In response to "Cruel and Usual" (RFT, Feb. 16): Mark Freeman is getting what he deserves! So what if he has a small cell and is in it for 23 hours -- I don't care! He was a gang leader who I'm sure committed numerous crimes. Let him rot! I am a victim of a violent crime that was featured on America's Most Wanted, a robbery that nearly took my life, cost me money in lost business and (left me with) nightmares and loss of security. The list goes on!
We need more of these prisons, and I'll help pay for them. As far as the city of Tamms, well, that's just bad business. Fire the mayor -- simple!
Bruce Rushton's article "Cruel and Usual," describing the inhumane conditions at Tamms Correctional Center, is certainly one of the RFT's best recent pieces. It describes the truly deplorable condition of Tamms prison, indeed of prisons in general. The only establishments worse than Tamms are so-called "mental health" centers; and the inmates of mental-health centers often beg to be transferred to a prison in the criminal-justice system because the conditions in mental-health centers are even worse than in prisons.
In 1994, for the first time, the prison population in the U.S. exceeded 1 million inmates. The U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, 455 prisoners per 100,000 in the general population. A 1986 study of 43 jails in 26 states revealed that all of them disciplined their prisoners with psychotropic drugs instead of providing any mechanism for rehabilitation.
Psychiatrists were given the chance to improve these conditions, and they have failed miserably. It is time to hold the psychiatrists in our penal system accountable for this failure.
It's insane to even think of imprisoning Howard Mechanic after all these years ("Howard's End," RFT, Feb. 16). How many Ohio National Guardsmen were imprisoned for gunning down unarmed students? How many Mississippi cops for doing the same at Jackson State? None, that's how many. All the draft dodgers and resisters, even the ones that fled to Canada, were pardoned over 20 years ago. The war is over. Let Mr. Mechanic get on with his life.
And, no, I'm not an aging flower child of the '60s. I served honorably in the Marine Corps from 1968-74. I still say free Howard Mechanic.
Jim A. Staggs
THE PLAY'S THE THING
I just wanted to send this brief note of thanks for the terrific job Eddie Silva did on covering the St. Marcus issue ("Subterranean Homesick Blues," RFT, Feb. 16). I have had many phone calls about the article, and I've told everyone who called that I thought he did an incredible job of tracking the entire story from its origins to its unfortunate conclusion. I will keep your readers informed about future plans for Theatre 101 -- I have several options and I'm exploring them thoroughly. Thanks again for the timely and well-written piece.
When I first found out that Eddie Silva was planning to write yet another article on our troubles at the St. Marcus Theatre, my first thought was "Oh goody!" It wasn't, actually. It was more along the lines of "Can I go to Disney World with Kurt Warner?"
Imagine my pleasant surprise when I found Eddie's follow-up piece to be insightful, well written, balanced and sympathetic. I really think he felt sorry for our plight.
I still feel that Corpus Christi and South Beach have borne the unfair brunt of criticism. But I understand the newspaper business. If a dog gets a bone, he tends to gnaw it until every bit of meat has been stripped off. That's the nature of the game. I think it's also been a slow news month. There is a final irony, however, in the fact that the play that has been slammed the most -- Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi -- is probably the show that comes closest to fulfilling the original mission statement of the St. Marcus Theatre as it was envisioned as an outreach ministry of the church. After every performance, audience members came up and said: "This really makes me see spirituality in a whole new light. As a gay man, I can make the analogy of Jesus' persecution as it relates to the ongoing persecution I face on a day-to-day basis because of my sexual orientation. This play has made me re-examine the role religion plays in my life." And every review mentioned that they didn't see what all the fuss was about. And, of course, the harshest critics of Corpus Christi (including Eddie Silva) never saw the play. But that's OK. Martyrdom is a recurring theme in this whole business. And God has a deliciously wicked sense of humor sometimes.
And as for South Beach, I have always and will always be proud of that piece. Eddie describes it -- though he didn't see it, either -- as a "salacious musical romp," a phrase that I rather like and take as a compliment. But one of the shows that started the trouble, Mr. Silva gets wrong in title. It was Party, not Players. Players, I think, is a musical about Puffy Combs or some such thing.
So now that my bestiality musical, When Heidi Met Lassie, is on hold for next season, I pause to look to the future. It's at moments like this that I fully understand Tennessee Williams' feelings about our fair ville and why native son David Merrick won't get in a plane that goes anywhere near St. Louis. But I also think things happen for a reason. It has caused me personally to widen my scope of vision goals and, hopefully, we will all find improved performance space.
When my predecessor, Dale Jones, was on his deathbed, he requested that I take over the St. Marcus Theatre, and I did so with (former) minister Dickson Beall's blessing. And I tried to run the St. Marcus in the spirit with which I found it. It was a spirit of artistic freedom without censorship. I wouldn't have it any other way. I have no regrets, because I never deviated from that spirit. I hope it will return.
Until then, peace, love, happiness and freedom to all our friends, supporters and audience members who were with us lo these past 10 years. And a special thanks to St. Marcus Church for giving us such a remarkable outlet and providing a voice for the voiceless.
Your letters to the editor in the Feb. 9 RFT included one from Craig Pennington that was highly critical of your employee D.J. Wilson. You are to be commended for printing it.
I don't know Craig Pennington, but I do know that he commented on a subject on which I have had earlier letters published in the RFT. Not only is D.J. Wilson somewhat sloppy with his grammatical content, but I have publicly questioned (and offered published proof) of his ability to maintain a thought for more than a fleeting instance. His subjectivity gets in the way of his objectivity.
I have become convinced that the only reason the RFT retains D.J. Wilson is for one of the following reasons:
(a) He's the son-in-law of someone in RFT management;
(b) His boss has an even poorer grasp of the English language that he does; or
(c) He is retained because he makes co-worker Jeannette Batz look good.
Richard H. Gerding
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I wholeheartedly agree with Jill Posey-Smith that a publication like St. Louis Connoisseur is of little use to a public looking for guidance on where to eat and where not to eat ("Dining," RFT, Feb. 2). After all, if every place is "supposedly good," then what restaurants really are superior?
At the same time, I feel compelled to lodge a similar complaint about Posey-Smith's reviews of restaurants. Nine times out of 10, I know I am going to read a largely negative review of hers before I even open up the latest issue of The Riverfront Times. This has become a joke among my friends.
I feel I can no more look to Posey-Smith's reviews for guidance than I can St. Louis Connoisseur. I don't care what a person claims their area of expertise to be: If their comments are all positive or all negative all the time, then it is hard to look to them for direction.