Labor Day Charade
Peter Noel plays fast and loose with the facts to attack me ["At Each Other's Throats," October 6]. I did not "march behind a racist float" in a Labor Day Parade in Broad Channel, Queens, as he wrote, which he knows since he told one of my staff members that he has my statements strongly and publicly condemning that grossly racist float.
In fact, I was at the front of the parade campaigning among the people who were watching, and left when it started raining. The float was at the very end of the parade. Had I seen it, I would have loudly protested before leaving.
Noel tries to cover his falsehood by seeming to give my side, writing that "Hevesi later denied he was aware that the float was part of the parade." That makes me sound like a weasel. As if I marched behind this float, but now I'm trying to claim that I didn't know it was part of the parade.
That is not what happened, and it is not what I said.
I have fought against bigots of every type and every color. I denounced Joseph Kovner, the Jewish council member from Deer Park, New York, when he called State Comptroller Carl McCall a "Harlem nigger," and demanded Kovner's resignation. I condemned the bigotry of Queens council member Julia Harrison when she attacked Asians, and I supported her Asian opponent in the last election. I have gone to Queens to confront school board member Frank Borzellieri and his campaign of hate against racial minorities and gay men and lesbians. And I attacked Khallid Muhammad as "the leading anti-Semite, anti-Catholic and anti-gay bigot in America."
Disagree with my positions all you want, but do not use falsehood and distortion to try to paint me as a racist.
Alan G. Hevesi
City of New York
Peter Noel replies: It doesn't matter if Alan Hevesi was at the back or the front of the parade. The truth is that he was at a racist parade, and was exposed. It strains credulity that he was not aware of the float carrying white men in blackface parodying the murder of a black man in Jasper. This was not the mammoth West Indian Parade or the St. Patrick's Day Parade. This was a tiny parade in a predominantly white, backwater enclave in Queens. Is this the same Alan Hevesi who could not separate Khallid Abdul Muhammad, the messenger, from the message of the Million Youth March? Hevesi's dilemma is that he doesn't know how to undo the political harm he has done to the African American community.
What the hell is Karla Jay talking about? ["Queers Ahoy: The High Price of Gay and Lesbian Travel," September 29] Maybe the ignorant, racist/colonialist/imperialist tourist who wants to travel, but not see? Such tourism--gay or straight--should be examined. These cruises and packages often have exclusive beachfront properties in places like Jamaica, leaving locals with less and less seafront access. Why not stay home? Go to Florida. Why the Nile, or the Bahamas, or Thailand? Clearly, not for the history, culture, or the people.
In Jay's discussion of sex, she blatantly disregards the populations of several travel destinations. Was it that she was writing about gay clients of the sex trade--not straight businessmen with poor Thai women--that allowed the Voice to print this article that disregards the lack of economic and social mobility that exists for young Thai men?
In the piece, a travel agent is quoted as stating of Thailand that "the sex is very readily available" and "elderly gentlemen are the delight of young Thais." Really?
Finally, "Queers Ahoy" and queer package trips themselves assume terrible things: that straight and gay people cannot be social partners (one man in the article laments the possibility of having dinner with straight people); that gay people have not carved out niches wherever they live in the world; that as a traveler you have no interest in meeting locals and finding out how they live; that you can act any way you like wherever you go in the world.
Queer, or loving the same sex, means different things all over the world. Find out instead of pissing on their beach.
It really is amusing to watch Richard Goldstein give himself a hernia from worrying about "Sexual McCarthyism" aimed at Bill Clinton [September 29].
Isn't Clinton a McCarthyite?
Isn't it his attorney general who went into court to defend his "don't ask, don't tell" witch-hunt against gays? Isn't it international sexual McCarthyism for Clinton to station 5000 troops in Saudi Arabia in order to defend an absolute monarchy that, among other things, prohibits women from driving cars?
Why should gays in the military, who have lost nine lawsuits challenging Clinton's policy, rally to his side now? For that matter, why should anyone else give a damn about this opponent of sexual equality?
Liberals supported this nonstop, double-reverse, triple-whammy perjurer as their lesser evil. We don't know if he'll get what he deserves, but they are forever exposed as the crackpot realists that they truly are. Listen to them again, and you will hunt rabbits in the sea.
Richard Goldstein replies: Brenner's adventurism overwhelms any productive analysis of the current situation. It isn't Clinton, stupid; it's the precedent this wholesale violation of privacy sets--one that could rebound against even righteous Clinton haters who happen to harbor a dirty secret.
Cold, Cold Heart
Re Sarah Vowell's review of the Hank Williams box set ["Ain't No Light," September 29]: Did I get her meaning? Does she call into question Hank's sincerity because, in her estimation, he acts incongruously with his songs? She cited too-chipper-for-her-taste repartee between Hank and Minnie Pearl in which Hank says, "For two cents I'd just haul off and kiss ya," to which Pearl replies, "Anybody got change for a nickel?" Apparently, Vowell would've preferred something like, "That sure is a goddamn ugly hat yuh got there, Minnie. Yuh know, I've lost my will to live. This next song..."
Then there was the odd implication that Hank had somehow duped all the folks in "crummy little backwater churches" who sang his song, "I Saw the Light" (cuz Hank was too much of a drunk to see the light). You're right, Sarah. Hank sucks. He ain't keepin' it real. And this whole time I thought the music was the thing. Thanks for setting me straight. Can I borrow your Hanson records? They seem like happy people, just like their songs.
Amy Taubin's review of The Brandon Teena Story ["Splitting Image," September 29] was interesting and informative, giving a clear picture of Teena's situation and its cinematic representation.
I was surprised, however, that Taubin used the feminine pronoun "her" to refer to Teena, who was born with a female body but identified as a man. Taubin says, "They raped her because they were enraged and threatened by her sexuality ('Brandon's gender was a real problem,' one of them opines) and they murdered her to keep her from fingering them as rapists." While Teena's gender-queerness certainly worked against him, he was raped and killed because he was transgendered--because his outward gender expression did not match his genitals. To represent the situation as misogyny and homophobia is to ignore the reality of trans-oppression and to perpetuate it again.
As someone who grew up on a farm in Iowa, I believe that documentarian David Sutherland captures the essence of life in rural America better than any movie or documentary I have seen by doing exactly the things that Tom Carson criticizes in his review of The Farmer's Wife ["Soap of the Earth," September 22].
Sutherland does not "swell their story to the stature of myth," as Carson suggests; rather, he evokes the stark reality of rural life. Shots of Darrel Buschkoetter driving a tractor against a beautiful sunset don't diminish the difficulties facing him and his family; they emphasize the sights and sounds that tie Darrel to the land. It is this reality that keeps farmers going long after economic common sense tells them to quit.
Anybody who tries to write press criticism for Don Forst [currently Voice editor in chief] has my sympathy (he stopped my New York Newsday column after a year), but James Ledbetter's farewell column, while long on Gramsci's "pessimism of the intellect," seems lacking in "optimism of the will" ["Everyone's a Critic," September 15].
Certainly, there is more competition today. But to blame the segmentation of the media, or the "suburbanization of the mind," for the column's declining fortunes begs a few important questions.
At its best (in my view under both Cockburn and Stokes) Press Clips has always been based on strong, original media reporting. Perhaps New York was less atomized then. Certainly anyone who watched Stokes work the Lion's Head saw an amazingly diverse collection of sources in one room. But as his editor, I can tell you that Stokes also worked the phones, the public records, and got out of the office. He wrote about the tabs because they covered the city. The New York Times was much more suburban in the '70s and '80s than it is today. Ledbetter's admission that "most of [his] closest friends" no longer follow city politics is perhaps reason enough to turn the column over to new blood.
At its best, Press Clips can make the news not only intelligible but interesting. Partly this means going against the mainstream. Cockburn had the luxury of a monochrome media landscape, at a time when the left hadn't yet discovered "media studies." But he also had (and continues to have) a powerful political analysis, and a hard-nosed empiricism, which all the "attitude" of his imitators can't replace. And if shoe-leather reporting wasn't his strong suit, his unique perspective led him to stories whose importance only became clear after they ran in Press Clips.
Perhaps in response to Cockburn's penchant for vitriol, Stokes turned the column into a kind of media referee. In retrospect, this was a mistake, though Geoff's strenuous fairness was refreshing. Anybody can decide who's covered a given story better. The trick is to show the factors that shape coverage and report how these forces work in the newsroom and on the page/screen/VDT.
The culture of news is changing, and perhaps a "column" is the wrong place to figure out what those changes mean. If a school board falls in Brownsville, does anyone hear? If news under the Giuliani regime is managed, who manages the managers? Thumbsucking isn't going to begin to answer any of those questions.
Back in the days when he was passionately interested in city politics, Ledbetter was a gifted reporter. I wish him luck in the transition from columnist to normal life.
Tom Tomorrow for President!
His comic strip on the cover of the September 29 Village Voice, as well as his strip which appeared inside that issue, were brilliant--among the best he's ever done.
His is the only sane voice I've heard through all of this.
In his review of Touch of Evil ["Jokers Wild," September 15], J. Hoberman refers to Charlton Heston driving a " '57 Impala down Windward Avenue."
There is no such thing as a 1957 Impala. From 1955 to 1957, Chevrolet made the Bel-Air. In 1958, they offered the Bel Air Impala. Good reception caused Chevy to begin a separate Impala series in 1959.
J. Dylan Fowler
David Kihara, David Shaftel, and Nicole White were inadvertently not credited for research assistance on Wayne Barrett's article "Pataki's Pap" in last week's issue.
A Buddhist memorial service celebrating the life of longtime gay and AIDS activist Joseph G. Miller, who died on September 12 of complications of AIDS, will be held on Sunday, October 11, at 4 p.m. at the Soka Gakkai International-USA New York Culture Center, 7 East 15th Street, Manhattan.
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