The Venable-ini speaks
Well OK, so I reserve the right to repeatedly change my mind and join or rejoin that troublesome tribe of cannibals known as the Dallas school board ["Now you see him," January 14].

Well...SUE ME!
Don Venable
Via e-mail

Editor's note: For more wit and wisdom from erstwhile DISD trustee Don Venable, see this week's News section.

She's not that crazy
Laura Miller for the school board!
Michael Smith
Via e-mail

One lucky kid
I just finished reading "The wrong man" [January 7], and it garners all types of emotions: sadness, anger, frustration, and pity for a country, state, city. It's a perfect example of African-American justice in America: "guilty until proven innocent," and sorry for the poor suckers who can't afford competent and responsible legal counsel, which most can't.

This is one lucky kid, but he will be forever scarred by this incident. He will be stigmatized and denied opportunities if he tries to attain the great American dream. Welcome to the real America--as seen through the eyes of older, informed African-Americans who are not victims of integration. The ones who clearly understand what it really means to be black in America.

Hopefully, Mr. Jolly has a store of inner strength, because he's going to need it to move forward. But it can be done, and I pray he'll succeed. It makes me sad that history and struggle have not made a difference in the attitudes in this country. Something of this magnitude should weigh on the conscience of America.

While Mr. [Arch] McColl can be praised for his actions (don't misunderstand--I am glad this kid got a break, it happens to so few), I wonder if he would have taken the case if he thought there might be a doubt about his innocence. It's a well-known fact in the African-American community that if you can't afford an attorney, you are probably going to jail. It's appalling this kid had to sit in jail, but I know it happens every day while careers are made on the misery of others.

I can thank the Dallas Observer for going on record with all the facts of the case, and maybe it will help this young man as he tries to move through life. Perhaps someone will give him a chance to prove his worth and value as a human being.

Nickiolas Jolly, keep your head up. We all have our burdens to carry, but the making of true character is how you carry the load. Never doubt there are a lot of people who are waiting for you to fall, but make fools of them all.

Charletta Compton
Via e-mail

Kudos to the Observer once again--the only real source of journalism in DFW with the guts to tell it like it is. Great story on the wrongful incarceration of Nick Jolly. Sickening to read about John Vance's philosophy to indict anything and everything. But this should not come as a surprise from Dallas County. Remember Randall Adams, Joyce Ann Brown, and oh, yes...Darlie Routier. Keep up the good work, Observer.

John McLemore
Via e-mail

Your article about Nickiolas Jolly should be read by everybody--it was tops. For your information, right now the Chicago Tribune is running a five-part article on prosecutorial misconduct, and it mentions Dallas' Randall Dale Adams case.

Hubert Boykin

Pumping credit
It's about time somebody exposed Bally Total Fitness' misleading sales tactics ["Hard body, hard sell," January 14]. In my experience, it was worse than buying a car. The reason you and I cannot get honest and up-front answers is buried deep in their all-important contract. Forget getting a price quote over the phone or even at the desk; you have to "come on in" and go through their machine, and for good reason.

Bally's "membership contract" is really a loan, just like a car loan, and it appears as an entry on your credit report at at least one of the big three bureaus. That's right. You don't "buy" memberships at Bally's, you have them extend you credit. My basic Fitness-B plan (opened in July '97 for the McKinney Avenue club only) was explained by "Buffy" in sales like this: "You put 100 bucks down on this $599 membership, and I'll throw in a $50 discount, so after state tax you'll pay $494.29. Your payments will be $17.68 a month for three years."

Here's what he didn't tell me: First and most important, I was really borrowing money and paying it back over time at quite a hefty interest rate. My "membership plan" was, in reality, a three-year personal loan with a principal of $494.29. At a 17.25 percent interest rate, my total interest was $142.19, plus my $100 down, which brought the grand total of my "super deal" $599 membership to $736.48!

Second, they failed to tell me that all membership plans have additional monthly "dues" not included in the loan. Mine were $5.50 a month plus tax, so my actual payments were $23.64 a month for three years, not the $17.68 Buffy quoted. And guess what happens after my three years are up? I've agreed to pay ("it's all right there in the contract, Mr. Tate") $10.50 a month for an additional year, then after that $10.50 a month indefinitely, subject to increases, of course. All too confusing? You bet.

Five years ago, I walked into what was then Gold's Gym in North Dallas (now 24 Hour Fitness) and asked about rates. I gave them $200 down, and every month since then I've seen a $16.18 automatic withdrawal from my checking account. No entries on my credit report, no loans, no "dues," no fine print, no Buffy, never a rate increase in five years, no problem if I want to cancel, just 30 days' notice. 24 Hour Fitness even honored my original contract when they took over Gold's.

Bally's is sadly lacking in ethics, and their outdated facility at McKinney is no prize. I know it's caveat emptor as far as Bally's is concerned, but common decency would at least dictate some disclosure, don't you think?

James Tate

Editor's note: We asked Bally Total Fitness to comment on the information in Mr. Tate's letter. The company, through spokesman Mike Cantrell, refused to do so.

Crowned with a Jimmy
Many thanks for the high honor of the "Jimmy" [Stage, January 7]. I will be proud to note this award on any and all theater-related documentation. I'm even looking into its tattoo potential. Mom will be so happy!

In all sincerity, I do appreciate the recognition.
Martin Holden
Via e-mail

Death of a sax man
Thanks for the well-written and honest retrospective on Will Clay ["Requiem for a sax player," January 7]. As his brother, I was only able to stand back and watch the course of his life as his grasp fell just short of his dreams. He was a gifted artist who never saw his own gifts clearly, and I feel his loss deeply. He really did give it his best, but sometimes even that is not enough.

Thanks again.
Byron Howes
Carrboro, North Carolina

The article about Will Clay was a fine piece on an old friend of the Dallas music scene. I was at the wake December 26. It was a bittersweet moment for all of us. Barry Kooda, who has yet to be mentioned as the arranger of the wake, was the first person I saw, and we talked until the rest of the "scene" made it. We all shared a spot at the front telling "Will stories" and basically got re-acquainted. David Faulkner, David Hufford, and myself were there to represent Toys. Chris and Steve were there from the Telefones, and several Potatoes were present. The saddest thing was that we couldn't play, because we didn't have a sax player.

Rest in peace, Will Clay; we will miss you.
David Lee
Via e-mail

Critical repairs
I agree with your assessments of Delbert McClinton and Marcia Ball wholeheartedly in your preview of their Bass Hall performance [Music listings, December 24]. I used to live in North Richland Hills, but now live in my hometown of Port Neches (near Beaumont). My difference of opinion with you is on Monte Montgomery. I think if you spend time with 1st & Repair, it becomes a tremendously remarkable piece of work. His lyrics are much deeper and wittier than anything out on the pop-folk-rock-blues charts right now, it's brilliantly easy to listen to for extended lengths (in your vehicle), and to me, it is remarkable that the kid had the guts to put something out that wasn't just one hour of guitar licks. I think he just might be the real thing, long-term. Just my opinion, like your stuff.

James Hebert
Port Neches

In last week's cover story, "Stormy Weather," the names of Adrian and John Carmack, two of the founders of id software, were misspelled. Also, the release date for the game Half-Life was misstated. The game began selling in retail stores November 19, 1998. Finally, the story stated that ION Storm Chief Executive Officer Todd Porter ordered the tracking of the company's e-mails the day after a gaming Web site published an internal company message. In fact, Porter issued the order--in an e-mail--several days later. We apologize for the errors.

In last week's "Night & Day," the entry for November 14 incorrectly stated that the winning couple from each city's Blast from the Past Atomic Swing Thing dance contest would be flown to New York City for the premiere of the movie Blast from the Past. Instead, five couples will be chosen from across the country to attend the premiere, based on a point system.


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