Uber-tagster and art-hepster Banksy graced our cover last week with, typically, a rat. The occasion was the release of his new documentary on L.A.'s own Mr. Brainwash, aka Thierry Guetta. With all things Banksy, there is some purposeful confusion about who is whom, what is wassup, and where is the lowdown. As noted in Shelley Leopold's interview with the Great One (“Banksy Revealed?,” April 8), some people — notably the British press — believe Banksy and Brainwash are one and the same, or some version thereof. And some, including Echo Park dude Shepard Fairey, wonder if Brainwash is really an artist at all. Readers weigh in:

“Guetta may be real, but 'Mr. Brainwash' is an obvious Banksy hoax,” writes David. “There is a line in the film where Guetta turns to camera and says, 'Only time will tell if I am a real artist.' You could hardly get a bigger clue than that.”

“Mr. Brainwash is anything but talented,” adds Subtle JoJo. “Now, his team of 20-plus assistants have some skillz, but all MBW does in the grand scheme of his work is sign it and, if you're lucky, a little thumbprint on the back. Oh. Joy. Banksy, on the other hand, is a genius. Anyone who doubts needs to do a little research and take note of the causes he has supported, his works, and, more importantly, the millions of $$$ that his works have generated for charity. MBW is a fraud. Banksy is the real deal. To compare the two is a slap to the face of every artist with real talent.

“Wow! Banksy and Obey [Fairey] are so jealous of Mr. Brainwash that they're discrediting themselves,” says Jayjay. “They just can't swallow the fact that someone else can be as successful as they are! Obey could never pull out a show like MBW did in L.A. It wasn't just an art show. He created a cool environment for people to hang out and had the guts to do it. Who said that art has to be politically engaged? He's just doing art that's nice to look at, with a positive message that can touch anybody.

“Obey is bashing MBW, but didn't he deejay at the show opening? He just never thought people would like MBW's art so much and he's pissed. 'He's my friend. Make him irrelevant,' [said Fairey]. What a friend!

“Most artists were criticized at their beginnings (Pollock, Warhol) but became part of art history,” continues Jayjay. “And what's the big deal with having assistants? Most contemporary artists have a team. It's not a secret. I was lucky enough to see the movie in Berlin. Guetta's footage is amazing and most of the film seems to be shot by him. The movie is a total self-promotion for Banksy, though. He's using MBW to reassure his status. He's criticizing the fact that street art became too commercial and glamorous but had A-list celebrities like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Christina Aguilera invited to his L.A. show. We don't really know what's true and what's not, but the bad faith is too obvious. I like Banksy's art and I like Mr. Brainwash's art. Maybe Banksy and Mr. Brainwash are the same person — or not.”

Final word goes to Ruhl — and, of course, to Banksy: “An exhibition in Bristol by Banksy was among the top 30 most-visited global exhibitions in 2008/9. The Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery event [which had not been publicized due to the usual Banksy secrecy] attracted nearly 4,000 people a day.”

Of course, numbers aren't everything, n'est-ce pas?

Paul Teetor's bizarre story (“Heimlich Maneuvered,” April 8) involves an awards ceremony, a pseudocelebrity hostess (Michael Landon's widow, Cindy), the self-proclaimed creator of the Heimlich maneuver, Dr. Henry Heimlich, and his son Peter — who is actively out to discredit his father's quacky ideas on curing cancer and AIDS by injecting people with malaria-infected blood.

“This is just amazing,” writes Lisa Green. “I wonder how many people this has really impacted or killed in the process? If they worry about animal abuse, they should be more concerned about the abuse that poor innocent men, women and children have endured at the hands of a man the world has 'thought' of as a great man of medicine who is a fake. This is so worthy of a movie because I don't think anyone would believe it. Dr. Heimlich is one dangerous man.”

Dennis White agrees: “Shakespearean overtones indeed. Great story. It appears Peter was fed up with his father's B.S. and was going to suck it up until he learned that his father had stepped on the back of his associates to gain celebrity, and then through his hubris began victimizing hundreds, using his celebrity as credentials. I am curious now to know what happened in Peter's relationship with his father and what Mrs. Heimlich has to say. I will have to read [the book Peter is writing] Outmaneuvered.”

Amy Norman, however, has some issues: “Malaria is caused by a protozoan, not a virus (and not multiple pathogens, as that awkward sentence seems to imply). On the face of it, Dr. Heimlich certainly does seem to be a horrifying fraud. But the article, despite being 97 percent recycled, is so poorly researched that I'd have to do my own to reach any firm conclusion.”

In last week's Go L.A., we listed Record Surplus as being closed. The store is still open. And, as noted above, our “Heimlich Maneuvered” story incorrectly implied that malaria is caused by a virus. It's caused by a parasite.

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