MUGGER Strikes Chords, Forms Exploratory Committee

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Posts.

Mail Editor’s Choice

Andrey Slivka’s last article (“New York City,” 10/6) was fucking
great. He’s one of the reasons why I love your paper.
should know that I look forward to reading NYPress every week, almost
as much as I look forward to avoiding the Village Voice.

Kenny Engels,

Mr. Szamuely is always a
good read. Some of his insights are even brilliant. (He needs praise right now.)
I have a suggestion. Taki should set up a benefit book auction. Every contributor
at NYPress should donate a couple of their old books, and they could
be auctioned off in the ballroom of the Waldorf. You could charge $500 a head
for the gala, get two books from each writer, auction them off with a starting
bid of $20 each (you’d allow e-Bay to cover the event as well). If each
contributor (111 is my count) donates two books at $20 a piece, that’s
$4440. That should cover the court costs. Invite 150 aristocrats (just check
Taki’s rolodex) and you’ll have $75,000. The fines are $31,000. That
leaves $44,000 to cover the event, including press coverage and a little grease
for Taki’s favorite charity.

Come on, Taki, you know
you’ll love the publicity.

Anthony Rago,
Forest Hills

Boehlert, Not for Dollar
was amused to see Eric Boehlert’s incisive “Bull Bradley” article
(10/6) juxtaposed with those of your regular political columnists (who seem
to have largely bought into the idea that Bradley’s chances are much better
than the polls have yet shown). I especially liked Boehlert’s “reporter
Deborah Orin (perhaps the only person in America who thinks ‘Dan Quayle
was able to whip Gore in [the ’92] debate’)” in the same issue
with Christopher Caldwell’s “Quayle…absolutely clocked Gore in the
1992 vice-presidential debate.”

On the other hand, I think
Caldwell was far more accurate than Boehlert when he stated that Gore looked
like a moron for claiming that he’s now the underdog. One of the things
I enjoy about your paper is the way your columnists overall don’t seem
to toe any particular party line. You can learn a lot from reading intelligent
discussions on both sides, one after the other. (I do skip “MUGGER,”
however. His prejudices make him as predictable and judgment-skewed as Armond
White.) Thanks to the always entertaining William Bryk for his lively history
of the Collyer brothers (“Old Smoke,” 9/29) and for his chilling and
dry piece last week on the malathion mosquito spraying (“New York City,”

Re: R.S. McCain’s 9/29
“In Rotation” article claiming that New York publishers are “censoring”
right-wing and religious books by not accepting or vigorously promoting them:
This is nonsense, as several other readers have already pointed out. But I wondered,
if McCain were working in the book trade, whether he would take on the editing
and publication and promotion of works that were strongly favorable to abortion
and premarital sex. I think not. (Nor should he.) And I doubt he would consider
that censorship.

For once, George Tabb serves
a useful purpose in an interview. He was an excellent comic butt for Robin Quivers’
wit in the roundtable discussion (9/29). But please keep him far away from future
interviewing duties. If Tabb must make perpetual adolescence and self-promotion
his career choice, at least let it not get in the way of hearing what the intended
subject (almost inevitably a more interesting person than he is) has to say.

Finally, kudos to Terminator
for again using his interviewing skills and empathy to get me vividly interested
in someone who I would normally not have heard of or cared about. As it is,
I might just go looking for one of Dennis Cooper’s novels now (“Books,”
10/6). Many thanks.

Lisa Braun,

Read Szamuely’s Copy
writing to you in hopes that I can obtain a subscription to NYPress.
I’m a state-sentenced inmate in dire need of my Dirty Sanchez fix.

I’ve been sentenced
to four years for the most heinous crime of violating probation. The county
I was sentenced in is a very conservative county. I don’t think Democrats
are allowed to move here. Instead of allowing me to move back to New York, I
was ordered to remain here in Hunterdon County for six months, until my probation
could properly be transferred.

I moved to Queens before
that happened (a decision rooted in my liberal views) and was doing well until
I happened to be caught smoking on an outdoor platform (who knew?) there. I
didn’t have identification on me, which meant I had to be brought in to
the station. So here I sit.

I’ve tried to have
my girlfriend send the paper to me through the mail, but the rules here only
allow for magazines and newspapers to come from the publisher.

I didn’t realize how
much NYPress had become part of my weekly routine until it was taken
from me. I haven’t had any Ames, Knipfel or that young one, Ned Vizzini.

I know that the subscription
costs $75 a year, but I’m hoping that, since I’m an inmate, you might
offer me a cheaper rate. (Tell MUGGER I’m a transplanted Baltimoron–I
worked on Greenmount Ave.)

I hope you can help me out.
If you can’t, please let me know, so I can start begging people to get
me a Christmas subscription. It will be all I can stand not having any George
Tabb for months.

Danen Miller,
Flemington, NJ

Shelter From The Storm
column is sure fun to read. I’m glad that I’m stuck out on the beach
here and don’t know the people you write about.

Pierre Stephenson,
Ocean Park, WA

You are right on. I’m for George W. Bush, and if all those conservatives
who are also running are so great, why aren’t they getting any support?
There isn’t one of them who would be able to win the presidency.

Elsie Odell,
Boulder City, NV

Smith seems to imply that limits on campaign contributions from individuals
to candidates for federal office are an “obvious infringement of First
Amendment rights” (“MUGGER,” 10/6). Oops. Until the Supreme Court
overturns Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the $1000 contribution cap remains
constitutional. The Court ruled, however, that candidates have a free-speech
right to spend huge sums of money on their campaigns.

Meanwhile, corrupt, bipartisan,
soft-money purchases of political favors continue. Perhaps MUGGER is content
with this status quo. After all, his GOP controls Congress and receives much
more corporate cash than do the Democrats.

John Cantilli,
Cranford, NJ

Tell the Mail Editor
you for printing my letter last week. NYPress has the best mail section
I’ve ever read. It’s an honor to be part of it, but even you make

I did not write, “The
mayor’s penchant for comstockery should be encouraged.” This is 180
degrees away from my meaning, and what I wrote. I wrote, “The mayor’s
penchant for comstockery should be scorned, not encouraged.”

When the Mayor censors,
everybody listens. If he could learn to control his darker impulses, the Brooklyn
Museum of Art would not have lines snaking around the block, Khalid Muhammad
would not be famous and Chris Brodeur would not have New York radio as a forum.
But Rudy is a zealot and cannot help but overreact. It’s both sad and amusing
to watch him try to nuke the city’s gadflies and iconoclasts. Rudy’s
efforts are always counterproductive in these cases.

Also, I signed the letter
“Robert Prichard, Surf Realty.” Surf has been serving Manhattan’s
Lower East Side since 1993. We are a performance venue, so First Amendment issues
are of great interest and concern to us. Your listings editor should be familiar
with us. In any event, I do not live in Brooklyn yet.

You also omitted my “a.k.a.
Osama bin Travolta, Dance Liberation Front.” The D.L.F’s mission is
the abolishment of all cabaret laws regarding dance. We think it’s fundamentally
un-American to require citizens to secure licenses to permit people to move
their own bodies. This used to be a free country. How did the government get
on the dancefloor?

Busting bars, clubs and
restaurants for unlicensed dancing is another one of our Mayor’s legacies.
I believe his desire to punish “sick stuff” and his crackdown on “dance
crimes” come from the same killjoy impulse. As one cop said during our
giant D.L.F. hokey-pokey circle around City Hall, “He’s the ‘no-fun’

Robert Prichard,
Surf Realty,

aka Osama Bin Travolta,

Dance Liberation Front, Manhattan


Yell Down the Hall
Regarding your take on the Brooklyn Museum exhibit: What’s all this guff
about you agreeing with Giuliani’s objection on fiscal grounds?

I mean, come on, man. This
guy has a history of misrepresenting and belittling any person or organization
he disagrees with or disapproves of, then trying to destroy same. And here you
are taking him at his word on this particular subject?

It looks to me like the
guy is pandering to upstate voters and conservative Catholics. Sure, he’s
got certain principles and has a habit of turning them into public policy. But
remember, he’s running for Senate. I bet that’s at least part of his
motivation for coming on so strong. The “on fiscal grounds” strategy
is just a puny philosophical figleaf, feebly hiding Giuliani’s massive
hard-on for conservative and/or Catholic voters.

But that’s just a prelude
to the real reason I had to write you. What’s up with your argument that
art should not be publicly funded? Personally, I never bought the argument that
because art has the potential to offend some people, it should not be publicly
funded. Every public school curriculum contains information that offends at
least some parents, yet nobody seriously argues that we stop funding schools
for this reason. Every lending library contains books that offend some citizens
on intellectual, political or moral grounds, yet we all know it’s silly
to argue in favor of cutting off library funding because some born-again might
accidentally check out Ulysses.

I don’t want my federal
tax money to go to U.S. school districts that have forbidden or severely curtailed
the teaching of sex education and evolutionary theory (alas, my home state of
Texas is rife with such backwaters).

I don’t want my tax
dollars granted, in the form of fellowships or scholarships, to any person who
supports the death penalty or argues for the repeal of Roe v. Wade. And
those same libraries I cited earlier lend out arch-conservative and religiously
backward volumes that offend me personally.

But I accept that all of
the above scenarios have happened and might continue to happen–and I know
that my most reasonable response as a citizen is to work to elect people who
agree with me, not to agitate that funding be denied to certain types of organizations
across the board because I am personally offended by something that was done
with my money. (There’s a chance some of that public money will go to people
who agree with me–or at least people who don’t offend me. What goes
around comes around.)

The government is a big
machine fueled by our money, and every big machine is likely to crank out a
couple of defective products (or products you personally don’t like and
don’t want to use). Fact is, the overwhelming majority of tax money spent
on the arts goes to fund patently nonoffensive stuff, mostly at the community
level, and to beef up large, established public institutions that usually shy
away from displaying anything that might offend.

Some form of accountability
is acceptable, probably even necessary. The various ideological camps wrangling
over specific issues should argue what the standards should be–then let
their elected representatives vote their consciences and justify themselves
come election time. That’s what we have–a representative democracy,
not government by mayoral decree.

What the hell–go ahead
and impose some kind of litmus test. Appoint a city board that reviews individual
exhibits (not entire institutions; that’s the job of elected representatives)
and then decides if those exhibits should get public funds. The institutions
would then be free to 1) accept such meddling as a prerequisite to suckling
at the public teat or 2) reject any form of prior review and shout their independence
from the rooftops.

It’s a schoolmarmish
compromise, granted. But it strikes me as a lot less idiot-authoritarian than
the “everybody out of the pool” mentality exemplified by Giuliani.

And hey, I just have to
add–what’s that nonsense from Timothy Noah that you quoted? The guy
uses hot-button words like “niggers” and “kikes,” but the
painting is not in the same ballpark. It’s not even in the same league.

If you’ve actually
seen the painting, you know that the artist meant absolutely no disrespect.
On the contrary, the painting that ignited the furor is quite respectful, even
reverent–an honest attempt to reconcile opposing religious and cultural
influences that clash inside the artist’s head.

As for the oft-repeated
description of the painting being “smeared” or “splattered”
with elephant dung, that’s simply a lie–one that has been repeated
so often by the misinformed that it has attained the status of fact.

I can’t believe you
fell for it!

Yes, the guy used elephant
dung in his painting. But two important facts conveniently get omitted in news
reports and angry op-ed pieces: 1) All his paintings use elephant dung; it’s
a folklore thing, and 2) in many African cultures, dung is simply a substance,
one that can be used for many purposes, like clay or mortar or dirt. It is not
inherently offensive.

In other words, what we
have here is a major case of cultural misunderstanding, and the yahoos are on
Giuliani’s side.

Remember back in the 1984
election, when Vice President Bush publicly castigated Mondale for saying those
Marines who were killed in the 1983 barracks bombing “died in shame”?
Mondale tried and tried to tell people that he didn’t say “shame,”
he said “vain”–the speech was a matter of public record, anybody
could check it, for crying out loud–and that Reagan knew this and didn’t
care and had chosen to intentionally mislead the public. Mondale was wasting
his breath. “Died in vain” was a statement that invited lengthy, sophisticated
arguments and could be made to seem quite reasonable; “died in shame”
was the verbal equivalent of a Molotov cocktail, guaranteed to get veterans
and their families pissed off. The public heard what they wanted to hear, facts
be damned; it preferred anger to thought. Pretty soon the poor schmuck Mondale
was forced to apologize for offending people with a statement he never even

That’s what’s
happening here, Russ. The Mayor has had the situation explained to him many
times. Yet he chooses to represent it to the public as a case of some pompous,
blaspheming foreigner asshole smearing shit on the Virgin Mary.

Why is he doing it? Because
he’s a ruthless politician who never lets principle get in the way of what
works. He knows certain parts of the voting public will get righteously pissed
over the exhibit and see Giuliani as their common-sense hero, fighting the blaspheming
hordes. And he knows populist columnists who love taking shots at the cultural
elite will lend their voices to his duplicitous crusade.

Matt Zoller
Seitz, Manhattan

Quoth the MUGGER
MUGGER: Do you
realize that you are the only person who could have saved Al Gore’s political
life? “Now, if Gore had a lick of moonshine sense, he’d have resigned
his office on principle last year, at the height of the Lewinsky scandal, setting
him apart from all the rest of Clinton’s entourage who disgracefully let
their boss lie to them and still remained at the White House. Talk about integrity!
He’d be at least even in the polls right now with Gov. Bush; Bradley wouldn’t
even matter. Instead, Gore, on the day of Clinton’s deserved impeachment,
said his boss would be remembered as one of the greatest American presidents.
That’s a soundbite we’ll be seeing in GOP commercials from March of
next year till Election Day. “

Why hasn’t anybody
else said this? It’s so painfully obvious you’d think that it would
be Bush’s campaign stump speech.

And I agree with you on
John McCain as well: McCain is Clinton’s evil Republican brother.

Frank Turk,

Right on, MUG
Your article on McCain’s shame (10/6) was priceless, really sharp. The
guy is a phony and you nailed him. Thanks.

Ross Knight,

Is it just me or is your column a sick joke (10/6)? A man making his money from
the corporate-controlled press mocking a candidate who admits that the government
is bought and sold? It is almost funny to watch you sit there and pretend to
actually care about the well-being of the country. It’s not that I care
for McCain or Clinton or, for that matter, any of the choices for president.
The issue is your callous disregard for the feelings of the young voting populace
and the terrible state of politics today. We are repeatedly lied to and sold
out by our government and the press. I spent the first 20 years of my life choking
on the system that has been set up by the rich to indoctrinate the youth of
the nation into its corporate hive. Perhaps, instead of wasting your miserable
time pandering to the elite, you should use that time to look around yourself
and realize you’re nothing but a puppet–a cog in the machine if you
will–tricked into believing the drivel you spill out. I know I am talking
to a wall, but raging against the machine that drives us further into intellectual
darkness is always a worthwhile pastime. If we give in to the tyranny of the
world we just become part of it, I guess.

James M. Wolf
Jr., Elkhorn, WI

Russ Smith
: NYPress is an independently owned newspaper and not part
of any media conglomerate.


A Little Cynical, Even for

MUGGER: Last Month,
20/20 did a lovey-dovey piece on Sen. McCain. He spoke about his Vietnam
experience. I tend to agree with you that he’s milking it for all it’s

And I’ll take it one
step further, too. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the good Senator
had me wondering more than once whether he might have based his decision to
remain in the POW camp on future political considerations.

Twenty-plus years ago, could
the honorable John McCain–a la Bill Clinton–have already been thinking
about the political value of a “heroic” decision to remain behind
rather than accept his freedom?

And you thought you were

Keith Strawn,
Duluth, MN

I wish you would debate the ideas of those you don’t like, specifically
Patrick Buchanan, instead of insulting them (10/6). Insults and ad hominem attacks
upon your opponents demonstrate that you cannot refute their logic and facts
and instead must resort to personal attacks (e.g., “the bigot who may or
may not win the Reform Party nod”).

In addition, you sound like
nothing so much as a shill for the “leadership” of the Republican
Party, which is out of touch with many of its constituents (despite the polls).

We’ll see how well
Dubya does in 2000 without the support of the pro-lifers and


Mike Breslin,