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Letters

Well embarrassed
John MacCormack's piece on Danny Fry ["The case of the headless, handless corpse," February 18] began by describing a "handless" body in the first paragraph. The second paragraph described the corpse as that of "...a man...well manicured." If MacCormack were saying, tongue in cheek, that handless is the epitome of well-manicured, then fine. On the other hand, it was possible that both MacCormack and a Dallas Observer editor were asleep at the wheel.

Dan McDonald
Via e-mail

Editor's note: John MacCormack informs us that he meant to write "well pedicured." One editor missed it, and another thought it was an intentional, if somewhat sick, joke. If you're keeping score, that's two asleep, one tasteless, and three embarrassed.

I was fascinated to read the well-researched story on the missing atheist leader. One thought struck me as I read a particular part of the article. On page 33, you quote Madalyn Murray O'Hair as referring to her staff as "scums, chicken f------, fags, masturbators, dumb n------, s-----, witless cunts, derelicts, lumpen proletarian, and transvestites."

In a day when religious leaders such as Jerry Falwell make national news for one comment about the supposed sexual orientation of a [children's television character], arguably the most visible (if missing) leader of religious opposition in this country can write a vicious, racist, homophobic comment like this one and it garners not a peep from the mainstream press. Is there something missing here besides Mrs. O'Hair? Something like journalistic balance and objectivity?

Jim Heggie
Via e-mail

Defending Dennis Hopper
Robert Wilonsky's story on Terry Southern and the writing of Easy Rider ["Odd man out," January 28] is just another in a long list of stories about this film and its participants that has no basis in reality. What kind of research allows a writer to use a single prejudiced source as fact? That Terry Southern died impoverished is tragic and a sorry comment on the state of the arts today. That Dennis Hopper is the culprit is absurd and woefully irresponsible.

What are the facts? Terry Southern had points (profit participation) in Easy Rider, as did almost everyone artistically and technically involved in making the picture. Terry returned his points for the same reason he wanted his name removed from the writing credit: He didn't feel he contributed enough to merit them. So who got Terry's points at that time? The man Nile Southern was waiting to hear from on the phone--Peter Fonda--and Bill Hayward. Not Dennis Hopper.

Dennis Hopper worked for a year on Easy Rider. For directing, acting, writing, and editing, his total fees were less than $12,000.

When Dennis and I went out to find locations for Easy Rider, Peter Fonda went to New York to work with Terry Southern on the script. After two weeks on the road, we found every location needed for the story Dennis wanted to tell. During the same time, Peter and Terry wrote three pages. We found this out at the airport in New Orleans. Dennis flew to New York with the express purpose of writing the script using the locations we found and the stories of the people we met on the road. Two or three days after Dennis arrived in New York, Peter returned to L.A. In about 12 days, Dennis returned with his completed shooting script.

One example: The commune sequence is based on what happened at New Buffalo outside Taos, New Mexico. We spent three days trying to convince them to let us film there. They told us of the winter, of the hardships, of the fact that they weren't farmers, and that they were going to make it, most of which found its way into the script.

What Dennis and I found on the road was a very frightened and angry America. We were cursed, and we were threatened. It all comes out and is very significant in what is now a classic film.

When Dennis was going to direct the Jim Morrison story for Larry Flynt's company, Dennis got Terry hired to work with him on the script. Terry received a fee but, in three months, wrote nothing. Dennis also had Terry hired to write Junky with William Burroughs for Jacques Stern.

I am dismayed that so much was written by Mr. Wilonsky based on so little fact. Shoddy reportage does not become this tabloid. The attempt to demonize Dennis Hopper must stop! A properly researched follow-up story will achieve that end.

Paul Lewis
Production Manager/First Assistant Director, Easy Rider

Editor's note: Robert Wilonsky based his story on the accounts of several sources, including Rip Torn, Terry Southern's son Nile, and earlier interviews with Terry Southern himself.

Static
Having listened to a slice of the "Scene, Heard" radio show [Live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. at www.dallasobserver.com] and seeing your invitation to comment, I must say this: The on-air hosts exhibit the wit and insight of 10-year-olds in a treehouse. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but most people who are paid for theirs at least put some thought behind it. It's sadly typical of radio hosts to say whatever foolishness comes into their heads, usually criticisms of music put together by people who work at it and whose worst output is vastly more entertaining than the announcers' drivel.

I listen to the radio for music, not blather and banter.
Anonymous
Via e-mail

Teed off
Thank you for your recent article on the Tenison West golf course renovation plan ["Go for the green," December 17]. The plan is an example, on a small scale, of how the leaders of the city of Dallas operate. They come up with a plan (the arena, the Trinity River Plan, the Olympics bid, etc.), hit the public with a P.R. blitzkrieg, and seek early approval before serious opposition can form to question it. Later on, it's found out that many of the plans were not well thought out. But it's too late by then.

The $5.2 million Tenison West golf course renovation plan calls for creating what proponents call an "upscale" golf course. After renovation, greens fees will triple to almost $40 a round. This new renovated course, proponents claim, will keep "upscale" golfers in Dallas rather than their going to courses in surrounding cities. The fewer rounds played at higher rates will bring increased revenue to the city.

Besides, proponents say, residents who can't afford the rates can play at other Dallas city courses. When I first heard of the plan to renovate Tenison West, I wrote letters to city council members. The ones who answered restated the talking points listed in the above paragraph. Those who didn't answer may have assumed that all golfers are stockbrokers with six-figure incomes who ride around in carts talking on their cellular phones, and who wouldn't be hurt by the rise in greens fees. They also may have bought into the idea that somehow this new upscale Tenison West would lure golfers from the many other fine courses in the area.

One member sent copies of a slide presentation made to the members by proponents of the renovation. The presentation stated how bad Tenison West currently was and how good it would be after the renovation. If it was so bad, why didn't the city try to improve it before coming up with their upscale renovation plan? Already, they are letting the West course go to seed to lend even more credence to their claims.

Another sign that the city is full of itself on "upscale golf" is the new driving range. Basically, all you need for a driving range is to plant grass, set up tees, put down yardage markers, put up nets to stop errant balls, and build a shed for someone to dispense buckets of balls. But that is too mundane for the visionaries at City Hall. They have to tear up a parking lot to build another parking lot, and build covered tee areas and a grand temple to the saint of the sliced drive. In the process, the city is spending far more than is necessary in its quest to build a hallowed ground for upscale golf.

Even after the improvements, there will be many courses in the area that are far superior to Tenison West. It is doubtful that the course will become the mecca of Dallas golf that City Hall plans. One thing is for sure: The average and low-income golfers of East Dallas will lose a place to play because of the high greens fees. Upscale golf is another word for exclusive golf that leaves a lot of people out.

W. Daniel Hancock
Via e-mail

Eye of the beholder
Do black eyes see better or just differently?
Christina Rees' "The black eye" [January 14] focuses on Kara Walker's art and the ensuing controversy with a clarity rarely seen in other writers on this subject. I would only add one note. Mostly African-American artists of an older generation, such as Betty Saar and Carrie Mae Weems, take caustic aim at Walker's work. Does being African-American entitle one to a more "correct" opinion? Or does the black eye merely see things through a different lens?

Sandra Abbott
Via e-mail


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