LETTER OF THE WEEK
I was fascinated and very moved by Jerry Tallmer's story about the inception of the Obie awards ["Watering the Off-Broadway Garden," May 11-17]. I actually received one of those first Obies for my performance in Genet's Deathwatch (1958).That year the awards were held at the Village Gate and presented by Anne Bancroft, who was starring in Two for the Seesaw at the time. I remember every theater, every play, and every actor Tallmer referred to (including the great Julie Bovasso) and went on to work with many of them, including Jason Robards and Edward Albee (for whom I created the Orderly in The Death of Bessie Smith). What great theater! What great actors! Thanks for the memories.
Newark, New Jersey
Aina Hunter's "School for Johns" [May 11-17] is full of ignorant anti-sex bias, which does not belong in an enlightened journal like The Village Voice. I am the owner of a Bangkok massage parlor for men by men and am also a board-certified physician. I can assure you that there is nothing inherently dangerous about commercial sex and would also like to remind you that not all sex workers are women and not all clients are men. We have a small number of loyal and happy female clients. It is completely wrong that all sex workers are emotional cripples or do this work because they are incapable of doing anything else. Many of my masseurs go to college or have graduated from college. Some are married or in stable relationships. Some are good fathers and most have close and healthy relationships with families and friends. There is also a good support system in the shop. My masseurs are expert at massage and also like making the massage sensual or sexual. Most of them really enjoy what they do and take pride and pleasure in making another person so happy.
I educate my masseurs about safe sex and provide them with all the condoms they need. You must be 18 to work in my shop and all but two of my 30 masseurs are 20 or over. The customers are told that they will pay a minimum tip directly to the masseur. I encourage the clients to be generous and give more. I also remind my clients that the masseurs are not obligated to do anything they do not want to do. I emphatically support my masseurs if there are any disputes on this matter. Also, the minimum tip is approximately double what I receive directly from the client for use of the room, oil, towels, etc. I do not take money back from the masseur. I am not a pimp and the masseur is not a slave. He is not under contract with me and can leave at any time. One time a client refused to pay for the work he had done. I quickly intervened and he still refused. We called the police, who arrived immediately and told the client to pay or go to jail. The masseur got his money and did not have to give any of it to the police or to me. My typical client is a well-to-do, well-dressed man in his forties. In any event, my shop is beautifully decorated and immaculately clean. We treat our clients with kindness and respect, which is usually reciprocated.
The greatest burden our masseurs bear is the negative stereotyping and the associated negative societal stigmatization of this work. These businesses can be legalized, regulated (for health and safety), and taxed. Pimps can be eliminated. Sex workers can have clean and safe working conditions. Brothels can be made clean and safe for clients and workers. Sex workers can be taught about safe sex and provided with the tools to engage in it. Brothel owners can support their workers against abusive clients, especially if they have police to back them up. This is not utopian dreaming. It is already happening or has happened all over the EU and even in Brazil. You must realize how damaging it is to refer to us all as perverts, pimps, pedophiles, criminals, and emotional cripples, as this only reinforces negative stereotypes and avoids the real issue, which is that criminalization created most of the problems associated with commercial sex and decriminalization can solve most of the problems associated with commercial sex.
Henri Lucas Santos-Dumont
Aina Hunter replies: The former prostitutes I quoted are entitled to their views, as unenlightened as they may seem to you. Your massage parlor sounds like a wonderful place; it would be great if all sex workers had managers as thoughtful and generous as yourself.
Josephs's john story
While researching a story on prostitution in Williamsburg two years ago, I accidentally interviewed an undercover cop, who accused me of propositioning her. She must have had a quota to fill, because despite my press credentials and tape recorder I was sent to jail, where I stayed for two days. My literary agent convinced me to attend John School instead of fighting the charges, saying it would make a great story. I pitched it to the Voice but no one responded. Thanks a lot!
Fargo your hating
I was very irritated by Greg Tate's review "Signifying Nada" [May 11- 17]. I happen to love Will Smith (I also have and enjoy Lost and Found). Will is an imitation of everything that is good in the hip-hop industry? What is wrong with doing what you love? Will said he loves rapping; who is Tate to dis him for that? Tate should get a life and stop hating.
Fargo, North Dakota
The only person who sucks more than Will Smith is Greg Tate. His written ebonics bit is really insulting. "Love your culture" indeed.
Concord, Staten Island
Will Smith's hot ass
Damn, Tate. You roasted Will Smith. I smell smoke comin' off his ass!
As a regular reader of the Voice since I arrived in New York three years ago, I felt I had to do something about your atrocious new column by Natalie Krinsky. As a 21-year-old female, I'm particularly disgusted that she was the one chosen to write about the life of a young, female, single New Yorker. She's unoriginal, mean, and a poor writer. Her "jokes" consist of completely lame pop-culture references. She just wrote an entry (May 4) whose message can be summed up by "Ugly people are also bad people." I don't understand why the Voice decided to take the most recent vapid chick-lit bullshit publishing sensation and give her room to write. I like to think the Voice is more progressive than that. Krinsky's a mean-spirited, unintelligent, trying-to-be-cute-but-really- just-stupid pain-in-the-ass bitch. And don't even get me started on the girl's sexual politics. Let's keep up the high standard of cool columnists like Tristan Taormino and Dan Savage. Out with Natalie!
Latour on kids' futures
Re Aina Hunter's "Juvenile Injustices" [May 4-10]: I'm going through this with my daughter right now and Jessica Latour is the prosecutor. I'm appalled at the family court system and especially Latour's arrogant behavior, abrasiveness, and cocky attitude. She acts like this is the case of the century! My God. She is trying to destroy these kids' futures.
Re "Saved?" by Tricia Romano [Fly Life, May 11-17]: CBGB hasn't done anything for rock since the hardcore movement of the '80s. It has become an icon of itself for tourists and T-shirt seekers. It hasn't broken a new band in 30 years, and owner Hilly Kristal seems content living in its past and not cultivating a future. If it closes, I doubt it will be missed. Most people who have a fondness for the club are long gone or married with kidsor grandkids. Today's generation could care less. I see it as a high-rise condo in five years. Sad to say, but true.
I'm baffled that Robert Christgau would rate the Walkmen's Bows and Arrows a dud in his Consumer Guide [May 11-17]. While I appreciate that he is likely required to plow through questionable offerings in numbers beyond my comprehension and may not have the luxury of repeated listens, I implore him to listen again. Bows and Arrows is a deceptively simple record that reveals itself over time. It is a stunning accomplishment and one of the most passionate breakup records in recent years. Of course he may just have a thing against breakup records, in which case he is entirely without hope.
Robert Christgau replies: I gave it multiple listens, as I do almost every dud.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.