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.

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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?

Davie Lerner

Nat Hentoff replies: Bill Clinton, chief protector of our rule of law, did commit perjury, under oath, before a federal grand jury. It was relevant because Paula Jones's lawyer wanted to show a pattern of behavior. As for Tripp's wiretapping, no lawyer I know thinks anything will come of the Maryland grand jury probe because it is a political move, and Tripp has federal immunity.


In Sharon Lerner's October 20 HMO Watch column, she describes the irrationality of Oxford offering nursing home treatment, but not home care— which would most likely be less expensive.

I've encountered a similar situation, and believe it's not bureaucratic craziness driving HMOs but cold-blooded reasoning. When there is more than one treatment option, it makes fiscal sense for them to cover the one that is least appealing, even if it's more expensive.

HMOs assume people will give up on coverage rather than accept treatment they don't want.

Gabriel Ash

Bull Marketplace

Sharon Lerner's October 13 HMO Watch column about "Raymond R." points out the absurdity of the claims made by proponents of "marketplace medicine."

The marketplace isn't the solution to our health-care mess, in part because health care isn't a real marketplace. Raymond R. went to extraordinary lengths trying to differentiate between the health plans he was offered. In the end, he gave up and chose the plan whose phone representatives were nicer.

Fact is, if he'd chosen on the basis of coverage limits, those limits could have been changed after he signed. Another deviation from a true free marketplace is that most buyers of health care— namely employers— are not the users of health care, and have different agendas. Most employees in small firms, if they're offered health coverage at all, are given only one choice— again, not exactly a free market.

And, of course, the ever growing number of uninsured, now topping 43 million Americans, have no choice at all. That is a national embarrassment, and the ultimate failure of profit-driven care.

Timothy Mccall, M.D.

Jazz Standards

I Read Guy Trebay's "The Myth of the Starving Artist" [October 27] with great interest, having been fortunate enough to make my living as a musician and a teacher of music in New York City.

I was struck by the situation of photographer Mimi Wlodarczyk, who teaches part-time at the New School and the Educational Alliance. I am also an adjunct professor at the New School. What Wlodarczyk said about the near impossibility of getting health benefits from academic institutions today "because schools only hire adjuncts" couldn't be more true.

Readers might be interested to learn, though, that through the Justice for Jazz Artists campaign, organized by Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, the New School's jazz program— which has about 75 adjunct professors— has been forced to accept a unionized faculty. We are currently in the final stages of negotiating a contract that will include our first meaningful pay raise in the program's 14 years (only our second overall), cost-of-living adjustments, job security, health benefits, as well as a pension plan. This is an extremely meaningful development, given that many members of the faculty have worked in the jazz field for 30, 40, even 50 years without health insurance or the peace of mind that having a pension can bring.

I hope that all artists will take heart from our example and organize to strive for the decent treatment that workers deserve in a wealthy, industrialized nation like the United States.

Arun Luthra

Reel World

As a 16-Year-Old filmmaker and artist, I feel that Guy Trebay's "The Myth of the Starving Artist" underlined what my future may be like.

My teachers are professional artists, who encourage young people to pursue art. Because of such teachers, many teenagers are beginning to explore art. There aren't enough programs for teenage and adult artists. It's time we come together and do something for the arts— sort of like the older generation meets the "next generation."

Yu Yu Din

Mother Of God

In Michael Feingold's review of Corpus Christi ["Texas Nativity," October 20], he seems to forget that to Roman Catholics, the body of Christ (Corpus Christi), is God.  

It is not "hysteria" when people are offended by blasphemous references to God, the Blessed Mother, and disparaging remarks about the clergy. Even gays should be ashamed of the Catholic-bashing in Corpus Christi.

James Piekart
Stockholm, New Jersey

Michael Feingold replies: The divinity that Catholics worship in the body of Christ is predicated on his having lived and suffered as a human being. Consequently, the true Catholic-bashing is the assumption that any human experience, including homosexuality, was alien to him.

Must(o) Reading

Michael Musto's "Hate of the Union: Why Homophobia Has Become America's Favorite Pastime" [October 27] was excellent.

I wish you would allow him to write more journalistic pieces like this.

Norn Cutson

Sex & Typesetting

An advertisement for the novel Masters of the Club, in the October 20 VLS, uses terms such as "vivid exhibitionism" and "bondage" to describe the worlds the novel explores. One term, however, "spaning," eluded me. Is this a practice I don't know, or was it a misprint? I have asked all my friends, and no one has heard of "spaning."

Jane White
New York City

Editor's Note: "Spaning" was a misprint due to a dropped letter.

Schoofs Series Wins Award

Mark Schoofs has received the 1998 Science Journalism Award in the magazine category from the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his seven-part series, "How Genetics Is Changing Our Lives." It appeared in the Voice from September 30 to December 30, 1997.

Meeting On Gay Violence

A meeting of the group Radical Women to discuss increased violence against gays and lesbians will be held at 7:30 p.m. on November 18 at 32 Union Square East, Room 907. Admission is free.

Letters should be brief, and phone numbers must be included. All letters are subject to editing for clarity, legal, and space considerations. Send mail to: Letters to the Editor, The Village Voice, 36 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003. Or fax to 212-475-8944 or e-mail to editor@villagevoice.com. E-mail letters must include phone numbers.

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