Letters

Coming Soon: Cover Stories Shorter Than This Letter
Concerning the article written by Robert Andrew Powell entitled "The Graduate" (January 18), the movie by the same title was of less epic proportions. Perhaps your writers could adapt the New Times letters policy -- specifically the part stating that "letters may be edited for length or clarity" -- and call it the New Times writers' policy.

Evidently the research for this article was extensive, the tracking and tracing of information and people exhaustive. It is interesting that Cesar Odio has such a high-paying, high-profile position and yet lacks the basic elements that he requires of those beneath him. He has a questionable education and no diploma [from Havana's Universidad de Santo Tomas] A nada, finito, only a know-nothing piece of paper.

So what? Is this news? Of course it is, but why take so long to get us there? The big letdown was the end of the article. J.L. Plummer's "reservations" do not amount to a hill of beans. People lie -- big whoop. Steve Clark's Harry Truman comparison is so far out there that the writing staff of Sightings has begun working on Truman -- The First Interplanetary Being. And then there is Odio's own pompous comment: "I could write my own degree." Get a clue, Mr. Odio. That's one of the things this article is pointing out. Where's the 800 number to have the guy ousted?

Raven Ford
Miami

Oliver and Me (As Reported in All the Finest Publications)
As a former Washington, D.C., writer newly transplanted to South Beach (and just in time), New Times has proven to be a topnotch, reliable provider of what's really going on in this model mecca. Alas, covering Ocean Drive magazine's third anniversary party for a Washington publication, I was surprised to find my conversation with director Oliver Stone "gracing" Tom Austin's account of the bash, to have that talk erroneously described, and to have me, of all people, accused of "making a cheap buck" by having Stone sign a Nixon envelope ("Swelter," January 18). My journalistic history with both Stone and Nixon is anything but cheap, and has never involved profiteering.

Three years ago imprisoned Native American Leonard Peltier hired me to collaborate with him on his autobiography. After we received a $70,000 offer for the proposal, Leonard said that wasn't enough, broke our contract, and fired me without paying me a penalty. As the Kansas City Star reported, I found Peltier to be a con man and a fraud. Stone, who had optioned Peltier's life story for a film, had independently come to the same conclusion.

I told Stone that Kurt Vonnegut had written me, lamenting Peltier's action, saying that "if Peltier was an editor or agent" he would "have had the Author's Guild cut him a new asshole." True Vonnegut.

Next we talked about how, on my eighteenth birthday, the Watergate break-in took place. And how, when I had my first article in a national publication -- Newsweek -- Richard Nixon was on the cover, the headline reading "He's Back!" I told him that last year, for my 40th birthday, friends rented room 723 at the Howard Johnson's across from the Watergate -- the room G. Gordon Liddy used as headquarters for the break-in. We sang "Ding Dong the Dick Is Dead" as 95 million Americans turned their attention to O.J. Simpson's exploits with his white Bronco.

Finally, as a graduate student at the University of Michigan, I'd done my thesis on "The Filmmaker as Historian." I pointed out preventable errors in Stone's film Nixon, and told him he should bring the story of Alexander the Great to the screen. He told me it would be one of his next projects, for which I'm offering my New Yorker-profiled research skills. Making Stone's films more historically accurate is, I think, a noble task, needed more than anything else for his films.

Before we said goodbye, I took out a Nixon envelope -- a four-color drawing of a headless man behind bars to which I affixed a 32-cent Nixon stamp and then (as the New York Times reported) had hand-canceled at the Watergate station of the U.S. Post Office on August 9 of last year, the 21st anniversary of "the Dick's" resignation. Stone laughed, accepted it, and signed one for me.

I've never considered selling it, as Mr. Austin concluded. In fact, I think it would make a great addition to a charity auction, to which I would gladly donate it. Maybe it should be a New Times auction to raise money for the homeless who seem to be all too prevalent in my newly adopted city. Mr. Austin can run the auction, showing he has some compassion and depth, neither of which his column evinces.

Fredric Alan Maxwell
Miami Beach

River of Sass
Frankly, I was shocked by Kirk Semple's article "Resolutionary Tour" (January 18), which included a confidential memo from Marjory Stoneman Douglas advising the board of directors of Friends of the Everglades to resort to eco-terrorism to defend the Everglades.

Then I saw the Florida panther, the alligator, and the manatee with visions of plastic explosives before their very eyes, waiting for environmentalists to seize Everglades National Park's visitor center, take hostages, and bring the sugar industry to its paws.

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