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Letters to the editor 

Atlanta's black history, dance, Citty, Gay Sex in the '70s

Keeping hope alive

I really enjoyed the article on Mr. Herman "Skip" Mason Jr. ("The disappearing face of Atlanta's black history," Feb. 23). Your piece hit home with me because I am a 27-year-old black male, born and raised in Atlanta. I, too, have seen some of the changes that have taken place in this most wonderful place. I again say thank you for the most wonderful and interesting article that I have had the pleasure of reading in some time.

-- Dijjean Johnson, Decatur

I really enjoyed your article on "The disappearing face of Atlanta's black history." It gives you hope that there are people like Herman "Skip" Mason Jr. continuing to hold up the banner.

-- Terry Radford, Griffin

Dance with capital D

I am writing to convey my thanks for and compliments on your excellent dance appreciation/review/feature/critical object (Arts, "Between heaven and earth," Feb. 23). It is both cleverly conceived and splendidly executed. For years, I have argued that dance criticism is the great underachievement of the exegetical arts. You, however, have a discernible and discerning insight into the central expressive motifs of the dance, in the Dance, in (d)ance qua capital D quotation marks: "Dance."

You and I understand that the critical project is as much celebratory art as it is logical inquiry, but the ideal is, of course, an elegant synthesis of the two. This piece is precisely that.

-- Scott Wilkerson, Columbus

Apologies

Thank you very much for the article that you ran on me in the Feb. 23 issue (Vibes, Spotlight). The article was very well written and informative, however, I would like to clarify one point in the article: A portion of the piece refers to Atlantic Records promotions manager Ric Ross as my manager. While Mr. Ross is a friend of mine who has been supportive of my career -- in fact, he even pitched me to the president of Atlantic Records -- he is not my manager. He was nice enough to allow me to use a room at his label's office to conduct the interview so that we could have some privacy.

My manager, Roderick Smith, and my road manager B. Scott and I wish to apologize to Mr. Ross -- and your readers as well -- for the misunderstanding.

Thank you again for your support.

-- Citty

Editor's note: In a tape-recorded interview last month, Citty identified Ric Ross as his co-manager.

Not just sex

I am responding to Felicia Feaster's review of Gay Sex in the '70s (Flicks, "Bed, bathhouse and beyond," Feb. 16) as it appears she didn't consider some of the fundamentals of gay sex in the 1970s.

First, let me state that I've always enjoyed her writing, just as I enjoyed her review. Consider the following: "And the Tom Selleck mustaches, shirtless men in suspenders, crotch-hugging shorts and other fashion no-no's are their own reward." Not only do I agree, but I do so laughing ... even us homos know she speaks the truth. It was kind of like most people joking about how awfully their parents dressed them as a child, though they couldn't have known any better. A cigar, a moustache and boots do not always make for a lovely man.

I understand the writer's segue into her real criticism when she says, "The film centers on a slim chapter in gay history ... ." Maybe that's all it does. However, I take that to mean she saw a timeline documentary that covers Jan. 1, 1970, through Dec. 31, 1979. Even if that's what she saw, it isn't so. Some historians estimate that gay culture as we know it began in the '30s and '40s. The documentary may not have explained this, but then, why didn't the writer?

For her to quote Barton Benes' comment, "You could have sex several times a day!" and not see the significance of that is simply myopic. Yet, the writer begins her argument here, using it to explain that the film is lacking.

These men lived in an era where gay sex became more public, and therefore, more available. It makes sense that most of their anecdotes involving that decade are explicitly sexual. Their insight involved learning where to find sex, and as was often the case, how to make sex happen more where they found it. Their reflection was on what they enjoyed there and what it meant to each participant personally. The artfulness was in how you had sex, and sometimes, where you had it. Yet, the writer appears to see nothing more than the "enormous number" of times/partners that were described in the documentary.

I don't think Feaster meant to vilify this documentary as nothing but a lurid description of old queens, their good ol' days and their awful clothes. But to me, she did. These men lived in a time when any sort of love from a man, be it in a truck trailer or a penthouse, was welcome to them. They didn't have much to cling to, other than some sort of satisfaction of their normal desires.

To me, the truth is that the men in this documentary did what they could with what they had. Gay people have gained a lot since the '70s. But for those where nothing other than a short-term relationship (i.e., orgasm in a truck trailer) was possible, it may not be that those recounting that experience just cared about sex. There was way more involved than that.

I hope [Feaster] won't judge gay culture in the '70s (or better defined, sex) like it was happening now. When it comes to any sort of emotional fulfillment, we all do what we can, lest we suffer. This documentary went into the gory details of those who did what they could, and/or wanted to do. I don't think it professed to cover emotions, personalities or anything like that in-depth.

What it did was give us examples of life then, and how those who survived it see it in light of our current culture. Were they big ho's? Sure. But by whose standards?

-- Mark Rice, Atlanta

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