Letters to the Editor
The greening of Denver: Justin Berton's "Card Sharps," his story in the December 7 issue on fake green cards, is another in a long history of Westword's honest-to-God reporting that will eventually wake up the hacks over at the Denver dailies.
After all, it's easier to make a living as a reporter by rehashing the tripe that comes over the news-service wires than it is to actually go out and dig up a story, research it and champion it through the editorial process.
Congratulations, Westword. Again.
Lights, camera, action: When perusing Westword each week, I always flip to the Backbeat section first to get my bearings on upcoming gigs, album releases, etc. The November 30 issue was extra cool; as soon as I saw the photo of Phil Hamon in Laura Bond's "Shine On," I was transported back to 1982, and the memories came racing back. We were just a bunch of misdirected youth: Liberty spikes, Mohawks, fishing tackle hanging out of our earlobes, raging at anything that didn't fit our subterranean ideal of total anarchy. We'd gather at places like the Packing House and Kennedy's Warehouse and Christian and Omar LePanto's concert hall/squat/hellhole to see hardcore and punk bands put on by Headbanger or whoever had enough money to get fliers made at the print shop and pay the bands. We had a good scene in Denver then, one that represented the quick flame that was the American Hardcore movement, and many good bands that evolved into even better, though mainstream, national acts. We were social outcasts and misfits then, the type of kids whose lifestyle, look and attitude was talk-show fodder for a couple of years.
In retrospect, there was one guy who was more punk than all of us: Phil Hamon. That guy used to ride his bike all the way out to the Packing House, around Washington Street and I-70, from Capitol Hill in 30-degree weather to see bands. He'd stand at the edge of the pit in a pair of striped pants, suspenders, a T-shirt and a corduroy mac and those same glasses he still wears -- a misfit among misfits -- absolutely rocking along with the 300-beats-per-minute fury of whatever punk band was playing, a huge grin pasted across his face, blissfully free of any concern other than the music.
We didn't understand then, but now we know, thanks to "Shine On." Too many publications spend their space kissing the ass of the current flavor of the week in heavy rotation, but Laura Bond took the time and space to celebrate the fan. Hats off to her. Zappa said, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture," but I'm gonna have to disagree this time. Thanks for the excellent article.
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Three's a charm: Laura Bond, this time you've done it! Three nice pieces in the November 30 issue, and all by you.
First, Rocket Ajax: Aside from being good friends of mine, they're a great band, definitely deserving of a Hit Pick.
Second, the last sentence in Backwash on Westword's compilation CD was pure poetry. It says it all!
Finally, and best of all, your piece on Phil Hamon. Wow, what justice! I've been wanting to acknowledge his presence in Denver's music scene for a long time. He's everywhere. There isn't one benefit show I was a part of (Rock Out AIDS, People's Fair auditions and countless others) where I didn't see him. He's a true supporter. Thank you for sharing his story.
Rock on, Laura!
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Not just lip service: A big hug and kiss to Westword for "Shine On." Back in the '80s, the punk-music scene was not the hippie lovefest that punk shows are today. Punks didn't abide by society's higher moral values or have any kind of compassion for "handicapped" citizens. Phil made friends because of his sharp wit, his musical knowledge and his unmistakable personality. Phil never forgets anybody.
I hope that readers do not feel like local bands are kind to Phil because of his handicap. Phil has made friends in the past -- and continues to make friends -- out of respect. It was one of the members of the now-defunct (but always legendary) Warlock Pinchers who excitedly pointed out your feature story to me. He was elated that someone had finally given Phil a little respect as a permanent icon in the local music scene. Even musicians whose groups disbanded nearly a decade ago still respect and admire him. The fact is, once you've met Phil, you never forget him.
No rhyme, but reason: I was very moved and impressed by Steve Jackson's account of Peter Hale's life among the Beats ("The Beats Go On," November 30). I also had mini-adventures with some of these characters, mostly back in the 1970s, and could identify with the ambivalence and angst of the younger Hale. There definitely was an attraction-repulsion thing about the Beat lifestyle; unsolicited sex seemed a prerequisite for entering the inner circle of friends, and the drug use was, it seemed to me, a bit pathetic and irresponsible. But it was nonetheless a vibrant, compassionate and revolutionary bunch, whose real motivations seemed admirable enough: to gnaw at the marrow of life and dissect the sociopolitical construct in the name of poetic liberation. The cost was indeed great, as Ide's death so vividly illustrates, but Jackson's point about the primacy of the individual will is well taken. And lucky for Hale to have ended up with Ginsberg, perhaps the most humane among them.
Great story! Much more should be written about the influence of the Beats on just about every aspect of the American counterculture.
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Beat the clock: I really enjoyed Steve Jackson's article on the Beats. We've lost so many of them in the past few years; it's good to see someone keeping the flame alive. I got a lump in my throat while reading about Hale feeding Ginsberg the last spoonful of food after his death. Very touching. Beautiful article.
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A glimpse of Ginsberg: I'm a 24-year-old student writing from Florida. A friend of mine living in Boulder sent the link to Steve Jackson's story regarding Allen Ginsberg and his friend/assistant Peter Hale. I'm a self-professed "Beat maniac," and I learned a lot of new things from the article. It must have taken a while to put together. Congrats!
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Soul food: Jackson's story about Allen Ginsberg and Peter Hale is wonderful; I am really happy to read something with so much soul. I nearly came to tears toward the end. I wish that all newspapers required their stories to be as thoughtful and thorough. Mahalo and aloha.
John E. Rosen
via the Internet
Sex and the single poet: I read Steve Jackson's "The Beats Go On" today in Westword. Although I found the writing pleasing and Jackson's detailed account of Allen's last years (as well as of my friend Peter's life and style) well worth the time it took to read, I was eventually amused to discover that I had been portrayed as married and with kids.
I am still quite young (24), still writing avidly and traveling abroad whenever possible. I went to Europe with Allen and Peter in 1996, performed with Allen in Boulder at Penny Lane that same year, and have continued since then to perform my poetry widely. I'm not married, however, and have no kids (of whom I am aware). Perhaps you could mention that I am still young and still available?
Aside from that, I enjoyed the article and photographs.
Googie googie goo: I wanted to take note of two excellent recent articles that remind us of our city's past -- and offer a warning about where we're going. (Hint: It's not pretty.) The first, of course, is Robin Chotzinoff's "The White Stuff," in the December 7 issue, which celebrates one of Denver's more humble institutions: White Spot, a classic "googie." Who knew?
Fortunately, White Spot is still with us. We're not so lucky regarding Army & Factory Surplus, the subject of Harrison Fletcher's "Calling All Guys," in the November 30 issue. Reading his column, I was shocked to realize that the store I'd visited for years had suddenly disappeared, another victim of our booming downtown development.
Thanks, Westword, for reminding us that this city is more than fancy restaurants with $30 entrees, ever-larger shopping malls and a new Broncos stadium -- whatever they name it.
Coffee claque: I am writing about your wonderful article on Denver's last remnant of the White Spot empire. It brought back fond memories of the Thanksgiving dinner that I had there last year. I am grateful to Mr. Rickenbaugh for allowing this rara avis to stand yet another year.
Thanks most of all to Robin Chotzinoff for telling the fine tale of this relic coffee shop and relating a slice of pure Americana!
Eric C. Ibbotson
Greed acres: Just finished reading "Down and Out in Downtown Denver," Michael Paglia's December 7 article on Currigan Hall and Skyline Park. Once again we are reminded of the seemingly limitless greed of real estate developers; the eye-numbing willfullness of, shall we say, less-than-visionary architectural firms that respond to the challenge of replacing truly fine buildings with a flair only for jealously uninspired mediocre design ideas (did I say "ideas"?); and the Webb administration's tireless efforts to support both of these groups. It would be hysterically funny, especially given the glaring ironies Paglia points out in his article, if it wasn't so low and contemptible. Nine times out of ten, these philistines get away with absolutely all of it. At least there is some comfort in the knowledge that these same people will read Michael's piece and be pissed off enough to perhaps lose a few minutes' sleep or take another Pepcid AC.
At least, I hope so!
John T. Haeseler
No-tell hotel: In "Down and Out in Downtown Denver," Michael Paglia does a commendable job covering the genesis and evolution of the largest welfare grant to a corporation in Denver history -- the $60 million giveaway to wealthy developer Bruce Berger and the Hyatt International hotel chain. But Mr. Paglia's focus on the architectural sterilization of downtown is too narrow to cover the magnitude of the decade-long frenzy by downtown hotel interests to pick the pockets of our city treasury.
Complete coverage of the symbiosis and incestuous relationships between the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, the Downtown Partnership, the Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Denver Community and Planning Department in this venture will eventually require a book. These "civic" agencies all deserve to be classified as arms of the Denver Chamber of Commerce. They have conspired to have us believe that we need a convention center hotel that we don't need. Studies by members of their fraternity purport to show that Hyatt cannot operate a first-class hotel -- in our red-hot Denver economy -- without a $60 million subsidy and that there is only one spot in all of downtown (owned by Bruce Berger) to build this hotel, in order to justify the inside deal that was not a product of a competitive bid. Were it not for the inquisitiveness of responsible members of Denver City Council, this whole project would be flying below the radar screen toward easy passage. There are still many aspects of this plan and its financing that have not been disclosed.
All of this subsidized development could be swallowed if some major tangible benefits to Denver citizens resulted from the architectural and economic "cleansing" that is taking place in the convention center area. Instead, except for the few good middle-class construction jobs and some politically expedient subcontracts, the majority of jobs created by the Hyatt hotel will be the same low-wage, low-benefit, insecure hotel jobs that the industry is notorious for. The hotel project runs counter to a major portion of the Denver Comprehensive Plan: There is no affordable housing component, and the Hyatt refuses to commit to labor peace to help secure the economic viability of the project.
One item in Paglia's article contains an error that has been propagated by the downtown cabal to justify the $60 million givaway to the Hyatt -- that is, that there is a provision in the convention center bond initiative that prevents the construction of the convention center expansion until there's a hotel deal in place. No such provision was voted on by the citizens of Denver in the bond initiative! This hotel subsidy was never voted on.
Oh, did I forget to mention that the bonds that will secure the subsidy to the convention center hotel will be secured by the current Colorado Convention Center? How risky is that? And guess who is proposed to keep exclusive ownership of the parking garage? Bruce Berger (surprise!).
As I said, it will take a book to report the whole story.
Michael P. Cerbo
Secretary-Treasurer, HERE Local Union #14
Rude, crude and unacceptable: Ah, so much to say, so little time. Let's just summarize things this way: Michael Roberts's recent review of the Wallflowers' (Breach) and the band's performance at the Fillmore ("Setting Son," November 30) is shallow, unjustifiably rude and says more about Roberts than it does about the band. I know that a music critic is supposed to be "critical" -- but the best ones use the secondary meaning of the term (to render insight) rather than the pedantic definition, "to berate." Perhaps some day Roberts's criticisms will be insightful. But for now I found them so laden with his own slanted and loaded language that his "review" was quite easy to dismiss.
My best summary would be to suggest that Roberts take off the aggressive armor and try listening. I know that it's a frightening thing to expose your ideas and emotions, but if Roberts gives it a try, he'll find a lot more substance in one chorus of any song on (Breach) than in all of the "weighty words" and "lofty critiques" offered in his "insightful review."
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Running on empty: Michael Roberts accuses journalists of doting on Jakob Dylan with empty words of praise in the interest of taking it easy. Ironically, in his own critique, after calling for rock journalists to return to the noble craft of expressing "analytical expertise," he merely offers up a string of irrelevant insults. I'm going to assume that Roberts was too lazy to proofread his own writing for glaring flaws in logic.
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Hacks and flacks: While I watch other, more talented folks slip by the wayside (Smog's Bill Callahan and Richard Buckner, to name just two), I watch yet another untalented hack rise to the top. I guess what I found refreshing about Roberts's article was the slam to other rock journalists who, these days, seem to be as boring as the acts they are writing about.
It wasn't so long ago that the concept of rock journalism was born and furthered by the likes of Lester Bangs, Peter Guralnick, Robert Palmer and others. As a teenager, I looked to these guys to form my idea of what made a great rock album or where rock came from in the first place. But nowadays I have no trust of the rock press outside of a few friends who write for such varied publications as No Depression and Esquire. If I didn't know them, I probably wouldn't read them. The fact that Rolling Stone is now a fashion magazine (think about it) says it all: It's all about image these days, and the people writing about the music are as caught up in that fact as the talentless pop stars whose careers they are furthering.
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Butt seriously: It is quite late, so the verbal skills I would like to utilize need to get to bed. After reading "Legendary Feat" in the November 16 issue, may I just say: Michael Roberts evidently wouldn't know great rock and roll if it bit him in the ass.
T. J. Marietta
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