Editor's note: Maryanne "Mare" Chisholm and her husband, Mark, are the owners of Safari Media, which has been placed in receivership.
Owner's lament: I thank James Hibberd for his hard work, his time, and his effort to report "Ecstatic Fall" (September 7). He spoke to many people, and did the best he could to give an impartial narrative. I do not agree with many of the things stated in this article. However, I understand his need to get the perspective of many different people, including employees -- disgruntled or not.
There was one line in the article that was a complete fallacy, and should be corrected: "It looks exactly like what it is: the home of a couple of flamboyant, trance-loving, mid-30s club kids whose Web design company has raised millions in investment capital -- millions the Chisholms used to support their extravagant lifestyle."
Where is the conviction or judgment stating this is true? The word "allegedly" was obviously missing.
I feel it is important to tell you our position, and our overall sentiment about where we stand in regard to our lives now, and Safari Media (past and present).
We stand behind our pride in Safari. We can look back now and see who our real friends are, and who the employees and associates were who truly deserved success, and the credit for jobs well done.
When we became successful, many opportunities were presented, some good, some bad, some tempting and some dangerous. My mistake lay above anything else in the belief that the people I trusted would take the "morally ethical road." They would not abuse us or the company. They would work hard, and not take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.
I see how wrong I was about this, how many people took advantage, and how easily I had been convinced of lies when so many people stood before me swearing their hard work and allegiance.
This is no one's fault but my own, and why I must make things right.
I can only tell you that Mark and I worked very hard, and we believed with all of our hearts that the people we entrusted in high roles did as well. Some people called executive salaries exorbitant; however, the salaries paid were scale for the positions 98 percent of the staff members held.
Mark and I did not take a salary, and we often subsidized Safari with our own funds, resulting in a multimillion-dollar loss from our own family. For the record, the highest-paid employees earned an average of $7,000 a month, with the exception of roughly four board members who without question abused their positions and power. We invested a lot of funds into our promotions; however, Mark and I personally invested several million dollars into Safari over the years, and the music department did not spend more than our investment even if all promotions were combined. However, this is not what is conveyed, and is again no one's fault but my own.
Reactions to pain vary in many people; some people have nervous breakdowns, some people flee. My husband fought alcoholism, I fought depression and weakly placed my trust in the wrong people. For this I will pay for the rest of my life.
The music department was a success. It was not marked by attendance at events; the events served as means for publicity. I am reminded of a group of deaf shareholders that attended our event, Zen, last year where more than 14,000 people were in attendance. The lasting impression with them was a positive one, not the dark misery portrayed by several of our past employees. It gained well-spread recognition. We stand behind our pride in this department, although it is deeply distressing to see how many people poisoned what we had set out to achieve with cheap rumors, distorted "partying" portrayals or fantasy ideology. Regardless, all people have a right to speak their mind, even if we do not agree with them. I was foolish enough to hire these people; accordingly, I must now listen to them rant and belittle what Mark and I had worked so hard for, for so many years.
My family is reflecting on the past five years, the people with whom we misplaced our trust, and the future in which we will fight to correct the wrongs that so many are now paying for as a result of my poor judgment in the majority of the moral character of many of the people we employed.
I want to remember what Mark and I worked so hard to build, over embittered employees or associates who took advantage of Safari; at this moment, this is difficult. I will say that this experience will undoubtedly make me stronger, and though it would be easy to cower and run, I will not. Nor will my family; we're in it for the long haul, and we will fight to set things right.
You do not have to agree with us, or forgive us, but I do ask you to recognize that in life many investments are risks, and many of those risks are lost. It is my intention to see that your risk with Safari is not lost. I do recognize that my naiveté should not cost any of you anything.
James Hibberd responds: I stand by the story, which notes that investigators found no other income coming into Safari other than investor funds and a modest amount from ticket sales. The word "allegedly" was not used in the sentence the letter-writer cites because it was clear from the documents that investor funds were being used for Safari luxuries. I would like to add, though, that the portrayal of Jason Ayers should have reflected his disdain for what he considered Safari's irresponsible spending habits (it's the reason he spoke for the story), and he says that while many co-workers had access to free Ecstasy, he did not.
Accountability: Your article was very enlightening. My husband and I invested our life savings in this scheme. I wanted to believe in the whole deal, even when my mind told me it was too good to be true. Mare tells a very convincing story and has a way of making you think that everything will be okay. The amount of money that we invested does not even compare with some of the other large investors, but we have worked hard all of our lives to raise our kids, and it was all that we had saved or were able to come up with. Our hopes for a new home are gone now. Thanks for your seemingly honest account of this mess. I hope that all who hold responsibility for this are held personally accountable.
Name withheld by request
Scene misrepresented: I read the article about Safari Media with much interest. I'm a regular at the Pompeii club night called Freedom or KIND. My friends and I have been anxious for any news that would explain the holdup in the transfer of the club. I must say I am extremely disappointed to hear the reason for the foreclosure.
I speak for many people who are angry and disappointed that Safari Media has behaved in such an immoral and unethical fashion. And we are concerned that its behavior may be interpreted by the general public as being accepted within our club culture. It's not. Our community is based upon a love for music, electronica in particular. Our love for this universal music allows us to develop relationships that cross racial, sexual and other cultural boundaries. We believe in respect as the basic foundation upon which all relationships should be built. We practice that in our lives in a very real way. What Safari Media did is in opposition to everything our movement stands for.
The majority of the press we have received lately has been negative. From the constant police scrutiny of our parties to the sensationalistic reporting of the major news magazines, we have been attacked on all fronts. I felt that you did a pretty fair job in reporting about this issue. Regardless of the media reporting, our scene is not all about drugs and illegal behavior. We love to dance to techno music, plain and simple. Not all of us are 15-year-old drug dealers. I am 27 years old, have a degree in religion and a well-paying professional job. We are persecuted because the media and government have misinterpreted our message and motives. This country is so desperately out of touch about all things related to drugs. We've been fed misinformation and lies, and as a result we stand very close to losing our right to gather in groups and celebrate our love for music. What a tragedy.
I feel strongly that all our dance parties should be 18-and-over events. This is why Freedom at Pompeii fills a great need in our scene. It allows us to dance in a legal venue with other adults. Perhaps if local promoters would stop allowing children into their events, we would be able to continue to enjoy good music without so much hype.
What Safari Media did is in no way supported by the underground dance community in Phoenix. At least not my friends. We are a family. We love our music, each other, and our vibe. We try to practice tolerance in our daily affairs. I feel for those who've been defrauded by Safari Media. But I also feel for the general public, because they are being railroaded into passing legislation that will strip them of their basic civil rights. And it's all being done to rid the earth of the scourge of dancing to techno music. Footloose all over again.
Lastly, I want to say this to the Chisholms: Thanks for adding more fuel to the fire. You may enjoy techno music, but you're not a part of this movement. You've done more harm to the scene than you ever did good. I really hope you're innocent, but my suspicion is you will go to jail for your crimes. If you are guilty, you deserve it -- and I'll dance to that.
Name withheld by request
Drawing on greed: I agree with a lot of what Pearse Cullinane said in "Suspended Animation" (Serene Dominic, September 14). I have worked with Pearse at the Fox studios, and you couldn't meet a more likable, professional guy. I, too, have been in the animation industry for a long time, 11 years. What happened at Fox is nothing new. Studios do this all the time. They all look for instant profit, and if they don't get it, then it's goodbye! You're screwed!
I wish him all the best and hope he can pull himself out of the doldrums he's in. Maybe I'll get together with Pearse someday and we'll both write "You'll Never Sketch in This Town Again."
Script lacking: This letter is in response to Robrt L. Pela's interview with Dale Wasserman, who wrote the play A Walk in the Sky ("Not Quite Cloud Nine," September 14). Being a local actress and theatergoer, I found Wasserman's comments completely offensive. The problem with his play was not with what he calls the "non-actors" in this town, but with his weak writing! Those actors should be winning awards for some of the corny, cliché lines they were given to speak. The writing never lets the actors develop any kind of three-dimensional character. And a little bird tells me that Wasserman was very difficult during the rehearsal process and changed things constantly. Shame on him. He can look to any city he wants to find the "professional" actors he seeks, but I fear he may only find that what truly is holding back his play is an unprofessional, ungrateful writer who is living in his past glory.
Say it ain't so, Joe: Photo-op Joe Arpaio ("Posse Galore," Robert Nelson, August 24) brags that he's tough on crime even though he's failed to reduce recidivism as he promised when he ran for office.
If Broken-Campaign-Promise Joe just did what he said he'd do, would we need the new billion-dollar jail? Isn't the newer and much bigger one a monument to his failure to reduce recidivism?
Is getting tough on inmates the same as getting tough on crime? Isn't Out-of-Control Joe, who was accused by Amnesty International of being a human rights violator, actually soft on crime? Wouldn't it have been better to have reduced recidivism and put all that new jail funding into badly needed education programs instead? "Incarceration, sí; education, no." Say it ain't so, Chain-Gang Joe.
Hasn't Pink-Underwear Joe managed to win votes by simply entertaining the electorate? Doesn't that fly in the face of professional law enforcement? However, humiliating and abusing inmates has simply not reduced recidivism. Shouldn't public safety and cost-effectiveness necessitate that inmates go through proven and sustained rehabilitation programs of education, job training and therapy? The latter have a record of reducing recidivism.
Voters love dolts: Joe Arpaio is a self-serving, arrogant, sadistic pig. And he'll no doubt get reelected, since the mediocre minds of this "town" love their abuse -- abuse that is gladly handed out by people who hold high positions of power in this state. A sadistic sheriff is very fitting for a public that relishes abuse.
I don't need to point out the attraction to con-artist governors elected repeatedly, do I?
Mass masochism is a bottomless pit, as evidenced in the extreme tolerance of the scum in our elected offices.
A few years ago, I was working at a very established (20-plus years) Italian restaurant in Scottsdale, when who else but a fresh-out-of-prison Charles Keating graced all of us peons with his presence. Instead of being treated like a leper, as I'd expected, he was given a celebrity welcome. We had many celebrities visit, and none was treated as royally as Charlie. What commenced was a high-fivin', back-slappin', drink-buyin', adulatory brouhaha for old Chucky.
I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. I was appalled; it was literally nauseating. Anyone witnessing this, not knowing who the "hero" was, very well may have thought this guy was a wonderful human being. Saintly, perhaps.
This "town" gets what it deserves, for the voters willingly elect these sociopathic, gluttonous morons into power.
Name withheld by request
Republic acquisition: I set aside your August 10 story on the sale of the Arizona Republic to Gannett Company for a month before reading it, but still feel the need to comment on the good work of Amy Silverman ("Meet the New Boss, Same As the Old Boss"). Unlike many fluff pieces that have appeared in the Millennial New Times recently, this story was worth a good read.
Not only does the story point out the sad tradition of conflict of interest in Arizona editorial boards, it also invokes fear of an imminent homogenized journalism, which captures neither the character nor the reality of life in Arizona. The only hope in sight is that future editorial boards might be less likely to continue to play chess with Arizona's political pawns, despite contrary dictates of the canons of journalism.
Your next story, please: How Arizona is affected by being under the domination of two radio conglomerates that bombard us with lifeless music and cotton candy news reporting.
Only by revealing and critiquing these media trends can you prove your worth as an "alternative" newspaper.
Looking for God: I'm amazed and dismayed by Dave McElfresh's comments regarding the music of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman ("Weird Impressions," August 17). The use of terms such as "awful," "unnerving," "manic" and "brain-draining" reveals a bias and a narrow-mindedness that I'd never experienced in reading McElfresh over the years. I expect more from such a well-versed and observant writer.
Dave, would you offer up the belief that only "conventional" music is worth listening to? If so, what defines "convention"? The brass players before Louis Armstrong? The sax blowers who preceded Bird? How about all those pianists who never tried what we now call Monkish chords? Who determines what is good/conventional and bad/unconventional?
An even larger question, one that I would have thought you'd already pondered: What is music? At its core, is it anything except sound? Then who among us is so spiritually elevated to differentiate "good" sound from a "soul-searching howl"? From the slanted tone of your article, I imagine that you would have been one of those who walked out on the première of Rites of Spring or who booed Sun Ra when he debuted new music at Slugs in the '60s. Even Armstrong, who dismissed the early bop pioneers as using weird chords without melody, proved to be misled by his conventional stance, his "that ain't music" viewpoint.
John Coltrane was on a spiritual journey, even if you don't believe it. You say he played all the time. Yet it wasn't so he could be called the "best" jazzman of his day. It wasn't even because he sought commercial success. Coltrane was simply on a lonely quest to find his voice and his God. Can't you hear that? So maybe Benny Goodman was on a different quest. Surely Dexter Gordon and Ben Webster were, Stan Getz and Sonny Rollins are. There is no reason to put down a musician because you don't like what he plays. Hell, even the much-maligned Kenny G has a voice, one that is as off-putting to some as Ornette Coleman's.
Your journalism speaks of your prejudice and close-minded approach to your subject. Those who can't, write. Those who can't write, criticize. Would you have wanted Coltrane to keep playing modal music and selling albums? Even Miles Davis tried different shit in order to grow or at least change as an artist. The real danger in your article is that some readers might take your opinion and not approach these works for themselves.
Does every musician/artist have to please the masses? Do we look at record sales as validation of a person's seriousness? Believe me, Coltrane's reputation wasn't "ruined" by his later work; the pure sound he released through his horns continues to be intriguing, difficult, puzzling, frightening at times and soaringly beautiful at others. Listen to the live version of "Naima" from 1965, or the tune "Offering" from his last session in '67.
I admit I haven't listened to much Ornette Coleman. I don't know why. While I champion his right to pursue his own thing, I've just never taken the time to listen. And that is the key, Mr. McElfresh. Bob Thiele, who recorded Coltrane, said that "most people -- musicians and listeners -- don't have the time to really sit down, listen and let the music just get into them." If you can open your mind and get beyond the surface rejection to ask "Why?" and "What's going on here?", then you might hear what "thousand-note-a-minute soloing" is trying to say.
You want "genteel"? It's FM 95.5.
Music with energy: In response to the article on jazz musicians John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman: The '60s were a time of many diverse social issues and unrest -- that was reflected in much of the jazz music of Coltrane and Coleman. Jazz, being our own true American art form, was an outlet or outcry of the times. Real jazz has "raw emotion" expressed by an individual's own unique style.
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Is jazz merely background music or toe-tapping-simple-ho-hum-along entertainment? No, real jazz needs and deserves to be listened to and learned. This means several careful listenings to recordings. Live with it until you begin to recognize what's coming next! I was fortunate enough to attend one of Coltrane's last live concerts, with Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Rashied Ali and Elvin Jones, all together in early 1967. I was awestruck with the power and conviction in which they executed one composition that lasted well over an hour. The energy that was emitted from that performance kept me wide awake all the rest of that night.
Jazz today is lacking energy. Musicians need to listen to each other and feed off each other's ideas.
Let's get back to our real jazz art form and not sell out our clef signs for dollar signs. Coltrane and Coleman refused to compromise their true American art form.