Landing a one-on-one interview with a director so enigmatic, imaginative and generally elusive as Tim Burton[“You Ain’t From Around Here, Are Ya, Boy?,” December 19–25], you would think that the fresh minds of L.A. Weekly would’ve been able to assign a reporter with more tact and direction than Dave Shulman. What did I learn about Burton that I didn’t already know? His first date was at aClockwork Orange/Deliverance double feature at a Van Nuys drive-in — not exactly hard-hitting investigative stuff we’re talking about. Shulman’s sophomoric subconversational style and constant references to himself (the fan) throughout the piece was such a waste of your readers’ time (and seeing how Burton reacted in the article, his time too). Next time, get a high school intern to do the interview. At least they would have the enthusiasm and respect to spend more than five minutes putting an article together.
We have a friend from Australia we have known for over 20 years. He has come to the U.S. many times. He just had an experience very similar to the one depicted in your story [“Coffee, Tea or Handcuffs?,” December 19–25] and was sent back to Australia by U.S. Customs. He got a new stamp on his visa. (He was never told previously he needed anything other than what he had when he entered.) He then had to pay for another flight to return, this time to San Francisco, where he was again questioned but allowed in. I think you should expand this story and get it out to the AP, etc. We are horrified at how he was treated, and he had the same experience with seven guards watching TV while he and a few others were sitting up after 24 hours of flying. Thanks for the good article.
In the story about Sue Smethurst, she seemingly had a temper tantrum in the airport which you missed in your article. I am not sure that the oversight was on purpose, but if I wanted to slant the article to make “homeland security” or “airport security” look bad, I would leave out the part where she has the tantrum and throws her sandwich and coffee against the wall while being detained for not having the correct visa. Just thought I should bring this to your attention.
Mikulan responds: I did in fact mention this incident and cited an official description of it as a “tantrum.” I also solicited the Customs and Border Protection bureau’s perspective of Ms. Smethurst’s attitude (“abusive”) — all of which appeared in the article.
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
Because I started at L.A. Weekly as sales manager in 1980 and wound up as chairman of the board in 1993, I am in a unique position. I know a lot about the Weekly on many levels. I am writing both to add an additional perspective and to correct some of the inaccuracies of your special issue on the 25th anniversary of the paper.
When I arrived at the Weekly, it was a year and a half old and struggling financially. The Weekly and The Reader were both publishing about 48 pages a week and were ferocious competitors. Jay Levin, who was founder and president of the Weekly, had hired me and David Cohen, then associate publisher, to replace the sales staff with more competent, professional and motivated people who “got” what the Weekly was all about. The hiring was done with Jay’s active collaboration. Jay understood that a first-class sales staff with strong leadership is the difference between life and death at a free newspaper — and he was relentless in seeing that we built one.
Your piece [“In the Beginning,” December 12–18], while acknowledging that Jay was the visionary and the vitality and the core of the paper’s soul in that first decade, dismisses Jay’s astute business sense in launching the Weeklyand, with the help of many other creative and hard-working people he consciously gathered around him, making it into a permanent fixture in the L.A. media landscape. The “consensus” your writer cites in her strange comment is nonexistent in that it excludes and runs counter to the opinion of the core business staff of the Weekly at the time. Consequently, your piece glosses over Jay’s grasp not only of the Weekly’s place in the geography of L.A.’s rapidly changing history, but also how, concretely and specifically, he made the Weeklya tremendous business.
As just one of numerous examples, Jay foresaw the financial and editorial value of Best of L.A. special issues early on and understood better than anyone else the absolute short- and long-term gain from beating our competitor, The Reader, to the street and with a higher-quality product. Under tremendous deadline pressure, he used his management and catalytic skill to lead and motivate the entire newspaper staff, getting all departments to work well with one another 24/7 under stressful but very often fun conditions. Best of L.A. became a major element in the Weekly’s financial picture. Jay was a relentless competitor who knew how to win. He demonstrated another side of his grasp of the publishing business a few years later with L.A. Style magazine by audaciously upping the sales price at the eleventh hour by over 50 percent and getting it.