By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Here's one of the better-kept little secrets of the newspaper business: Journalists love letters.
Every week after we finally shove the paper out the door, we wait. We check our voice mail. Scan our e-mail. Slink past the reception desk to see if we can spy a telltale hand-addressed envelope or likely fax.
Often (and usually to our amazement) our vigil is rewarded. Of course, it's almost always someone we managed to piss off. Though a scattered few of you have written from time to time to tell us we were doing a halfway decent job, a perusal of 20 years' worth of letters pages yields the unmistakable conclusion that City Pages has managed to commit virtually every journalistic sin imaginable, insulted just about every group, subcaucus, and population, and violated every rule of grammar, not to mention good taste. It appears that we've sought out the vilest, sorriest specimens of the human race, and hired them as writers. (Let's not even get into music critics.)
But you've done more than expand our vocabulary of four-letter words. Over the years we've published letters that were better written, smarter, and more to the point than the stories to which they referred. Letters that asked questions we felt ashamed for not having thought of, that challenged assumptions we didn't even know we held.
Keep them coming.
Dear Jimi [Nervous]: Regarding your review of Joe's Garage: Acts I, II & IV: Screw you, you ugly son of a bitch.
Joe, April 1980
Would-be reviewers like P.D. Larson should be mashed into a fine powder and sprinkled over St. Paul. It is simply the only way we can keep them from defecating in print. In response to his review of Stevie Nicks's Bella Donna album, I blow my nose in his general direction....
Lynn Fisher, September 3, 1981
Anyone who signs his or her name "P.D. Larson" has no right to call anyone "arty-farty" or "pretentious."
K.E. Carlson, September 10, 1981
Sweet Potato is a great name, City Pages isn't. I understand why you want to change it, but I think you should have held a contest for the best name. Oh well. It's a great paper and I'll still read it with the dumb name!
Amy Phenix, December 3, 1981
It was interesting to read the letters from your readers who are disappointed that A Prairie Home Companion is not a different sort of show--The People's Music or Songs and Dances of Many Lands. I don't know how to respond to that criticism; to me, it's like criticizing Willie and the Bees for not reaching out to the MOR audience, or Mickey's Diner for omitting brown rice in the hot beef sandwich. In the words of Popeye, "I yam what I yam." It is amusing, though, to recognize the name of one letter writer as a person who has asked us for complimentary tickets in the past. Is he upset because we aren't what we aren't or because his seats were in the balcony?
Garrison Keillor, February 18, 1982
Per your movie review "Looking for a Good Scare," what in the hell does this stuff mean:
"an atmospheric intellectual aberration"
"a vacuous American pout"
"his seasoned enigma"
We're going to have to take your dictionary and thesaurus away; or, perhaps, drag you into association with average people, who want not a sociological treatise, but a movie review.
E.P., August 18, 1985
Since moving to Minnesota I've grown tired of the ceaseless jabs on New York City. I wonder how the spiritual devastation of life as an unsuccessful artist in the East Village, waiting tables to pay the rent, compares to the spiritual devastation of life as a successful insurance broker in Eden Prairie with 2.2 poodles.
Elizabeth Manne, November 27, 1985
Are you serious? A section titled "Vanity"? What's next? "Materialism"? "Airheadedness"? ...What happened to in-depth, critical reporting? You are the yuppies you poke fun at.
Edward Pulckk, February 25, 1987
I'm one of the "lucky" ones that the police didn't pick up. I'm able to sit here at my computer and type this letter to you to tell you what the big deal is. Five years ago I just got blasted and got in my car and was "lucky." I got to kill a woman and her little boy.
What drunks don't need is someone like you in the media telling us it's no big deal. I live every day wishing someone had pulled me over. I see that dead woman and hear that child moaning every single day. If I'm lucky, I don't hear them in my sleep. I wish I had killed your wife and kid. Maybe it wouldn't be so hard on me if I thought it was no big deal.
Chuck VanHeuveln, August 12, 1987
If I have to see any more full-page ads featuring blondy-boy-ripped-jean cover bands I will puke! And, as far as all you Clones N' Roses are concerned, I suggest that you go to the nearest record store and pick up some Hanoi Rocks and New York Dolls so you can hear what real glam rock is all about.
Ruby Lipstick, October 5, 1988
Your "Arts Wrap '88" articles have three reviews of the band Public Enemy [the It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us BackCD] which really piss me off....John Dougan says the LP is "loaded with contradictions" and "deserves to be slammed for sexism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism." The second review, by Dan Heilman, states that the record contains "dunderhead rhetoric." The third, and most callous review, is by Shawn Gillen. Gillen states that Public Enemy is "racist and sexist and needs to be condemned for it." Then Gillen goes on to make some unbelievable argument about how black men are basically violent brutes, but it's not their fault. Finally, Gillen gives the band "credit"...[:] "the half-baked ideas of resistance and revolt these guys spout aren't that far off the mark." Gee, thanks a lot....Your writers should have been more up-front and just called Public Enemy a bunch of dumb niggers instead of beating around the bush.