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Raid Redux

Week of July 9, 2003

Raid Redux
It's enough to make you want to leave town: Thank you for reporting on the pre-emptive arrests of protesters and rehabbers [Randall Roberts, "Meet the Anarchists," June 25]. St. Louis needs the lifeblood of young, creative intellectuals, but the city and its officials aren't going to get it by breaking a fair balance between security and freedom. Although I grew up in Baltimore -- a sister city in many respects -- my father and his family are from St. Louis, so I've developed an affinity for this city while attending graduate school here these past couple years.

This disappointing example of poor decision-making and lack of communication or care from city officials lessens the regret I may have in moving back east when I finish school. A mayor and his police chief who try too hard to protect their people will be left with very little city at all. Try getting in touch with your people in a more constructive way, St. Louis.
Alan Lamberg
St. Louis

Next time, permits first: The issue of genetically modified food is very important to me. Monsanto appears to have convinced the U.S. government to allow them to introduce their products into the market without labels identifying them as genetically modified. In addition, Monsanto has been remarkably aggressive in pressing charges against anyone who dares to criticize them.

I would have liked to have been involved in the protest, but I didn't know about it until after it happened. It's too bad the protesters weren't in compliance with the building codes. If you are going to stand up to a corporate giant like Monsanto, you need to check your own weak spots first. I don't have any doubt that influence from Monsanto prompted the police to harass the protestors. And if they are indeed "anarchists," we will have to say the same for Paul Revere, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and so on.
Wallace Pryor
St. Louis

Blake's Progress
Crabby is as crabby does: It sounds like Dennis Brown is a bit crabby about not being able to get a casting scoop from Paul Blake at the Muny Opera ["Don't Ask, Don't Tell," June 11]. I guess I can understand that no news is not good news for you guys in the gossip-column business. However, as someone whose livelihood depends in a way on the success of Mr. Blake's casting and producing, I can assure you that he does these things as well as (and often better than) most producers in the musical theater business.

Sadly for all of us, there are no longer any musical-comedy stars. Even on Broadway there isn't a single name that will guarantee the butts-in-seats kind of draw that a show needs to survive these days. Perhaps you have some suggestions for stars who can sing and act and will come to the Muny. If so, next time you talk to Blake, don't be stingy. I'll bet he'd welcome your suggestions.

The quality of the performers Blake does cast is remarkable. He once explained to me that since 90 percent of his audience can't see faces on the Muny stage, he chooses to cast his musicals as if they were radio broadcasts. It's a great idea, and it works. You may be sour that you don't know these people, but if you spent more time in New York or in other places where musical theater is being performed, you'd know them well. Luckily (as you point out), the Muny audiences don't seem to mind. They're willing to settle for great talent.

The amazing thing is that Blake has created such a strong reputation for the Muny that performers do indeed want -- when they are able -- to go to St. Louis. Until Blake came onboard, the Muny was pretty much a joke in the industry. From his very first production (Tommy Tune and Ann Reinking in Bye Bye Birdie), the audiences returned in droves. They have never abated, and Blake has never broken his promise to them.

Lighten up a little. You don't know how lucky you are to have this operation there, and to have it running as well as Paul Blake and his team run it. Perhaps those of us who are responsible for the properties the Muny produces, and the audiences who flock to them, see something you don't. I understand how this might leave you feeling a bit shut out, but you grumble rather loudly, and I'm guessing a lot of people read your column. I'd hate to think you might be keeping even one of them away from the fine musical theater being performed this summer in Forest Park.
Bruce Pomahac, director of music
The Rodgers and Hammerstein

New York

Sell, Sell, Sell
And now, a brief public-service message: Thank you for exposing the commissioned financial services industry for what it is [Matthew Everett, "Mutual Disdain," June 4]. Unwitting customers put their trust in such companies, looking for guidance. In return, they are viewed as commission checks by greedy, unethical sales reps who call themselves financial advisors.

In financial planning and other trust-based businesses, the professional has a "fiduciary duty" to his or her client. This means that the advisor must act solely in the best interest of the client. It is quite clear from your article that many commissioned reps pay lip service to this principle -- if they are introduced to the term at all in their sales training classes. While it appears that the rep is working for the client, in reality they work for the company that signs their paychecks.

People looking for truly objective financial advice would be better served by consulting with a fee-only advisor. This is an independent professional, whom the client pays directly, so the advisor is, in fact, working for the client.
Dave Ressner
Ressner Financial Planning
St. Louis

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