Michael Layne Heath
While I am very appreciative that the Specials concert on July 31 was reviewed (Reviews, Victor Haseman, Aug. 13), I just wanted to add that the song "Guns of Navarone" (covered by the Specials) was a tune by the Skatalites, Jamaica's premiere ska band formed in the early 1960s. The song was inspired by the 1961 Hollywood film of the same name.
Also, the Specials were known as the Coventry Automatics in one of their for-mer incarnations.
And let me add a word of caution to those going to see the Skatalites next month -- wear two pairs of socks as your first pair will surely get knocked off!
Willie as Adolf
I was surprised that Michael Scott Moore failed to understand why Unconditional Theater decided to stage The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui "right now" ("Pfui!" Stage, Aug. 13).
Seeing Brecht is generally a good thing to spark up one's moral batteries, but this portrait of a crude yet dapper thug who takes over Chicago à la Hitler strikes quite close to home.
When I heard the hero spout off continuously about his coming from lowly origins, hypocritically pretending an interest in the lower orders while sucking up to the rich and powerful, surrounded by sycophants engaged in a violent power struggle, and extending his manic dictatorship day by day -- say, Mr. Moore, haven't you been in town the last couple of years?
A Radiohead Head
Your boy Paul Kimball got Radiohead's Warfield gig all wrong (Reviews, Aug. 6). I had to check dates to make sure the band didn't play some second show that I didn't know about because it seemed impossible I had attended the same concert.
Kimball suggests that Radiohead stiffed their San Francisco audience by not playing the old hit "Creep." He paints the band as arrogant "navel-gaz[ers]" who ignored the crowd's call for the song. He didn't mention the rarity of a major rock band playing four encores to a sold-out crowd, performing for a solid two hours.
When they were in town two years ago they played "Creep," but you could tell it was getting old for them. Isn't it a good thing when bands progress and write markedly new music? Would Kimball be yelling for Jimi Hendrix to play "Purple Haze" at some concert in 1970?
And Radiohead were hardly arrogant. After the set and each encore ended, the members peered out at the audience with a sort of uncertain amazement and seemed genuinely reluctant to leave.
It was the best damn rock show I've ever been to.
Helms Steered His Own Way
Your portrayal of Chet Helms in "The Fall of Love" (Aug. 13) placed undue emphasis on unfortunate events. The story by Jeff Stark rekindles the cultural divide that began in the '60s. The excess criticism of Helms is an indictment against a generation that chose love and beauty rather than gross profits. Those in the arts should not be held to corporate America's standards, certainly not those who have upheld the highest standards of art at their own peril. As Stark quotes, "He [Helms] created a great space. There was nothing to compare to the Avalon. No one else can create that kind of space."
SF Weekly's profile of Chet Helms was a twisted view of both the '60s and the personal life of Chet Helms ("The Fall of Love"). It surprises me that an alternate San Francisco newspaper would support the values underlying the article. It read like it might have appeared in a magazine that was a cross between Money magazine and a fundamentalist rag.
The basic misunderstanding of the writer and editors is that one of the basic values of the '60s in addition to peace, love, and community was anti-materialism. We knew that as a society and as individuals we could do more with less time and energy devoted to the making of money and the acquiring and consuming of products. In the Haight-Ashbury we sought to make an enclave within a society where people and personhood were more important than money and Ferraris. The San Francisco Oracle also fed people, got them places to stay, and had access to a ranch in Big Sur where we sent people who were having a hard time with drugs or city burnout.
Chet Helms lived his life in a similar anti-materialistic fashion, putting people before money. Your writer, Jeff Stark, implies that Chet was punished for his business failures by contracting heart disease and hepatitis C.
To have praised Bill Graham for his business acumen and damned Chet Helms for the virtue of being kind is a grave misreading of the '60s and the human condition here on the edge of the millennium. Though Chet is wounded, he is still flourishing. Bill is producing Jerry and Janis in rock 'n' roll heaven. Someday, probably after a long and personally fruitful life, Chet will join them there and the chorus will begin again. Or will it?
Allen Cohen, Editor
San Francisco Oracle
Jeff Stark's article on Chet Helms ("The Fall of Love") missed the point. I'm going to guess that Jeff Stark was not in San Francisco in the '60s and that he is too young to have experienced either the civil rights movement or the Vietnam War. It is unlikely one can accurately judge something without knowing its roots and the soil from which it grew.
I thought the '60s were confusing at times but in retrospect and compared to the '90s, the path was clear and obvious. As we looked for a mission statement for the Summer of Love Anniversary, we had the usual difficulty that 16 to 18 strong-minded people seated around a table trying to come to a consensus will tend to have.
A clarity of purpose is what the youth of the '90s seek. And don't kid yourself, there is a war to stop -- the war being waged against our environment. It is only children who can change the direction of the human race.
I view the 30th Anniversary of the Summer of Love as a ceremony, a passing of the mantle from the children of the '60s to the children of the '90s. A sharing of a vision. The myopic concern of whether it is "profitable" or not is just another major symptom of our problem.
I thought your reviewer's criticism of Spawn (Elvis Mitchell, Movie Capsules, July 30) as talky didn't take into account the actual structure of the story. The supposedly good hero can only slip into his old killing habits if he does them now for evil -- that seems sort of modern -- thus he spends a lot of his time talking to a clown, trying to figure out what to do next. It's like a comic-book Beckett for Satanists. I thought hell was over the top; but as for borrowing from other pictures, how about the tight fetish shots, which were inspired by the fetish illustrator/artist Hajime Sorayama ... and very well done, too?
Selling the News
I enjoyed Phyllis Orrick's column on ABC/Disney crossovers in the July 30 issue ("Mickey Mouse at Channel 7," Unspun), but she touched only the tip of an ever-larger iceberg ... the steady usurpation of television "news" by the marketing departments of all kinds of entertainment offerings.
Despite Channel 7 News Director Milt Weiss' claims of journalistic commitment, witness Channel 7 weatherman Pete Gidding's recent "visit" to Disneyland for a series of on-air reports on their latest attractions, including the Festival of Light. Weiss can argue that this isn't "news," but less and less of what goes on local "news" these days is really news, nor is it originated by the staffs of these stations. Just make note, for example, of how many stories appearing on local TV news are actually the headlines from that morning in the local newspaper. TV doesn't initiate ... it follows.
And for every minute Pete and his colleagues take up touting the wonders of Disneyland, that's one less minute for actual local coverage.
Although Disney and ABC are now one, Disney's skills at playing television news for its marketing needs go back a long way. I still remember back in 1988 when I was living in Connecticut, watching with amazement as the local CBS channel devoted several minutes of coverage to the fact that Disney had flown a group of inner-city kids to Disney World. Of course, they also flew along the local CBS reporter who also got to use Disney's own video uplink to feed reports back to Hartford.
And of course, who can overlook the continual "local" news coverage "behind the scenes" of each station's prime television entertainment shows -- like Henry Tenenbaum [from KRON Channel 4] visiting the set of Law & Order to interview the stars, or similar reporter visits to shows like Seinfeld?
Last week's Calendar listed Hemptown on the wrong day. It took place on Saturday, Aug. 23. Our apologies.