Letters 04-06-2000

Burning Questions

The article "Danger to Children" (Paul Rubin, March 23) was the most moving and disturbing I've read since moving here last year. As a mother of three, it devastated me to think of what the children went through. Yes, I feel that their mother was wronged by the system, but her crime did appear to be planned, so it makes me question just how sick she was at the time -- she was lucid enough to plan the crime.

Name withheld by request

The mental-health professionals who failed Kelly Blake reflect the attitude of many in a community that fails the mentally ill. We admit to a large number of mentally ill homeless, then proceed to build a case against helping them. An example is a recent Doug MacEachern Arizona Republic article, "What will it finally take to end homelessness crisis?" First he admits to "a wide swath of humanity, dominated by the mentally ill," then proceeds to blame the same homeless for not seeking the aid available to them. Add those also blaming the mentally ill for not taking their medicine. In both cases, the critics expect rational behavior from irrational people, mentally ill people.

This attitude that shifts responsibility for a problem onto the least responsible members of society just makes the problem worse.

Herb. Knauss

The article about Johnny Blake really hit home for me. My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She finally left when I was 7 years old. I am now 38. All these years I always wondered why. When I read this article, I found out why. Thank you! You answered a very difficult question for me.

Name withheld by request

I work in the mental-health system in this county and have done so for more than 15 years. Over that period of time, I have seen people improve dramatically and have seen people deteriorate as a result of illness. I have fought very hard personally and publicly in attempts to obtain and provide the best care possible given the tools available. The greatest majority of the people I have known working in this field have also done their best. Sometimes our best hasn't been enough.

I think, though, that much of your reportage over the past few years has not been aimed in the right direction. Whatever agency has been in charge of providing care to the seriously mentally ill has only been able to provide care "within the law" and within the budgets provided by our legislators. There are more people in need than there is money available. There is minimal money available to treat people with substance-abuse problems. There is not enough low-income housing or supervised housing available for those who need it. There is not enough money to provide counseling to those who could benefit from it. There are not enough case managers to adequately coordinate care with other agencies. Family-practice physicians are not well prepared to deal with the more acutely ill of this county, and some tell their clients that any medical concerns they express are "all in their heads." Our clients are feared by their neighbors, victimized by criminals, arrested and imprisoned themselves because they don't have a place to live, a place to bathe, a family to support them, regular meals, or the common respect we provide to other human beings.

Now, that being said, the agencies providing care to this population have not always been adequately prepared to handle the need, and mistakes have been made. Some of these mistakes have had tragic results, as in "Danger to Children," but one must also look at the fact that legally we cannot provide mental-health treatment to someone who doesn't request it, nor can we read minds. We cannot even get access to other agency records without first going through a lengthy legal process. This is done to protect the individual's right to privacy, but it also places a constraint on treatment providers. We can only treat what we are allowed to treat, what we are told about and what we can see.

It sounds as if Kelly Blake was hesitant to disclose the extent of her inner pain. Given the results of her act of desperation, it is natural for us now to look back and say, "How could anyone have missed her need?" I submit, however, that the urgent care center staff and the county hospital staff were not the people most familiar with Ms. Blake -- not the ones who could have noticed the changes in character and in behavior that preceded her visits to those facilities. We, all of us, professionals, paraprofessionals, family, neighbors and church family, failed her. Please remember that the system includes all of us, and not just the ones who are in the spotlight.

I hope that others will read this article and take an interest in better understanding the need for mental-health services and the limits of those providing treatment. I pray for Kelly, for her children, both living and dead, and for the countless others who suffer from the pain of mental illness. I work every day to provide the best service I can, and I know that there will always be those persons who "fall through the cracks" of our system and our knowledge. I hope that the general public can recognize the things we do that are helpful, that do work, that provide relief, that improve our clients' quality of life as well as those times when we fail. And pray for us, too.

Name withheld by request

Ream Job

After reading comments from readers about David Holthouse's other columns, it seems almost a waste of time providing feedback or clarification of his misrepresentations in "Slippery Chute" (March 16). It seems he is merely trying to stir up some trouble, or at least get some debate going for the sake of sensationalism. Of course, most readers will probably never know how inaccurate his reporting is.

The column paints a picture of unsafe sex and married men frequenting a private club for gay men. Nothing could be further from the truth. The column is so misleading and so inaccurate, it would take rewriting the whole column to give a true picture of this establishment. Evidently, Holthouse chose to ignore the jars of condoms at his disposal not only at the check-in counter, but in the TV rooms, and the complimentary ones left in every room (you'd have to be blind not to see them). Literature and posters on bulletin boards throughout the establishment offer not only warnings about unsafe sex, but also education and information on sexually transmitted diseases and safe sex.

I believe that this writer wouldn't want gay men to meet in public, date in public or have any form of sex anywhere (private club or at home), period! This is what really seems to have churned his gut. It certainly is true that "the message of safer sex in the gay community is much more prevalent than it ever has been in the heterosexual community." I don't think you'd find as much information in a straight establishment on safe sex. I've yet to see the wedding rings that he describes and doubt very seriously that if a married man was to frequent this establishment, he'd want to be seen with one on.

I think Holthouse needs to report on issues he is more familiar with and possibly have a gay writer cover such issues as "Slippery Chute." Thumbs down on this column.

Name withheld by request

I have to respond to your column about the Chute. I have gone there a few times, and the counter where you pick up your towel has a bucket of free condoms sitting there. I also have gotten a private room, and there have been condoms in the rooms also. I realize there are unsafe practices going on with some of the people, but I think that is the minority. It is probably much riskier for people to cruise bookstores or parks looking for sex. Although I am not a member of this club, I certainly hope your column does not force the city into trying to close it down or raid the place.

Name withheld by request

After reading your column, I wondered whom and what the Chute and other clubs like it serve, and what might be some of the outcomes were they to be closed. With this in mind, I started to remember the many times that I've seen men cruise high schools or the toilets at parks, libraries and department stores. Many of the men wore wedding rings.

Prompted by your angst, I'm sitting here with that burr -- the wedding rings -- under my saddle. My sense of what could be discomfiting is that somehow there is a notion that this should not be the case: that married men should not be in bathhouses. I wonder why this bothers you.

Notwithstanding your statement that you think that "it's an outrage for any government to legislate sexual morality," I can't help but hear a sense of rectitude in your could-have-but-didn't file a formal complaint. Instead, it seems to me that your column is mostly a moral complaint. Only the exactitudes of what is and what is not permissible to you are not clearly stated.

What is your intention or your hoped-for outcome with your column? Whom do you serve? Aside from sashaying the tired, old news that, among others, many white, middle-aged married men love to suck dick, what's new? Are you wringing your hands because you just found out? Do you think that your article might help to stop this? Do you have any concern for the reasons and the causes of this? Is your discomfiture a personal complex?

Don't you know that many men marry just as a smoke screen? Consider that oh-so-jockey Boy Scouts -- once they get away from their high schools and families and go off to college -- often "come out" screaming. Where do you think they land years later, after they've come home, had to get a job, gotten into the real world, and, of course, had to get married for whatever reason? Consider their plight. Is deceit or hypocrisy a crime yet?

You're troubled by so-called risky behavior. I don't care to argue the merits of so-called safe sex in this letter. I am puzzled, though, as to why you imply you are troubled more by them wearing wedding rings than the behavior engaged in itself. More than the obvious implications of married men engaging in risky sex behavior, you say, "Just a lot of men out for easy, anonymous sex."


I encourage you to consider the potential for bashing that is incited by columns like "Slippery Chute." I am not suggesting you censor your reportage. Only to please take into account whom and to what end your writing serves, and what truly is the source of your consternation. What do you think that agents with lesser tolerance than you will do with your column? It's historical what occurs when writers like you expose what's been happening forever and a day again to those who might want to bash anyone who's tagged to be "it." Berlin comes to mind.

I believe there is value to the Chute. It serves a public. Based on your reportage, certainly there's a use of it. And I believe that anyone who goes there goes into it willingly.

Alfredo Estrella
Rainbow Valley

David Holthouse responds:The night I went to the Chute, accompanied by another New Times writer, there was no jar of condoms on the front counter or in the porno rooms, and there were no condoms in the display case of sexual aids for sale. Two days later, I called the Chute. The man who answered said condoms were available to our guests who ask for them. There may have been complimentary condoms in the private rooms. I didnt go into any of them. Its possible I missed the safe-sex posters on the walls, although posting safe-sex warnings at a place like the Chute is like putting up a Just Say No banner at a reggae festival.

Franco Files

This letter is in regard to the disgusting glorification of Franco Gagliano ("Franco's Wild Years," Brian Smith, March 23). As I write this, I am outraged, as I am sure are many other band members throughout the Valley. New Times has never given much respect to the local music scene, but this is a new all-time low. Mr. Smith obviously belongs to some sort of pawnshop secret society run by Franco and an army of cock rockers. Someone has to be the voice of the bands -- all the bands he ever screwed over, and there were plenty. I would like to be that voice.

Just as Mr. Smith stated, Franco was internationally known. Yeah, for being a prick, and next to Evan Mecham, probably the most hated man in Phoenix. If you did happen to be in one of the bands Franco took under his wing, where are you now, and do you still use Aqua Net? The Mason Jar has always been the lowest of the low. Let us not forget exactly what it is: a sleazy little hair club for red rockers and spandex queens that has not been cool since 1986. The best thing about the Mason Jar? There isn't one. However, you can catch an array of washed-up hair bands from the 80s. The Mason Jar could very well be the one menacing evil that has kept Phoenix out of the national spotlight for years.

I will tell you what should be done to the Mason Jar -- it should be demolished, along with all its tainted memories and broken dreams. Hell, you wouldn't even have to pay for that. Just put an ad in the paper, "Need people to tear down the Mason Jar." Then watch as thousands of onetime aspiring musicians come out of the woodwork to partake in such a monumental event.

Big draw or not, you always got screwed at the Mason Jar, always. Say it's Tuesday night and you get 20 of your friends there (no easy task). They all pay three bucks to get in and they all get drunk. Guess what? You don't get paid. Franco stayed in business all these years by not paying bands, thus resulting in more gold chains and Hawaiian shirts. Clubs like the Reptile House and Paradox have all gone. Why? Well, they always paid their bands. Truth be told, good guys and good clubs finish last. The Mason Jar is an institution to filth and corruption and should be forgotten immediately, although, I am sure, many of us will never be afforded such a luxury.

If Brian Smith is the best music writer New Times has to offer, we are in trouble. Trouble because he had the balls to write about this travesty of justice. Trouble because he believed we were stupid enough to buy his sugar-coated nonsense. Trouble because he may write more articles about his buddy Franco. The people of Phoenix are intelligent, and it is time to look to the future of Arizona music and beyond the negative factors holding us back. Things like the Mason Jar and Brian Smith.

Derek Rogers
via Internet

I am writing in response to your column on Franco and the Jar. What a great overview of their history! I, too, spent more nights than I can count in that wonderful dive of a club, and have nothing but fond memories. I've grown up a lot since then, but consider my time spent there my "rite of passage." I just wanted to let you know that your column was amazing, and you actually got me choked up. Brian Smith is an excellent writer.

Name withheld by request

Nice tribute to Franco. Somebody had to say it, glad to see it was Brian Smith. He is a refreshing addition to New Times. Of course, it's easy reading when you share some of the same views and experiences as the writer. I was at most of those shows you mentioned.

Name withheld by request

Just wanted to say I enjoyed Brian Smith's column about Franco and the Mason Jar. It's disappointing (and very much unlike Franco) to be so quiet about his decision to sell the Mason Jar. But it was nice to read a story that wasn't bashing him for once. Say what you will about Franco -- and everybody has an opinion about him; I myself have mixed feelings -- his was the first non-Spanish club to give our music genre, Spanish rock, a break. Hardly any other club (exceptions being Hollywood Alley, Boston's on occasion, and the now-defunct Limelight) is willing to "take a risk" with its regular patrons and book Spanish rock bands. Maybe it was because Franco himself was an immigrant, or maybe he just didn't have the narrow mind that is customary in the Valley music scene. Regardless, all of us in that scene appreciated the chance to show we could rock just as hard -- and just as well -- as the Anglos. He gave us a chance first, and judged us afterward -- instead of the other way around, as most Valley clubs do.

I was disappointed to hear about the sale of the Jar, but I hope that the new owners keep his open-minded attitude. Thanks again, Franco!

Leticia de la Vara
via Internet

Wage Freeze

I was a state employee for many years. When the Legislature infrequently gave us a raise, it always talked in terms of 1 or 2 percent, and it was a battle at that ("Working Stiffs," Amanda Scioscia, March 23). On top of the Legislature's general stinginess, it usually insisted that the increase received by individual employees be based on performance and not given across the board. What an insult to see that the Legislature, with the session drawing to a close, is about to grant judges another large pay increase without even mentioning performance, fairness to other employees, or what other workers are receiving. The increase, at 17.5 percent, is totally out of line. A Superior Court judge will end up making $136,600. People should hold their legislator's feet to the fire on this vote.

Arlene Bansal


My partner and I attended Arizona State University's production of Measure for Measure ("An Update Named Disaster," Robrt L. Pela, March 2). We have attended, and enjoyed, several of ASU's previous shows this year, most recently the following evening's production of Pippin, and found them almost uniformly well-staged, directed and performed. However, without having read Pela's review of March 2, I can certainly attest to his analysis of this production (as evidenced by the response from Edward Carroll in the March 16 issue).

Before addressing the obvious shortcomings of the production, let me state that I am a theater arts graduate, and have spent the past 30-some years involved in every aspect of theatrical production, most recently in direction and technical direction. During this time, I have been involved in more than 100 productions in Indiana, Oregon, Virginia and Alaska, in professional, semiprofessional, college and community theater, and have probably attended an additional 300 productions. In all that time, this production of MFM marks only the second time I have walked out in the middle of a show! It is inconceivable to me that a fine theater program such as that at ASU would stage such a travesty. On to specifics:

1) Nontraditional casting has its place, namely to open up opportunities not normally afforded some performers, and to add spice to a sometimes bland performance. It should not, however, be used as a tool to bludgeon the audience or to satisfy a director's personal curiosity. In this case, the cross-gender, cross-racial, cross-handicap proclivities of the director served only to muddle an already complex theatrical offering.

2) A "voice and speech coach" was credited in the program. As if burdening the obviously ill-prepared cast with the unenviable task of translating Shakespearean iambic pentameter into Southern American English wasn't bad enough, the enunciation and projection were so bad that, had I not been familiar with the plot, I would have left the theater at intermission still unaware of what crime Claudio had committed.

3) The introductory sequence (exposition?) had me completely confused, and seemed to serve only as a vehicle to provide two performers the opportunity to showcase their musical abilities, leaving me with precious little to further my understanding of the following events.

4) The performance lacked any sense of pacing, blocking or motivation (key essentials to providing the foundation necessary to understand and interpret the action).

Enough! Suffice it to say, I believe the student performers were shortchanged in their efforts to participate in a positive educational experience by a shortsighted directorial endeavor. I will not be attending any further shows directed by Beverly Smith-Dawson. Perhaps she should stick to lecturing (her staff position at ASU). Oh, and by the way, kudos to the set designer, who provided the only positive moments in an otherwise horrible theatrical outing.

Charles Sowder
via Internet


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