Great goddamn article about LSD [“The Trip,” July 3-9]. You consistently outperform any other L.A. publication. Kudos.
You go, L.A. Weekly! After your consistent but futile attempts to discredit Scientology, a drug-free and highly workable technology that has improved millions of lives, you are now advocating experiments with LSD on human guinea pigs. The therapeutic value of this hallucinogenic drug is about the same as that of a sledgehammer or – another psychiatric favorite – electroshock “therapy.” LSD has ruined the lives of so many, including Jimi Hendrix, Brian Wilson and Peter Green. Green said in 1996: “LSD makes you break with your feelings; you disown them because they are uncomfortable. The thing about LSD is you can't get back . . . You lose all your fears. You could kill yourself and it wouldn't matter.” The Weekly has shown which side it is on – the wrong one. Again!
I read with interest John Whalen's article about the LSD studies of Dr. Oscar Janiger and wish to make one clarification. The artist who, under the influence of LSD, painted the renditions of Janiger's Hopi Indian kachina dolls that accompanied the story was not – as a reader might conclude from matching up the uncredited art with the text of the article – Fortune illustrator Frank Murdoch, but Abstract Impressionist Gil Henderson, whose work can be seen at the L.A. County Museum of Art and at the Adamson-Duvannes Gallery in West Hollywood.
THE ABSOLUTE LAST WORD
I have hesitated to add my voice to the Leather Jacket Love Story “faggot” controversy on your Letters page because of my friendship with screenwriter Rondo Miecszkowski, but last week's letter calling for revision of supposedly offensive language within Ernest Hardy's review begs for comment.
Two issues have been obscured due to the nature of the comments to date. First, as to Mr. Hardy's critique and discussion of the film, which I thought was apt and to the point: At its best, Leather Jacket Love Story is a feel-good wish-fulfillment fantasy about a Silver Lake that never was and never will be, a community where hunky carpenter studs, drag-queen vigilantes and angelic young poets mingle and thrive, in opposition to crass, commercial West Hollywood.
Second, it's clear that there was nothing careless or “homophobic” about the reviewer's word choices. Since our community has become self-aware, we have struggled both for a term to describe ourselves and for a sense of “pride” in who we are. We have done both by appropriating words of the dominant culture for our own coded use. “Homosexual” began its life as a term describing mental illness; “gay” was a term of derision drawn from the theater. Only a few years ago, “queer” was looked upon with revulsion by the generation that had fought to create “gay” acceptance. Now, it seems, “faggot” is the next taboo.
I despair of finding an intellectual center, a place where ideas may freely be discussed, in the musclebound, crystal-addicted, starstruck community we call “gay male L.A.” Calling for the excision of hot-button language adds nothing to a discourse of ideas; it is reductive and reactionary. I don't especially care for the sound of “faggot” (I prefer the campier “fag”), but I defend Ernest Hardy's use of it in general, and specifically in reference to this film.
I enjoyed your “Alternative Top 101” [July 3-9]. Such lists are fun if not treated too seriously, and are controversial. As is your list. I gently accuse you of:
Cowardice – You list the films by year, rather than by importance or significance or quality. That's a cop-out. It would have been far more fun – and more controversial – if you'd ranked them.
Sexism – You made Alexander Hammid invisible when you listed Meshes of the Afternoon and left out Maya Deren's male co-director and husband. Hammid was at least 50 percent (and probably more) responsible for the film. And he's still alive.
Silliness – You leave out many great films by Sam Peckinpah but include one of his few dogs, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Even his friends didn't like it.
Beyond Belief – Amy Heckerling and Harold Ramis in the same list as Welles, Ford, Hawks, Wilder, Kubrick, Hitchcock, Minnelli and Scorsese?
I do not comprehend by what standards the Library of Congress, the AFI and now you justify the inclusion of the obviously British Lawrence of Arabia in a list of otherwise American films. If you couldn't come up with another indisputably American film, you mean you couldn't even come up with another disputably American one, along with Dr. Strangelove, Chimes at Midnight, Once Upon a Time in America and Until the End of the World?
MANOHLA DARGIS REPLIES:
You'll have to ask the AFI how they decided Lawrence was eligible for inclusion on their list. Here's our reason: The film's producer, Sam Spiegel, who financed the film, was American – although, like many in Hollywood, he was born in Europe. (The saga of Spiegel's becoming an American citizen, which includes charges of fraud, a criminal record and flights into Mexico, is itself worthy of a movie.) Given that many American filmmakers were not born here, and that numerous American movies have non-Americans in their casts or were not shot on native soil, turning to the money source seemed the best solution.
SPEAKING OF LISTS . . .
Marc Haefele shouldn't agonize too much over George Orwell naming names [City Limits, July 10-16]. His action bears little resemblance to that of Elia Kazan. There could be no doubt that anyone Kazan implicated would be treated unjustly – either forced into confessions or recantations, or blacklisted. To the extent that Kazan's actions were based on principle at all, the principle seems to have been “Why should I give up my career for a bunch of bastards?”
Orwell, on the other hand, gave his list in confidence to honorable people with a proper regard for civil liberties. (You might recall that the government he was dealing with was at least nominally socialist.) The fact that the list was not revealed for 50 years shows that his confidence was not misplaced. There was no blacklist in the United Kingdom; indeed, blacklisted Americans went there to find work. Orwell believed not only that the West was in an apocalyptic struggle with the Reds, but that the Reds were winning. He may have been settling scores, but he wasn't protecting himself or seeking personal gain.
The really sad thing about the Orwell story is the aid and comfort it's going to give apologists for McCarthyism.
FIRST THE ZAPRUDER FILM, AND NOW THIS!
Manohla Dargis' review of Armageddon [July3-9] is typical of the anti-blockbuster mentality that is so (yawn) popular among the film-critic set. In one notable gaffe, she refers to the movie's use of the face of JFK as “making no sense . . . the shot just is.” As everyone knows, JFK was responsible for pushing the space program. In Armageddon, we see the fusion of that great dream with another – the saving of mankind. The image makes perfect sense in this context: JFK would have been proud.
Either I am not paying enough attention, or you were not informed that L.A. had two Gay Pride celebrations on the weekend of June 27 and 28. Having just relocated to L.A. from NYC, I find such lack of interest in gay issues perplexing, to say the least. The Village Voice always has a Gay Pride cover and pullout section. While I know that the L.A. Weekly is not The Voice by any means, I still don't understand your silence.
Do gay and lesbian people not exist for you? Do you believe we only live in Northern California? What gives?
The Gay Man's Guide to Heterosexuality
MR. SODERBERGH CORRECTS
Regarding Paul Malcolm's very generous article about me [“Back in Sight,” July 3-9], I feel the need to make two minor corrections. First, I did not “win” the lawsuit with Paramount Pictures et al. over A Confederacy of Dunces – we settled out of court prior to trial. Second, Schizopolis was not self-financed. Strange as it may seem, the film was funded by pre-selling video rights to Universal Pictures with the understanding we would buy these rights back after making a deal with a (presumably independent) distributor. Fortunately, Fox Lorber purchased worldwide rights to the film, enabling us to repay Universal's “investment.”
F.X. Feeney's review of Picnic at Hanging Rock [Revival Pick, June 26-July 2] perfectly illustrates the meaninglessness of film criticism. Twenty years ago he hated the film; now it is a masterpiece. My question is: How long until the current crop of bad films become works of art? Conversely, how long before today's masterpieces are turned into crap? Perhaps the Weekly should drop the commentary altogether and just print plot summaries.
THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO
I just finished reading the L.A. Weekly – and its ads – for the first time, and have come to the conclusion that you must have a lot of ugly-ass people reading your paper. Or, at the very least, insecure, rich, ugly-ass people. Liposuction, breast augmentation, penis enlargement, vaginal rejuvenation (?!), tummy tucks . . . What ever happened to “growing old gracefully” and “letting it all hang out”?
I dunno. Maybe I'm just sour about the fact that I couldn't find any ads for what I want: to make myself taller. I guess I'll just have to settle for the old disco platforms in my closet.
-Deborah L. Peeples