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 Back CD] 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.
Barry Mauer, January 11, 1989
In his essay, Mr. Hampton constructs, deconstructs, but unfortunately fails to reconstruct his theses on Ciccone (never mind Feuerbach) in a passionless play which prosaically marries the excesses of post-structuralist analysis to a kind of manual self-manipulation only fully underscored by Roland Barthes himself (see: Le Plaisir du Texte). What unfolds beneath his moist fingertips is a "texte"-book case of misanthrodistextia: misguided and finally indecipherable words--symbols congregate loosely to deliver us an exercise in pedantry--emotionally incoherent and narratively polymorphous. "Engagingly oblique" and dense with density, our ill-fated manifesto manifests nothing but a muddled nightmare in unfocused Super-8. What would Madonna say?
Eric Tretbar and Christine Nelson, June 7, 1989
In the past 13 months, Twin Cities police have shot in the back and killed: one black boy, two Asian boys, one mentally handicapped man, and one civilian review board.
Mark Weigle, December 26, 1990
Regarding your article on how to obtain free time from parking meters: This is perhaps one of the most irresponsible articles your paper has ever published. Cities through normal maintenance spend enough money just keeping the meters working. Your article has probably increased that expense....People get into trouble enough on their own without your help.
Ofcr. Lee A. North, U of M Police Department, July 1, 1992
I wish you people would just come out of your closet and put the word gay in front of City Pages, because obviously many members of your staff are gay, and have many friends who are, and probably you all hang around Loring Park....I'll grant you that being gay doesn't automatically make you a bad person, but it definitely doesn't make you a good person either.
Anonymous, July 28, 1993
I disagree with something one of your writers
said. Never mind what, exactly--assume that it was something about race, gender, politics, war, or art.
When you print my letter, will you please be sure to give it a sarcastically dismissive title that attempts to reduce my point of view to the form of bigotry of which you believe it is symptomatic? Thank you.
Steve Schroer, August 4, 1993
As an intelligent person, I became pretty enraged just being fed sappy, clichéd, Minnesota-white p.c. masturbatory claptrap trying to sound hipper and gravellier than Tom Waits: "...the Friday night hustle is on rack"; "...the bowels of the Como Zoo"; "...gangstas cruising by hittin' on the hotties." These don't even merit the scowl a young person would give their grandpa for trying out the newest slang, they're so numb-brained.
Becky Wallace, June 15, 1994
Another City Pages issue, another missive from Steve Perry lamenting how misunderstood the poor militias are. Even the "nominally liberal" press is out to make them a "bogeyman." Is this because the bible of the camouflaged freedom fighters is the Turner Diaries, a tale of mass slaughter of liberals and Jews? Or perhaps because a fellow traveler got caught vaporizing a daycare center full of kids? No, the liberal phonies have it in for the militias because liberals don't have a clue what "grassroots America is up to"....
With the continued implosion of the left, its dwindling members can take comfort telling themselves "the periphery" has stepped forth to carry on their cause. Why not really try and find out? Instead of giving us the usual throwaway political musings, why not drive up to Militia land in the Cabinet Mountains of Montana and talk to them? ...Find out for your readers just how interested the militiamen are in the gang peace summit and radical queer issues. I dare you.
Elmer "Bud" Swanson, August 2, 1995
I've been a Minneapolis resident for the past 21 years. Since I've lived here, almost nothing has affected me as drastically as the current MCTO transit strike....In following the news coverage of the bus strike on radio and TV, I've been very upset by the scarcity of coverage dealing with the effect the strike has been having on the low-income population....While there have been numerous stories on the feared increase in traffic congestion and parking problems...there has been little attention paid to the stories of people who have lost their jobs because they can't get to work, or who haven't been able to see their doctors and get to vital medical appointments. I think that the media should treat this strike as more than a minor inconvenience to drivers.
Tony Wentersdor [and 41 co-signers], October 25, 1995
For over 50 years black people have had their babies, raised their families, and buried their dead in the near north area of Minneapolis. Now, before I meet my maker, I see what it all comes down to: the liberals selling out the only black land we have ever known in Minneapolis to a bunch of development interests, with black leaders from the mayor to our community organizations falling in line.
Shame on the Minneapolis NAACP for participating in this terrible attack on our community. Shame on the NAACP for allowing itself to be used by the City and the other parties to the Hollman "settlement" to make it appear that this theft of our land has the approval of black people. It does not.
Nellie Stone Johnson, November 25, 1995
As an English-Italian- Scots-Corsican-French Canadian-Choctaw-American-White-Male- Heterosexual-Catholic-Cheesehead, I object to Julie Caniglia's denigration of Identity Art. You can't imagine (because you are not me) the trauma I experienced when I entered City Pages' usually safe space of representation and felt her bourgeois notions of "aesthetics" and "narrative" leap off the page to oppress me.
Say, if I keep this up long enough, do you think I could get a grant?
Barry Hamill, May 1, 1996
I just wanted to thank you for not using the expression "give props to," anymore in your newspaper. And I also wanted to ask if you could, in the same way, stop using the expression "you go, girl." It's so annoying. If you could get on this quickly, that'd be great.
Alex Kranjec, February 19, 1997
I would like to thank Stern Publishing for taking my favorite rag and filling it with more friendly articles that aren't so hurtful to others like the governor. And a strong thank-you for three City Beat stories per week; all that news used to make my head hurt. I get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside upon seeing more and more bar ads. A newspaper shouldn't be so quick to afflict the comfortable but promote bars. So now I can proclaim City Pages as my favorite bar rag. Thank you, Stern Publishing.
Joshua Lee, July 1, 1998
How I despise filthy liars like you, Brad Zellar. You say the pitchers were inferior in 1930. No way, you jerk. The hitters were so far greater than those scums now....Did a jerk like you ever hear of Rogers Hornsby, Mel Ott, Joe Medwick, Goose Goslin? Then there was of course Babe Ruth, who hit the most home runs ever in a single season (that scum Roger Maris was just a vastly overrated bum; and this jerk who strikes out roughly 160 times per season, your scum Mark McGwire, couldn't tie Ruth's shoelaces).
Anybody who thinks these present scums are so great is nothing but a phony, deluded idiot. You never saw those greats, so it behooves you to shut your filthy mouth, since you don't know what the hell you are talking about....A jerk like you doesn't know the answer to the question: Who was the greatest player of all time? It is so damnably easy--and any other answer would make the person belong in a nuthouse far away from harm--the greatest player by far out of sight was the great Georgia Peach, Tyrus Raymond Cobb....With Ty Cobb, nobody would ever get him out. With this strike zone, his strikeouts would be zero, and he'd bat at least .800. Ruth, trying to concentrate more on egg foo yungs, might bat only .700, and many others would bat from .400 to .600....
It gets me so boiling in rage and anger when I see you don't know what the hell you're talking about, so I say shut your filthy mouth since you never saw those players. And many of them I did. The old-time baseball players would kill these scums. It would be such a huge bloodbath, a massacre to end all massacres, a slaughter which you could never imagine. It would be so damnably one-sided it would make Custer's last stand look like a picnic.
John Rickard, July 29, 1998
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