In Brendan Bernhard’s article about Michel Houellebecq [“L’Étranger in a Strange Land,” June 24–30], I am quoted as follows: “ ‘What do you think of us Californians?’ Nehring cried plaintively,” and portrayed as an interloping, “leggy,” writer-rustling essayist. While I am leggy, I am neither Californian, plaintive, nor disposed to cry. As far as monopolizing Houellebecq’s evening in preparation for an article of my own, please note that my article on Houellebecq appeared in Harper’s over 18 months ago. Perhaps if Bernhard had spent more time learning French and less examining Houllebecq’s closet and computer, he’d have produced an article that tastes more of vintage wine and less of sour grapes.
Rue du Temple, Paris
Bernhard replies: Cristina Nehring begins with a misstatement — I quoted her as saying, “What do you think of us?,” not “What do you think of us Californians?” as she claims. In any case, I had no desire to include her in the article; unfortunately, she had parked herself in the middle of the action and there was no avoiding noting and, to a very small extent, characterizing her presence.
I enjoyed reading your piece on David Lachapelle’s Rize [“Dancing on Live Grenades,” June 17–23], a reaction to injustice and turmoil on our own ground, in the heart of our own cities. Beauty of expression, emotion, and creation simulate the lotus blossoming in the grime of the L.A. River.
Education is the only answer to the great divide. Only then will America be strong and free. If we teach children now to be tolerant, intelligent, conscious and environmentally aware, is it not conceivable that they will avoid making the mistakes our leaders force us into on a daily basis?
It’s time for new leadership!
I was bewildered by Ernest Hardy’s insistence on referring to the subjects of the film Rize as “Negroes.” His subjects do not see themselves as Negroes, and Miss Prissy specifically identifies herself as being “black” and “African-American.” Not only does Hardy refer to the dancers as Negroes, he also refers to “Negro ingenuity,” “Negro politicians” and “Negro creations.” I am not sure what prompted his use of this language, but it was gratuitous.
I was also confused at why David LaChapelle’s film was so celebrated in this review. This film is just another example of the one-dimensional view the entertainment industry allows of African-Americans: We are only tolerated while singing or dancing. The more pressing issues of blacks in America are almost always ignored. Hardy only briefly touches on the shallowness of the film. David LaChapelle is not trying to do anything more than make money selling this black subculture to white audiences. His photographs are exploitative and so is this film.
“Dancing on Grenades” was a great escape from the typical political backwash that I often read in the Weekly. Unfortunately, Mr. Hardy couldn’t leave well enough alone. David LaChapelle doesn’t need to dig into the politics of his lens’ focal point. It has always been his vision that makes people ask why. The fact that the dance performance “Rize” is performing on Leno should make it clear enough that LaChapelle has done his job.
In “Truths and Consequences” [June 24–30], Doug Ireland can’t resist taking potshots at Bill Clinton’s policy decisions regarding sex-related and gay issues (i.e., the Defense of Marriage Act, abstinence, immigration laws for HIV-ers, etc.) in a feeble attempt to show a correlation between them and his private conduct. What about unprecedented prosperity, a skyrocketing Wall Street, low unemployment, reduced crime, a budget surplus and no Iraq war, Doug? Can we correlate that to his private sexual matters? Look what you’ve got now, Doug. Happy? At the very least, if you’re tired of squawking about the present regime, let Bill Clinton rest in peace, but as innocent Iraqis and American soldiers are dying every day, and with the U.S. on the verge of social and economic collapse, don’t waste valuable writing space pissing and moaning about Clinton’s policy on clean needles!
Still Rockin’ in the Tree World
In reading “Sleater-Kinney at the Henry Fonda Theater, June 8” by Scott Thill [June 17–23], I am offended that this writer assumes only some of the audience “came to rock” that night, while “the greater part of the throng just sat back and waited for ‘You’re No Rock ’N Roll Fun.’ ” As one of the throng, I personally sat back and waited for a cover of “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems,” so there.
Where Did We Put That?
Maybe I’m behind the curve with this new “LA VIDA” concept for the layout on your printed Weekly paper. But I’ve found that as “edgy and creative” as the new moniker is, it is difficult to find what you are looking for.
Why? Because there are no simple listings with the appropriate page numbers on the index page for such sections as Dance, Museums, Art Galleries, Events, Kid Stuff, Readings, Learning, Politics, etc.
I’m sure that you are very familiar with the layout of your paper and have little trouble finding anything you want. Of course you have license to call the Calendar section anything that excites you, but please, please, please list ALL of the different sections of your fine magazine with the numbers of the pages where they can be found for those that appreciate the simple function of a well-laid-out index.
Blue skies and love above all,
Editor replies: For years, our contents page did not give readers any information on finding dance, art, film and music happenings or any of our other listings — there was just a single page number for “Calendar” and then, deeper in the paper, a secondary listing of contents that many readers told us was difficult to find. To highlight the importance of our listings and make it easier for readers to locate them in the paper, we divided our listings into their logical sections — film listings now run with our feature film reviews; theater, classical music, dance and comedy listings run with our feature theater reviews and Alan Rich’s A Little Night Music column in the newly named Stage section; readings listings run with our book reviews; gallery listings are next to our feature art review; music listings with our music features; and citywide events and festivals, museums and kidstuff, and learning and politics listings now appear with lifestyle features and fashion coverage in our La Vida section. Each of these sections now has its own contents box, and our main contents page tells readers exactly which sections contain specific listings. We’re not saying the new system is perfect — indeed, we often talk about how we can make it better — but readers now get much more information on how to find our listings than ever before.
Another Satisfied Customer
Although L.A. Weekly can sometimes border on being over-the-top in its liberal mores, I am most often giddily entertained by its witty and creative articles. Recently I came across a review of the new bore-buster Monster-in-Law, and for the first time in my sporadic reading of your publication, I was enraged at what I read. Ella Taylor writes: “. . . But if the screening I attended is anything to go by, this is a gay men’s movie whose primary function is to doll Fonda up like a drag queen and let her rip.”
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Although a more conservative paper like the Orange County Register would never run an article written in this fanciful style, I would expect to see a damaging generalization like this made in their publication. But L.A. Weekly? I was not only saddened and angered, I was shocked. Who can the gay community count on to stand behind them in the pursuit of banishing harmful stereotypes if not a liberal publication like L.A. Weekly? At first I attempted to pretend to not understand the implications of this statement. Then I realized that I couldn’t just skip over this one, not this time. Prejudice is everywhere; we know this. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t at least hear a teenager uttering the word I use to classify my sexuality as a synonym for “stupid,” or, more commonly, the more classically inspired “faggot.”
But how could you, as an editor of arguably one of the most liberal publications in the country, read over this review, and think that it was okay to publish? Ms. Ochoa, did you really think that gay men would not be offended by the stereotype of wanting to “doll up a pretty girl” offered up in Ms. Taylor’s trite review? I must have missed the part of this that the two of you found so amusing. I found it nothing but hurtful and insulting. What’s next, a reference to African-Americans loving fried chicken? You have lost a once semiloyal reader. Thank you for further validating my fears that we are taking a major step back in the abolishment of stereotypical notions.
Taylor replies: It is neither stereotypical nor insulting to argue that movie divas have had a particular appeal for the gay community. That Monster-in-Law is a bad example of such movies is not the fault of that community but of the director, and I did not claim otherwise.