Porn Free
Although the article on porn star Nikki Lynn and husband Richard ("The Best Laid Plans of Nikki Lynn," Brian Smith, July 30) portrayed them as "just folks" and loving members of a happy family, the description of the families in which they grew up is quite enlightening: Nikki's "real" dad abandoned her when she was small, but her step-dad was always there for her, although he was sometimes intoxicated by 7 a.m. Her mother's only concern about Nikki's involvement in the world of pornography was whether it paid enough for mom to have expensive curtains. Richard's father, too, was an alcoholic.

It sounds as if both Nikki and Richard grew up mixed up about what families are, how they should behave toward each other, and how vital the bonds of love and marital fidelity are to the partners and their children.

Witness the fact that although both Nikki and Richard think there is nothing "wrong" with Nikki's profession, they keep it a secret from their own youngsters. Richard may not mind selling his wife to men, and Nikki may actually enjoy selling herself, but her work is wrong--and both Richard and Nikki know that, or they wouldn't want to hide it from their kids.

Pornography is not the respectable business indicated by New Times' blithe portrayal of its industry magazines, major studios, big money, elite actors and actresses.

It is video prostitution which encourages its fans to objectify the subjects of their lust and has been shown to contribute to the incidence of rape and the abuse of women and children.

The truest statement Nikki made was that she is not a feminist. Nor is she a humanist, for she is making a living in a profession which contributes to the misery of others and the perpetuation of the myth that some folks' only role in life is to be degraded by others.

No matter what Nikki thinks of herself, she deserves better than that. No matter what Richard thinks of himself, he deserves better than that. And no matter what the couple as parents think of themselves, their sons deserve better than that, too.

Jaxn Aronnax

I always read Barry Graham's column in New Times. Sometimes, I throw the paper down in disgust because I think he's the meanest son of a bitch that ever walked the planet (examples: his diatribes against Mother Teresa and Princess Diana after their deaths). Then, sometimes, I say, "yeah," because he makes what I consider uncharacteristic sense (examples: diatribes against living local politicians and Sheriff Joe).

I've never been able to get a clear picture of him because his columns leap back and forth between conservative and liberal (for lack of better words). But, usually, I imagine a slightly paunchy, balding, middle-aged guy wearing Birkenstocks and sporting some semblance of a beard.

Never in a million years would I have envisioned him packing a gun ("Pistol Whipped," July 23). And never, considering my aversion to guns in general, would I have envisioned myself saying that makes a helluva lot of sense.

I'm a Southerner. I was born and raised in South Carolina. Guns are a fact of Southern life. Along with living with the stereotype that we're all a bunch of illiterate, inbred rednecks looking to lynch a few blacks before lunchtime.

Guns are a part of the hunting and marksmanship traditions in the South. And, yes, self-defense. Despite the metropolitan urban areas that pockmark the "New South," the South is still a predominantly rural region where homes may be few and far between, and law enforcement is not readily available. In situations such as this, when danger threatens, a gun in the home is considered money in the bank.

Where I grew up, guns were locked away in the gun cabinet or a metal box on the top closet shelf, and you were whipped within an inch of your life for messing with them. On the flip side, I saw little if any random gun violence (or even heard about it) when I was growing up down South. Contrary to popular (non-Southern) thought, we are not a bunch of trigger-happy hotheads ready to settle minor grievances with a six-shooter or a shotgun.

Years ago, an uncle of mine wanted to teach me how to shoot. I wouldn't let him because just the heft and the coldness of his revolver in my hand terrified me. I felt like I was looking at death, and I knew instinctively that I wanted no part of it. Now I wish I had let him teach me.

I'm a woman and, now, a mother. I have three little girls. And I agree with your statement that every woman should have a gun and know how to use it. If not for her own protection, then to protect her children.

Society has grown increasingly violent during my 40-plus years on this planet, and I don't see it abating anytime soon, whether from law enforcement, societal pressure or the coming millennium. As violence becomes more prevalent, the risk of being victimized by it increases for all of us.

Gun control does make sense. Banning guns does not. Because there's always going to be some fool someplace who's gonna get his hands on a gun and blow somebody's brains out. I don't want the brains in question to be mine or--worse--one of my children's.

If this means I have to swallow the bile that rises in my throat every time I touch a gun, so be it. I'll pick the damn thing up and learn how to use it. And when my kids are old enough, I'll teach them how to use one--just like kids in the South have been taught by their parents for generations. Not for sport, but for survival.

Name withheld by request

Thank you for your great article "Pistol Whipped." After each paragraph, I was to the point of almost cheering. I have been trying to explain this view on guns to people for years, but they just don't get it. I wish that it was legal to sell guns door to door in Arizona. I would be filthy rich. My strategy would be to display the various models I had for sale, just like a vacuum cleaner salesman. Then I would turn on a portable police scanner and have the homeowners listen for five minutes to exactly what happens in their "safe" neighborhood. When they had the opportunity to actually hear what is happening three blocks away or even closer, I think I could sell a gun for protection to every home I visited.

R. Sanders
via Internet

Lao-tzu said: "The more weapons of violence, the more misery to mankind. The triumph of violence ends in a festival of mourning."

A nation warped in ignorance does not emerge by employing more ignorance.
Alan Hill

I normally do not read New Times except for those occasions when I have to wait and there is nothing else to read. This time, the front-page blurb caught my eye, and I picked up a copy to see what the latest anti-gun silliness was about. I was both pleased and surprised to find such a realistic, sensible and down-to-earth article in a publication which normally has knee-jerk reactions on the subject of firearms. Friends and family to whom I showed the article were equally impressed.

Until moving to Arizona, I was forced to carry a gun illegally to protect myself. On three occasions, the fact that I had a gun saved me from grave injury or death, without ever firing a shot.

Michael Sperber
via Internet

Barry Graham consistently demonstrates his ability to cut through ideological bias and get to the human quick of social issues, usually much more complex than the ideologues acknowledge. Such was his July 23 column, "Pistol Whipped." However, a reasonable amendment to Graham's solution of gun control to handgun violence: Require gun-ownership applicants to prove that they can indeed handle a firearm safely and be able to hit the broadside of a barn with it. After all, unintended and errant shots accounted for a good share of those 9,390 U.S. gun deaths in 1996.

A. Wayne Senzee

Breakfast Clubbing
Even those who do not normally agree with your liberal bent have at times appreciated your investigative reporting on certain matters.

But Barry Graham's "Gallant Effort" in the July 30 issue showed the astute reader his unfairness and failings. He resorted to simply sliming the Arizona Breakfast Club with name-calling, and I know for a fact that he came late and left early. He obviously fears discussing the issues we are concerned with because name-calling and race-baiting is the last resort of those who feel that they cannot win an argument on merits--merits he won't tell his readers.

I helped organize that meeting as Secretary of the Arizona Breakfast Club. I am a registered Libertarian, like some other club members. We had several Libertarian candidates among Republicans such as Betsy Bayless. Tom Rawles, Gallant's primary Libertarian gubernatorial opponent, was there, and Graham didn't mention him either. Graham unfairly painted a portrait of Gallant invading strange turf. She, too, was invited and knew no campaign speeches would be given at the mixer. I gave her the invitation, so I know. Gallant and Barwood agree on the voting scam, but Barwood was skewered, Gallant upheld.

I spent better than 10 years as a journalist, a conservative up to my eyeballs in liberals, and have had enough of such as Graham's slimy approach to subjects he does not favor or understand. I now work for the church. I would be happy to educate Graham on the issues conservatives raise. I challenge the New Times to give honest reporting to conservative issues and not name-calling. Matters like Clinton speaking against our Constitution and giving missile guidance technology to the Red Chinese against regulations and military advice.

And some of us conservatives see Tom Bearup as the most credible candidate to replace Sheriff Arpaio, whom you have been excoriating, and whom some of us deplore as well.

Graham failed to chastise Governor Hull for using the weight of her office to exclude another legitimate candidate, Gallant, from a public debate. Hull has no right to exclude other candidates from public consideration--only the right to excuse herself from a contest she has no belly for--just as Rep. Ken Cheuvront did in refusing to debate Libertarian John Buttrick. Graham's work should shame him. It is not a "Gallant Effort."

I might guess it was hard for him to even get the address right (he didn't) since he had a blonde bombshell on his arm as he slipped anonymously into our social event. He wasn't trying to talk to us!

David McElroy

Garbage Advise, Consent
In the July 23 "Trashman," Bill Blake wrote: "There is something profoundly funny, albeit pathetic, about a flabby '80s MTV star who fancies himself some kind of stud while wielding his soft, 200-plus-pound carcass around like it is something to behold; like he's the shit, like enough self-aggrandizing will make him bigger than life--like in those Reagan-era rock videos. Hardy har har."

There is something even funnier: a hack of a writer and an obvious drunken loser who fancies himself as some kind of porn connoisseur. In my book, porn experts are people who can't get laid. With the degree of pent-up frustration you display in this poorly written article, you obviously haven't gotten the ol' dipstick wet in quite some time. Get a grip (you'll have no problem with that), get a life and try to get laid (even if vermin like you have to pay for it); it will improve your whole outlook on life.

Dennis Boydstun
Augusta, Georgia

The Play's the Thing
Robrt L. Pela's piece "Playwrights of the Western World" (July 16), regarding the two play fests by two theaters here in Phoenix, rang a bell in an arena with which I am familiar. I started a playwriting workshop in 1983 which eventually became Playwright's Workshop Theatre. I left the company a year ago, after years of reading, producing and teaching playwriting. There were several statements, ideas and quotes that I would like to respond to.

The first notion I would like to address was Mr. Pela's comment that these "play-reading series" do little to convince professional companies to mount these new works. I suppose Mr. Pela is correct in that regard; what would he have them do? The fact of the matter is that, unfortunately, in a subsidized arts society, these companies are in a cycle that can only "praise famous men." Take away those large sums of money, and the theaters would be more dependent on the passion and commitment of local artists. Moreover, the theatergoing elite demand that we celebrate those who have been deemed worthy by those in power. In the case of Phoenix, those in power are the academic institutions and the "professional" theater companies. Phoenix will never become a truly progressive arts community unless the leadership begins to recognize the existence of talented artists here who aren't necessarily validated by their degree or professional associations.

Secondly, Michael Grady's quote, "Maybe the biggest benefit of these festivals is that some playwrights learn they really shouldn't be playwrights." Perhaps Mr. Grady would apply this notion to many other vocations as well. That way, we could really begin to envision a society where only the best, the smartest and the most talented rule the world. (Oh, I forgot, that is the way it is!) Listen, playwriting is a life, it isn't a vocation where if you're really good you get an A. There are communities where the worth of an artist does not depend on academic craftiness. When a 67-year-old Polish Jewish woman came to me and wanted to write a play about her experience in Nazi Germany, I didn't ask her for her MFA. It's true, her skills were not on a par with George Bernard Shaw's, but, man, was she an interesting person! Where are the writers who are living interesting lives? The theater is a celebration of life! It is not a celebration of the intellect!

Lastly, I would like to address the idea of nepotism in the theater, which is brought up in the article. Hello? On a practical note for playwrights, nepotism exists in the theater as it does everywhere. It will always exist. Get over it. While you are developing your skills, it will be very difficult for your work to be separated from your personality. So, get yourself into the theater! The theater needs your energy. Life is full of people who are talking about what they will do. Genet said, "A man is defined by the action of his life, not by the action of his words." Don't expect others to take action for you; rather, conquer reality with your passion.

Raymond King Shurtz, ex-artistic director
Playwright's Workshop Theatre

Art Attack
I was executive director of Tempe Arts Center from 1996-98, and I would like to clarify a comment that appeared in "Spaced Out in Tempe" (Ed Lebow, June 25), which discussed the state of the center.

The article states that the board will appoint a new leader "who knows how to raise funds." Fund raising was one of the areas in which we were most successful during my tenure. Foundation revenue increased 100 percent, corporate contributions increased more than 30 percent, and our annual Art Auction raised 40 percent more than the previous year. Indeed, according to our treasurer, the center was in the best financial position by the time I resigned than in the previous three or four years.

Our success in fund raising allowed us to produce exhibits that would not have otherwise been seen by the community, including a stunning enamel exhibit featuring international artists, and shows featuring nationally and internally recognized artists and artist teams. Patty Haberman, the curator at the time, is to be commended or her vision and ability to take the center to a new level with these exhibitions. We were also able to expand the 15-year-strong artist in residence program in partnership with the Tempe Elementary School District, offer humanities lectures in conjunction with exhibits, upgrade the computer system and increase staff salaries.

We were able to achieve this kind of success with support from the City of Tempe and with dollars generated by the board, art auction, gift shop and membership. The center was not hugely successful as an organization if you measure success by the ability to make a lot of money, but we made enough to support and increase the programming. We measured our success by the quality of what we offered to the community and how the community benefited and responded. Every nonprofit is responsible for achieving some level of self-sufficiency, but according to a telephone survey we conducted with several nonprofit arts organizations in the Valley, both large and small, the center received an average amount of revenue from government sources.

The staff and I worked very hard and made many sacrifices with our personal time so that we could offer something unique to Tempe and the state. We brought national and international recognition to the Tempe and Arizona, and I hope that efforts such as these will be recognized and rewarded so that a variety of arts organizations can make or keep their home here.

Vicki Stouffer
Executive Director
Business Volunteers for the Arts


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