideous aspect of this whole charade is that the women who helm these publications would be considered irrelevant by the very standards they promote. How much do they get paid for diminishing themselves and real women? I have no idea, but in the smoke and mirrors world of fashion, integrity is not an accessory these assholes will be promoting anytime soon.

Stephen Pierce
Hackensack, New Jersey


REELING

Michael Atkinson's odd put-down of Pauline Kael's writing and supposed influence in "As the Lights Go Down" [September 18] is as hyperinflated in tone and agenda as he thinks Kael's own work is. He posits her as virtually unassailable, or in any event unassailed (he must be ignorant of Andrew Sarris's and Renata Adler's widely circulated attacks on everything from Kael's prose style to the tiniest aspects of her taste). Then he attempts to topple her on the issues of, well, her style and taste. But those of us who found her work so affecting respond as much to its passion and wit as to her means of expressing them in a given piece. For all its flaws, Kael's collected writing will remain essential reading for lovers of film, both in these lean cinematic times and in whatever others lie ahead. It will remain so because she demonstrated that independent thought can be the means to great pleasure, be it in analyzing a movie, another artwork, a politician, or a life. As she once said, "We read critics for the perceptions, for what they tell us that we didn't fully grasp when we saw the work. The judgments we can usually make for ourselves."

Barrett Whitener
Washington, D.C.

Michael Atkinson replies: That Kael had vocal detractors wasn't the question; it's how few there were, amid the din of praise. As for her "style and taste," since when are these not challengeable issues for a critic? (Both, for Kael, had serious limitations.) A paragon of "independent thought," perhaps, but hardly the nation's most serious and searching critic.


FOOD FOR THOUGHT

For some inexplicable reason, each fall Cynthia Cotts grows obsessed about my dining habits [Press Clips, September 18]. In an October 2000 column about my depredations as an editor, she criticized me for being late to a dinner party. This week, at a moment when surely she ought to be concerned with stories of much greater world significance, she's alarmed that I opted out of a local awards dinner. Must be some New York thing, I guess. I just hope she never finds out that I usually microwave an Uncle Ben's Rice Bowl when I'm at home, or else she'd really disapprove.

As to the departure of our former political columnist, Jonetta Rose Barras, I can only say that I've never accepted a resignation as quickly as I did hers. The two of us never could agree on the appropriate level of small-mindedness, wrongheadedness, and unfairness that belonged in her column. But if she's as talented as Cotts makes her out to be, then surely we can expect the Village Voice to quickly hire Barras as a Washington correspondent, the better to keep tabs on me and Washington City Paper.

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