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Week of March 28, 2001

Cover Story
Passing as music coverage: Sure, it's been a slow decline, but Randall Roberts' piece on dance cover band Dr. Zhivegas has now atrophied the Riverfront Times' level of credibility on the music-reporting front to a previously unfathomed low ["Boogie Nights," RFT, March 14]. It's been frustrating enough watching announcements of and reports from record-spinning dance parties pass as St. Louis-area music coverage. So what does the RFT do when they work up the gumption to publish a piece on a flesh-and-blood working band? Give the press to a party-covers band, of course! And why Dr. Zhivegas? They make a lot of money and drive nice cars, why else? There is a story somewhere in the Dr. Zhivegas money machine. Perhaps one asking the hard questions, such as why a cover band is the most successful act in St. Louis, bar Nelly, and what that says about the people here. Instead, we get an article telling us to shut up and dance. What a shame.
Heath Parker
Columbia, Mo.

Take a Bow
Finally, critics we can respect: The gods of theater are surely smiling down on St. Louis! The live-theater scene is getting the attention it so richly deserves [Cliff Froehlich, "Missouri Waltz"; Brian Hohlfeld, "Tuned Up," RFT, March 21]. Finally, critics we can actually respect (first time in several years any theater reviews in any paper have been critical without being destructive, and coherent and intelligently discussed to boot). Thank you, RFT -- you've won me back.
Scott Wesslemann
Belleville, Ill.

Flip Side
There's little romance in ripping musicians off: As a musician and collector of recorded music, I feel compelled to present another side of the argument in the article about bootlegs [Paul Friswold, "Digital Dilemma," RFT, March 14]. Yes, bootlegs have given us invaluable clues to the formation of some of our favorite music. But, ultimately, more often than not, the pre-Napster bootlegging industry was operated under far less romantic and magnanimous motivations than to educate and enlighten. Bootleggers' very existence thrived upon thunder stolen from the success of established acts (who may or may not have been getting their fair share from their record labels in the first place) with the cynical intention of lining their pockets by selling often inferior plastic and vinyl artifacts for grossly inflated prices relative to the cost and quality of their products.

And what of the musicians? If bootlegging personal demos of my music were to become profitable, I'd be mortified if certain very private documentation of my own musical development were to become fodder for the scrutiny of the general public. I can only imagine how that must feel for artists who are much more established and more important than I. The trafficking of bootlegged recordings undermines the artists' ability to define their artistic vision on their own terms and robs them of the dignity of receiving just compensation for works bearing their name.

I agree with Friswold's sentiments about the RIAA's attempts to shore up their stronghold on the manufacture and distribution of recorded music, but their efforts are doomed to failure. The death of Napster will have a negligible effect on the proliferation of the MP3 format. MP3 files are easily distributed by means other than Napster, and the ultimate effect is the wider availability and easier access to unofficial recorded material.
Ken Kase
St. Louis

Harmonic Divergence
First Busch, then the Arch: Anybody visiting our handsome (and, to my thinking, perfectly adequate) Busch Stadium and then the elegant Gateway Arch must sense the beautiful harmony subsisting between them. The arch form, rhythmically repeated around the rim of the stadium, seems to climax in the form of the great gateway visible a few blocks away. The two structures work together to create the semblance of a modern city plan.

I suppose that after the silly destruction of the ballpark, our misguided civic leaders intend to do away with the Arch as well, replacing it no doubt with a squarish, retro-styled brick edifice.
Allan R. Shickman
University City

Just Rewards
Gap between CEO and worker pay keeps widening: I applaud Ray Hartmann for documenting and reporting another example of the rich getting richer, the middle class evaporating and the poor getting poorer ["Cardinal Sin," RFT, March 14]. Business America seems to be obsessed with showing profits and growing executive salaries at the expense of investments to improving the world around us or to share part of that profit with the workers that make it possible. Part of this profit is the result of businesses' pushing more of their cost of doing business of on their own employees through reduced benefits and retirement and the widening canyon between executive pay and pay to the worker who makes and sells the product.

Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, deserves credit for making a gesture by refusing $650,000 in bonuses (part of her $3.7 million income) because of H-P's poor performance. Contrast this to Jill Barad, ex-CEO of Mattel, who left because of poor performance and took with her $40 million plus $709,000 a year for the rest of her life. The board of directors should have been fired. Speaking of sports, is there really a baseball player or any other team-sport player worth $252 million? I don't think so; it's just a situation where the owner has more wealth than can be usefully managed. Is that the problem in America? Do we have more wealth than can be usefully managed?

According to U.S. News & World Report, median household income in 1975 was $45,077. In 1998, it was $48,451. According to Business Week, CEO pay in 1980 was about 42 times worker pay. In 1999, the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay grew from 42 to 475. While the top 1 to one-half percent of the population continues to suck wealth out of the economy, what was middle-class America struggles to handle health-care and retirement benefits reduced by corporate America to improve profits. The workers are doing the work, buying the goods and paying the taxes that provide the profits in the first place. Shouldn't they be getting more, not less, of the benefits?
Jack H. Jones
St. Charles

Curtain Call
The feeling is so mutual: Cheers, Chris, I'm really going to miss you [Christopher Jackson, "Letters," RFT, March 14]. You're one of a kind.
Sally "Guffman" Cragin
via the Internet

Cliff Note
Cliff Froehlich, associate editor of the Riverfront Times, has resigned, effective April 6, to join the St. Louis International Film Festival as its executive director. Froehlich, who will continue as a freelance contributor to the newspaper, will be succeeded by music editor Randall Roberts. A new music editor will be named in two weeks.

Froehlich, 44, has been an integral part of this newspaper's growth. He first began contributing film reviews to the RFT in 1983 and has been a full-time editor and writer for the paper since 1987. During his tenure, he has been responsible for arts and entertainment coverage, directed the popular "Best of St. Louis" annual issues and supervised the production of innumerable special sections.

"I've had a hand in helping the RFT mature from a small, scruffy publication into a respected journalistic voice in St. Louis," Froehlich says. "I'm looking forward to guiding the St. Louis International Film Festival through similar growth."

Roberts, 35, began covering music for the RFT in 1995 and joined the newspaper in 1997 as the music editor. Roberts last year was recognized by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, a trade organization, as the top music writer among more than 120 nondaily member publications. As associate editor, Roberts will be in charge of the RFT arts and entertainment coverage. Roberts, who grew up in Edwardsville, Ill., received a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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