RoxSand in Your Face
Having read the positive review of Morton's of Chicago by New Times, it came as quite a surprise to pick up the June 6 issue and find RoxSand Scocos' vitriolic slap at our restaurant and staff ("Menu for a Small Planet").

Obviously, Morton's of Chicago is not Ms. Scocos' cup of tea, but our guests certainly disagree with her "opinions." Morton's of Chicago is recognized by food and wine writers for its outstanding hospitality and quality food. We recognize that our restaurant may not suit everyone's tastes, but what restaurant does? However, we believe that there is room in the world for a variety of tastes, and we welcome the diversity brought to the dining arena by each restaurant.

It is surprising that Ms. Scocos feels there is no place in Phoenix for individuals who truly enjoy a quality steak in a fine-dining atmosphere. Morton's apparently so unnerved her that her perception of our menu and service was clouded to the point that she attributed menu items to us that we do not serve. There is no pork on Morton's menu. Contrary to Ms. Scocos' views, our verbal menu presentation is highly appreciated by our guests.

In conclusion, a question to Ms. Scocos--why is it acceptable for people to eat the beef served at her establishment, but not Morton's of Chicago (particularly as our meat is the highest-quality USDA prime grade, aged beef that is available anywhere)? Her comments ring a touch hypocritical to our ears. Live and let live, Ms. Scocos. Free choice for all.

We are grateful to the citizens of Phoenix and Scottsdale for having embraced Morton's in such a gracious manner. As always, we will strive to provide them our very best.

Wendy Aiello, director of public relations
Morton's of Chicago: The Steakhouse
Chicago, Illinois

Don't Know Much About History
I write to take exception to the wildly inaccurate account of the interpretive exhibits at the new Arizona Historical Society Museum in Tempe ("The Museum That Couldn't Think Straight," Terry Greene Sterling, May 23).

New Times is dead wrong to say that Kemper Marley "started" or was the author of the new Arizona Historical Society Museum. I can testify that beyond having his name on the door, Marley had absolutely no influence on the museum's historical interpretation.

New Times falsely accuses American History Workshop, which prepared the museum's conceptual plan in 1989, of confining its researches to pro-business sources. In fact, AHW interviewed hundreds of Arizonans from every walk of life and every segment of society--scholars and teachers at many levels, community and religious leaders, journalists, union workers, municipal and military officials, retirees, schoolchildren and teenagers, and many others. At the time, AHW's community-based investigations were highly praised in articles appearing in several community and ethnic newspapers in the Valley.

Far from being swallowed up in boosterism, AHW's carefully researched plan articulated a fresh and inclusive core narrative of central Arizona history. Recall that the economic slowdown of the mid-1980s made it possible for the first time in a half-century to question the Phoenix area's dominant myth of its history as an endless expansion. Our plan thus discarded the conventional model of time-line exhibits precisely because they promoted boosterism. Instead, we described how central Arizona evolved as a layering of successive economic booms and busts--one based on agriculture, another on "health, tourists and retirees," a third on military installations, a fourth on high-tech economy, and so on.

We explained that each such economy generated its own business challenges, but also new environmental concerns, political conflicts, and demographic and social changes. Each gallery thus aims to help explain the way things look and work in the Valley today. This is hardly an exercise in "Chamber of Commerce blather," as the article says. Finally, the museum's "Futures Lab" will actually give visitors an opportunity--unique in American history museums--to debate contemporary concerns during their museum tours. All this was spelled out in the concept and schematic plans New Times characterizes so crudely.

In our meetings with community people, we also discovered an interest in new methods of museum presentation. New Times may prefer rows and rows of cases containing old farm tools, each labeled with tiny print. But despite its disparagement, interactive devices like the Wheel of Fortune in the re-created State Fair area have proved more successful in conveying such critical concepts as the riskiness of investing or working in central Arizona's capital-intensive agriculture. With something more sensitive than a bludgeon in hand, New Times would have been able to distinguish between "kinks" in the operation and major shortcomings in the approach. Instead, its article is a mishmash of untruths, half-truths, trivialities, tabloid headlines, employee grievances and some dubious journalistic techniques.

American History Workshop is proud to have planned the exhibits at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the forthcoming National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, among others dealing with multicultural themes, and we are deeply offended by the article's venomous accusation about the "racism" of the museum's presentations.

There are other important factual inaccuracies in the story. How could Michael Freisinger have written "a March 1992 memo" reviewing the new museum when its doors did not open until 1996? And perhaps New Times might have taken the time to learn correctly the family name of Nancy Dallett, which is misspelled nine times.

All new history museums evolve and improve their presentations. Someday soon, AHS-Tempe will become more physically accessible; its media programs will add "closed-captioning"; its forthcoming exhibits are designed to provide a richer perspective on the community's diversity. Eventually, I am confident that Arizonans will have, in Tempe, the most sophisticated history museum in the American Sunbelt, and perhaps in the nation.

Richard Rabinowitz, president
American History Workshop
Brooklyn, New York

Editor's note: Yes, our story had a typo in the date of a memo, and Dallett's name was misspelled. I'm sorry we made those errors. But I'm not at all sorry we wrote that the museum was "started" by Kemper Marley, because his $1 million donation of seed money started it; that the museum is boosteristic, because it is, and we gave the examples to show it; that the Wheel of Fortune agribusiness exhibit is silly, because it is extremely, obviously so; or that casual racism is on display at the museum, because it is, and we gave the examples to back that assertion. And yes, Mr. Rabinowitz, we all look forward to the day when this museum "evolves" to the point that it complies with basic requirements of federal and state disability law.


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