Alan Rich's commentary ["Elephant, Bull, Whatever," October 1521] on the appointment of Debra Borda as managing director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, replacing a departed Willem Wijnbergen, raises some interesting issues. And it is important to remember that the challenges facing the LAPO are greater than just replacing personalities. They have to do with the changing demographics of Los Angeles, its thorny transportation problems and the broader cultural shifts in our society.
Los Angeles' population is changing in a direction not advantageous for the LAPO. Traditional subscribers, Americans of European background, now make up little more than a third of the population of L.A. County. The LAPO must make itself relevant to a broader base of Angelenos.
Then there's transportation. With no viable mass transit, committed arts patrons get to the Music Center by car on increasingly crowded freeways, a journey made more difficult with the opening of the new Staples Center.
Lifestyle issues also work against regular Music Center attendance. Leisure outings of both couples and young singles have become necessarily more spontaneous than deliberate, working against a subscription season and in favor of one-time events such as movie and museum attendance.
And then there's the impact of technology. People spend more time viewing an almost infinite variety of cable-TV channels, video rentals and Web sites. Even serious music lovers can stay home and listen to world-class performances on their surround-sound stereos. An entire Bruckner symphony can be fit in the time of a round-trip commute from most suburban homes to the Music Center.
Even within the LAPO's committed audience, a cultural clash of sorts is apparent. On the one hand a large core of traditionalists wants to hear only the standard repertoire. Fortunately, a smaller and adventuresome segment is willing to experiment with new music as well. The recent winter-season packaging acknowledges this split personality. And the LAPO has obviously made a market decision to grow its new audience on a separate track from its traditional one. This is admittedly a ghettoization of sorts, but it buys time to make the necessary shifts in taste. Traditional and new audiences will certainly merge over time.
These daunting challenges need to be addressed if the LAPO is to excel, or survive, as an artistic entity. But if you attended this season's opening performance of the Mahler First Symphony, and were as thrilled as I was, you know why it must and will overcome all to secure its future.
Alan Rich was quite right in his column about Deborah Borda's arrival to say that the Music Center is "unwelcoming." Having been a regular concertgoer and operagoer here and elsewhere for over 20 years, I am always struck by the paucity of comfortable seating and refreshments on the plaza and inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, compared to concert halls and opera houses in other major cities. If your seat is on the balcony level, to be sure of grabbing a measly but expensive cup of coffee during intermission you have to run down several flights of stairs to stand in a line that straddles the width of the building, then bound back up again and still risk getting gonged out by the chimes. Heaven help you if you need to use the ladies' room as well. Welcome to L.A., Deborah.
--Valerie D. Stern
Re: Erin Aubry's "Game Over" [October 1521]. What's wrong with this picture? The city of Los Angeles expands a redevelopment area in Crenshaw with a major purpose of promoting commercial development. A developer is interested in pursuing a project at Santa Barbara Plaza. Financing is available. But nothing happens, because the council member is involved with other issues.
Do we elect council members to adopt policy, or do we elect them to be super-duper real estate brokers who put deals together? Development in L.A. is not driven by supply and demand, or by input from residents. It is driven by political fiat.
One can only hope that sufficient interest in the newly mandated neighborhood councils will bring about some change, such as to loosen the stranglehold that each of the 15 council members has on planning and development in his or her exclusive realm.
Thanks so much for your articles on the Crenshaw area, most recently "Game Over" by Erin Aubry. I grew up in the area, and my family â still lives there. It could be such a vibrant place, if only politicians would get out of the way.
DO OR DIE DISSED
Re: your cover story about gang member "Monster" Kody Scott ["Ghetto Star," October 814]. Susan Faludi's dismissive attitude toward Léon Bing's book Do or Die is disturbing. She writes that it was Scott's photo on the cover that "attracted the eye of the media." The media noticed, all right, but it was the rave reviews from critics that turned Do or Die into a national best-seller still in print eight years later.
Murrieta Hot Springs
BIG BATTLE OF THE HOLINESSES
Re: your recent spate of articles and reviews around the Dalai Lama's visit to L.A. When will the World-of-Trends finally have done with him? God, if I see that guy's mug on another giant billboard or his name mentioned by one more rock or movie star, I'm converting to Catholicism! Sure, I saw the Martin Scorsese movie about him. What took away from this infomercial on his behalf was that he was raised in the lap of luxury and privilege, surrounded by caretakers and courtiers, and when the Chinese invaded Tibet, he heeded the advice of his numerous counselors (after initially objecting, in his wan manner) and fled in total comfort and safety, abandoning his less fortunate people to their fate at the hands of the Chinese. At least the pope had to aspire to and earn in some way his position as leader of the Catholic Church; it wasn't just handed to him on a serving tray. Furthermore, the pope does not seem to be exempt from criticism, even within the Catholic Church. It would strike a healthy balance, for example, to see some pop star tear up a picture of the Dalai Lama on Saturday Night Live!
CALLING DOCTOR GOODALL
Is Johnny Angel some kind of relation to Leonard Stern? I can think of no other explanation why the Weekly would run his lunatic ramblings week after week. I've even seen Mr. Angel's byline in New Times. What's up? His style is phony and his attitude is grating. Please dump the hooting baboon before his case of drooling idiocy spreads to others.
Don't you think that Lalo Lopez's whole demonizing thing has gone a bit too far when it draws comparisons between Republicans and Nazis [L.A. Cucaracha, October 1521]? He effectively labels ex-Governor Wilson a Nazi for favoring the concept of borders and not supporting illegal immigrants with services when they didn't pay taxes. But the particular issue is beside the point. The demonizing propaganda is the point. It is false. It is hypocritical. If anything is reminiscent of Nazi propaganda, it's to demonize an entire political party because its members have different views from yourself. That's intolerant and hateful. When you point a finger and make accusations and demonize people, don't forget you have four more fingers pointing back at yourself.
For the love of cinema, tell your film critics to stop giving away major plot points in their reviews (e.g., Ella Taylor on Bringing Out the Dead and Boys Don't Cry in the October 2228 issue). Even Roger Ebert has the decency to acknowledge at the start of his reviews if the movie's ending will be ruined for the reader.
YOU'D HAVE PREFERRED "WACKO"?
Re: "Branded Man: The Life and Times of Merle Haggard" [cover story, October 1521]. Don't think Gene Scott appreciates being referred to as a televangelist. If there is a God, Scott is the closest thing we have to God's spokesman for this age . . . and is in a class so far apart from the category in which Jonny Whiteside places him that he has sued Time magazine for just such an oversight.
I demand a retraction for the flippant remark made by Adam Bregman in your "Best of L.A." edition [October 17]. Your "free-thinking" writer described my company as selling "some homeless guy's suit at department-store prices." Ignoring the pejorative remarks this ignoramus made about the homeless, but addressing what he said about American Rag, Bregman most obviously has not been into the many better stores throughout the world that sell vintage clothing. He obviously has no taste nor aesthetics, nor awareness of modern fashion trends; no basic understanding of fabric, fabric content, garment construction, etc.; nor is this person aware that there is a world market price (Japan, Europe and the U.S. compete for these goods) for certain vintage fashion, which determines the selling price; nor can he read, for if he could, he would see that many of our pricey vintage items come from Europe, and the selling price includes duty paid to U.S. Customs, and, indeed, American Rag is 20 percent to 30 percent cheaper than the New York stores selling the same merchandise.
Furthermore, in July 1999, Elle magazine U.K. listed American Rag as one of the top shopping destinations in the world. Equally, we have been fortunate to have had hundreds of pages of editorial featuring our products, and our very existence in the highly competitive L.A. market for the last 15 years is testimony to our "fairness" and competitively priced marketing strategy. Intelligent shoppers realize that original designer shoes, imported from Italy, cost more than imitations from a low-wage developing country, and a silk-lined 1950s Chanel vintage jacket in mint condition costs more than just any used jacket in a thrift store. American Rag is not in the low-end thrift-store business, nor the cheaper-priced used-clothing business.
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Lastly, American Rag does not sell any "old men's shoes" whatsoever. I believe that the L.A. Weekly is accountable and responsible for the accuracy of what it prints. Most kindly retract this ill-thought-out, flippant remark made about my company.
Owner, American Rag Compagnie