Down Wit

You've got a wicked, gripping story in Frank Owen's article "Wu-Tang Clan Is Sumthing Ta Fuck Wit" [May 30]!

It was refreshing to read about New York City's seedy underbelly and the kind of scumbags and out-of-town riffraff that gave New York of old its well-deserved reputation and hardcore character.

We need more of this kind of reporting to run the yuppie white-collar, drug-party types out of town and scare the crap out of professional informers. Well done.

Sydney, Australia

Fucked Wit

It's a shame that Frank Owen apparently felt the need to overplay the Michael Caruso/Wu-Tang link to sensationalize "Wu-Tang Clan Is Sumthing Ta Fuck Wit." The story should have been fascinating just on the strength of the facts: that the somewhat checkered Caruso is the personal manager of Cappadonna—an important, but not key, member of the group.

However, the constant implication was that Caruso was some kind of Svengali. And the description of him as "a manager for the world-famous hip-hop collective the Wu-Tang Clan" suggested a far more prominent role than Caruso actually plays—described later in the piece as "making sure [Wu-Tang rapper Cappadonna] gets to recording sessions on time, and handling money and arrangements when Cappadonna is on tour." An actual professional manager negotiates contracts, determines career moves, etc.

This story could have stood on its own. The transparently sensationalist spin that Owen imparted to it left me disenchanted.

Eddie Brannan

Rap Trap

Frank Owen's "Wu-Tang Clan Is Sumthing Ta Fuck Wit" was a great story! Just from the specifics about this rat, I can feel the heat coming on to the Wu from down here. As an ex-rapper acquainted through managers with the Wu clan member Remedy, I can't believe that brothers like them would even come close to falling for this guy. Ghost, Cap—please son—wake up. This guy Caruso is bad news. He won't make it in the bing. He knows this as well as everyone else. RZA should gain control over his creation and bring back a high level of knowledge and respect.

Rashaan Fitch
Fort Worth, Texas

Frank Owen replies: Following the Voice's exposé, the Wu-Tang Clan fired Michael Caruso.

Wayning Influence

I am in no way a supporter of Rudy Giuliani. However, Wayne Barrett's "Catharsis or Collapse?" [May 30], taking Giuliani to task for a "rambling New Age monologue," was counterproductive.

In Giuliani's withdrawal speech, he spoke of breaking down barriers that he himself had created. While the mayor may not have had the gonads to own up to what these barriers were, perhaps we can take some solace in the fact that he is moving in the right direction. Barrett is correct, of course, that the true test will be in his actions, not in his words. It is certainly more productive to criticize empty promises once they are proven empty.

Even Darth Vader had a catharsis that brought redemption. If it worked for him, maybe there's hope for Giuliani.

David Gran

'Pissing' Context

In Nat Hentoff's paean to Cardinal O'Connor ["The Cardinal, Gays, and Lesbians," May 23] and in his [reply] peeing on George De Stefano's letter lamenting Hentoff's defense of this antigay bigot [May 30], there were several gross distortions of truth.

In Hentoff's reply to De Stefano, he wrote that "no Catholic prelate took a different position" on issues such as gay rights and AIDS education in schools. However, many Catholic prelates, including Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, supported gay rights laws. The Brooklyn Diocese agreed with us in 1986 not to oppose our city's bill until O'Connor got on the horn with Rome to get them into line.

As for Hentoff's further claim in his reply that O'Connor "established the first AIDS-designated center in a New York hospital": That facility, St. Clare's Hospital, was on the verge of closing and was saved by AIDS money. In this regard, Hentoff referred to O'Connor's "emptying bedpans": Well, many of us carried a lot of shit in those days, as our brothers and sisters were dying right and left—a situation which was compounded by O'Connor's opposition to basic public health measures needed to stem the raging epidemic.

As for the St. Patrick's Day Parade, yes, organizers have a legal right to exclude the Irish Gay and Lesbian Organization, but O'Connor's support for their exclusion was immoral. In Catholic Ireland, gay groups are welcomed in St. Patrick's parades.

As Hentoff noted in "The Cardinal, Gays, and Lesbians," we in the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights organized a meeting with O'Connor "soon after he came to New York" (the meeting was in 1984). Karen Doherty of the Conference for Catholic Lesbians may have written the nice letter to him afterward that Hentoff quoted in the column, but she wept as O'Connor condescendingly replied to her plea for rethinking church opposition to homosexuality, "My dear, I cannot change church teaching, nor am I interested."  

O'Connor once threatened to close church-run child-care centers rather than abide by a mayoral executive order forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation—reviving the hateful canard that gay people are a threat to the young.

It is appalling how many otherwise liberal people were willing to overlook O'Connor's lifelong work against basic civil rights for gay people because he was good on some otherissues. Had he worked against the rights of blacks or Jews with the same intensity, he would have been run out of town on a rail.

Eleanor Cooper
Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights

Nat Hentoff replies: Ms. Cooper assures us that O'Connor was an antigay bigot, a conclusion that removes any possibility that he may have been wrongheaded without being a bigot. Cardinal Joseph Bernardin did not support all gay rights laws, but was more flexible. The New York law was indeed first backed by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Sullivan of Brooklyn. It should have been supported by O'Connor because unlike the previous Executive Order 50, it contained an exemption allowing religious organizations to decide whom they'd hire. As for the AIDS-designated center, he spoke to me often about it and was intensely committed to it. If O'Connor's position on the St. Patrick's Day Parade was immoral, so was the Supreme Court's decision on the same issue in the Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade. His threat to close church-run children's care centers was based on his conviction that a religious organization has a right to decide whom to hire. Agudath Israel cannot be mandated toemploy members of Jews for Jesus. I disagreed with O'Connor about same-sex marriages, as I did about his supporting the pope for recognizing ex-Nazi Kurt Waldheim as president of Austria. But O'Connor was no more a Nazi than a bigot.

Poly Graphic

Re Tristan Taormino's column entitled "Two's Too Tough" [May 30]: As a Mormon, I can tell you that Mormons don't currently practice polygamy—and haven't done so since 1890. Even then, it wasn't based on hatred, abuse, or torture. It was partly a result of murders of Mormon men by the federal and state governments and Protestant ministers. Men who could care for more women and children did so.

Next time, please make sure someone reads what Ms. Taormino writes for a sense of right and wrong before it's printed.

Brian Boyd
Morristown, Tennessee

Three's Company

Tristan Taormino's column about polyamory was one of the most succinct, upbeat, and insightful that I've read. Thanks for not trivializing the topic or making it only about sex.

Barry Northrop
Boulder, Colorado

The Color Purple

Thank you for Richard Goldstein's "Lazio to CBS: I'm No Pansy" [June 6]. I'm glad someone noticed Rick Lazio's antigay pansy comment. As I told my lover, "I can't believe he said that!" I was surprised that the media—including the gay media—basically ignored it.

Christopher Koppel
Washington, D.C.

Garden Variety

To use a George Bushism, I equate pansy with wimp: i.e., someone who is afraid to exert the strength of their own personality, a non-risk-taker, ultimately, a flower. Perhaps to the gay community, pansy means something else.With the many slurs and euphemisms forhomosexual, I'm amazed the gay community chooses to claim another.

Richard Paine
Island Park, New York

Richard Goldstein replies: If Mr. Paine goes to Webster's dictionary, he will find pansy defined as a derogatory term for homosexuals. It's no surprise to me that antigay epithets enter the language as general insults. That sort of cruelty ought to be confronted whenever it occurs.

Inside Story

"The Riot Academy" [May 30] by Jennifer Gonnerman was fabulous. As a television reporter, I've covered the mock riots at the West Virginia pen since its inception, and never have I read a piece that captured its essence so accurately. It brought tears to my eyes to read someone describe the action so vividly.

Mel Hopkins
Wheeling, West Virginia


I appreciate J. Hoberman's plugging High Times in his review of Grass ["Smoke and Mirrors," June 6], but I didn't appreciate his snide reference to our film awards show. It's called the Stonys, not the Dopeys.  

Steve Bloom
Senior Editor, High Times
and Producer of the Stony Awards

Welfare Fraud

Elisabeth Franck and Miranda Leitsinger's article "System Failure" [May 23], charging favoritism by the city toward HS Systems and exposing a pattern of shoddy practices, inhumane conditions, and an assembly-line approach to screening disabled welfare recipients, was no surprise to those of us who have been fighting HS Systems for years and getting nowhere.

As far back as 1993, when I was on the City Council, I complained to HS Systems president Yvonne Jones and to the city about horrible conditions at HS Systems' facility on West 45th Street. This action resulted in promises of reform, most of which were not kept.

In spite of years of complaints by neighbors and welfare advocates, and substantiated charges of dangerous wrongdoing, the city continued to renew HS Systems' contract and defend its record. So close did this relationship seem that in late 1997—when I, along with Community Board 4, urged the city not to renew HS Systems' contract—we received extremely similar letters from HS Systems and the city Human Resources Administration commissioner defending HS Systems' record.

Meanwhile, HS Systems' staff of 15 doctors was seeing more than 700 people a day and performing 80,200 examinations per year. It is no wonder that challenges of determinations of fitness to work resulted in 40 to 50 percent of the decisions being overturned or withdrawn.

State Senator Thomas K. Duane


Due to an editing error, Hell's Kitchen Netactivist John Fisher was incorrectly quoted in "Fanning the Flames" (June 6) as saying that the neighborhood e-zine MorningsideHeights.com is "mostly listings of stores on the streets." Fisher was referring to www.nysite.com

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