Letters from the Issue of October 17, 2002

The unraveling of the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

Mutant Writer Spews Gibberish

Fiendish free weekly creates journalistic Frankenstein: The once friendly, sober, and decorous Frank Alvarado of Miami Today and the Daily Business Review joins New Times and appears to have been psycho-surgically transmuted into a caustic, trash-talking Hunter Thompson wannabe named Francisco Alvarado, a snappy pseudo-hipster with a Trotskyite's disdain for anyone with more than the price of a good beer in his pocket. Frank/Francisco has become the Myra Breckenridge of Miami journalism. He sets the tone of his article "Willy and Peter Do Miami" (October 10) by establishing that attendees at the Grand Prix Americas race generally weren't attired in sackcloths and ashes. Shocking! And that promoters Willy Bermello and Peter Yanowitch were proud of their work. We'll have none of that! And that Miami Mayor Manny Diaz was enthusiastic in his support for the nationally televised event that drew 75,000 people into a normally deserted downtown Miami park. Outrageous!

Tracing the history of the race, Frank/Francisco cites a "clandestine lunch" two years ago when promoter/lawyer Yanowitch first broached the idea of a new Grand Prix with promoter/architect Bermello. Clandestine? Where did they meet, on the top floor of a darkened parking garage? Under a bridge? In a tomato field near Homestead? Get real!

Further -- he notes ominously -- the race was born out of "private meetings" with former Mayor Joe Carollo. I'm sure that at New Times -- where I assume they have bleachers in the bathroom stalls -- nothing private ever occurs. But in the world occupied by the rest of us, business meetings generally do not feature audiences. This matters not in New Timesland, where rousing the rabble with class jealousies and paranoiac delusions that someone somewhere somehow is to blame for one's own squalid existence provides the backdrop for most editorial content.

In an effort to demonstrate the limited benefits of the race, Frank/Francisco managed to track down a single downtown merchant who felt he was insufficiently enriched by the event and believed that the presence of "empty streets" somehow prevented potential customers from storming his store to buy computers. And in what I can only assume was an editing error, the race was also blamed for the fact that September (the month before the event) "was almost fatal for us." Having set the stage with those insightful observations, Frank got down to the serious work at hand.

Ohhhhh (he intones as he sets out to rip the covers off the great Grand Prix "scandal"), the city granted the promoters an evil "no-bid" agreement to hold the race on city streets! I assume we will next hear about the city giving "no-bid" permission for the Orange Bowl parade? Or "no-bid" authority for the Coconut Grove Arts Festival? Or "no-bid" use of the Orange Bowl by any number of users?

What hokum! Poor gullible Frank/Francisco has opened wide and swallowed whole a mammoth dose of complete hooey dished out by the slick big-city lawyers at Steel Hector & Davis, handmaidens to the Evil Empire of Auto Racing, the France organization, which has spent an estimated $500,000 in legal and lobbyist fees in a frenzied attempt to shut down a competing, and immensely more interesting, auto race motivated by what they would have all of us believe is a public-spirited effort to protect the sanctity of municipal bidding requirements.

Puhleeze! If anyone other than the "New Frank" in his highly disturbing New Times reincarnation is buying this crapola, I've got a nearly useless auto-racing track in Homestead I'd like to sell them.

Seth Gordon

Miami

Editor's note: Seth Gordon's marketing and public-relations firm, Gordon Reyes Diaz-Balart, served as a consultant to the Grand Prix Americas.

More Brat Than Brilliant

Rosenberg dug his own film festival grave: Brett Sokol is wrong. His characterization of the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival board of directors is incorrect ("They Shoot Divas, Don't They?" October 10). If Sokol were to examine the board roster since the MGLFF's founding, he would have found almost all the best and brightest leaders in Miami's gay community. But the pool of qualified individuals willing to hold leadership positions has been exhausted by perennial turnover created by the "difficult demeanor" of festival director Robert Rosenberg. Festival patron Harvey Burstein, however generous, is also wrong. Dismissing an incorrigible brat like Rosenberg does not mean the MGLFF is faltering. On the contrary, it was time for someone to stand up to Rosenberg and stop the bloodletting created by his nasty disposition. The festival will find its bearings and move on because the local gay community supports it. Burstein might be surprised by the flood of supporters willing to participate now that Rosenberg is gone.

Finally, Rosenberg himself is wrong. He says he has been the festival's only constant, but the true constant has been the unwavering support of Miami's gay community. The only unfortunate aspect of this scandal is Rosenberg's dragging it into the public arena. It doesn't become fabulously talented people to carry on this way. That only feeds the stereotyping of gays and lesbians as "divas," something New Times apparently couldn't resist.

Mark Leslie Woods

Miami Beach

Unraveling in the Time of Danger

Festival chaos could create clarity: I have worked with many visionaries, both in the field of medicine and while serving on various nonprofit boards. Some of these people are able to put the mission of the organization above their personal ambitions and shortcomings, and some are not. During my tenure on the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival board, it became apparent that Robbie Rosenberg was not able to do this. The fact that so many talented people came and went on the MGLFF board testifies to this sad reality.After such an auspicious start, it is a shame to see the festival unravel. Let's hope that the community can glean some confidence from the experience and reunite even stronger in some other forum. These are truly harrowing times. Anyone who doesn't see the clear and present danger to our rights and safety is sadly out of touch with the current state of affairs.

Karen Raben, M.D.

Miami

You Got a Free Drink, Now What Do I Get?

Let me tell you, big boy, you get nothing: I was appalled that Lee Williams, in his "Clubbed" column "Hip Clubs vs. Strip Clubs" (September 26), somehow believed that his sex-obsessed view of nightclubs passed as a legitimate journalistic topic. The term generalization doesn't do justice to what he wrote about women in Miami's social scene. He perpetuates the myth that all women are whores and that women owe him (and all men) something in return when they buy drinks for women. I have worked in nightclubs and am an educated woman who is currently writing and performing a theatrical production that traces women through time. I am also organizing a women's conference December 11 at Artemis, where people can come together to discuss the stereotyping of men and women. I invite Mr. Williams to attend and see what women really have to say.

Raquel Almazan

Miami

Girls Want a Good Time Too

Which doesn't mean you're going to get some: Lee Williams should know that just because we women go to clubs scantily clad and shaking our rumps in no way means we are out to dupe some poor sucker and leave him penniless. Can we not go out and meet other people looking for a good time with no strings attached? As for Mr. Williams's statement that "women tend to travel in packs these days," safety in numbers is the first thing that comes to mind. There are ample documented rapes, muggings, and other threats to lone women on South Beach. But I would have to say the motivating factor in going out in groups is that sometimes women want a safety net from all the men who are just looking to get some. Also there are times when women just want a night out without the expectation of putting out. Furthermore, what's the fun in listening to some bitter male go on and on about how materialistic women are in Miami?

Nobody should enter Miami's club scene with hopes of finding someone special. If you should meet someone special, that's great, but whatever happened to going to a club (hip or strip) for a good time? You men want something long-lasting? Well, I propose the following: Start by forming a friendship with women. Don't look at us like we are some kind of delicacy that can be bought at the nearest nightclub, and don't label us money-hungry. Respect the fact that, like men, we women own our sexuality and can go clubbing without promises of sex or love.

Mireya Alfonso

Miami

The Unbearable Rightness of Being in Miami

Right man, right place, right time -- wrong message: Brett Sokol's article "Kafka in a Guayabera" (September 19), concerning Vaclav Havel's visit to Miami, was comprehensive and incisive in many ways. But it is obvious Havel neither read Sokol's story nor did his exile homework prior to arrival. He danced around the Cuba embargo and omitted addressing one vital point of concern -- and it ain't "rampant consumerism."As a freedom-loving exile, I was hopeful about this visit. After all, the Czech president is the living embodiment of freedom's power. He remained within the communist satellite of his birth and in the best tradition of a real gusano, ate the Soviet monster from the inside out. This man knows firsthand that tyrannies -- of the left and the right -- are the ones that must construct walls, electric fences, and socio-political barriers to buffer themselves from democracy's onslaught.

But in Miami, Havel addressed a unique group of people, many of whom pine for freedom by the drop rather than the bucket, a group of people who will never reconcile themselves to the removal of the embargo but whose brothers in Little Havana send a billion dollars each year to aid starving relatives in Cuba.

Why support an embargo that has financially helped Castro endure an extra decade beyond the life of his Soviet patrons? Why insist on a fictitious sanction that has served Castro as a scapegoat for his Stalinist failures? What's the logic behind all this?

These are questions Vaclav Havel didn't ponder prior to his visit nor ask once he got here. If he had, Havel would have noted a distinct aroma permeating the stately, paneled banquet rooms of the Biltmore Hotel: the smell of stale air and mildewed minds and nowhere an open window for light, breeze, or truthful response.

The Czech president spoke to a friendly multitude of exiles, perhaps unaware of their little nation's long authoritarian history, a history that compromises every tiny step they've taken in the name of liberty during their exile. While Havel's compatriot, Milan Kundera, came to terms with his inevitable "Frenchness," this audience was full of men raised in Miami or even born in Yorktown or Mt. Vernon, but who, regardless of birthplace or nature, harbor as deep a pathological discomfort with freedom's trials and tribulations as their grandfathers. Just note the recent percentages that favored repeal of Miami-Dade County's anti-discrimination ordinance.

In the end President Havel said a few nice words and collected his check. But he failed to address the greatest danger facing Cuba once it gets rid of this four-decade-old Leninist disaster. That danger is an authoritarian, right-wing beast, already lurking in the wings (maybe even at the Biltmore) and biding its time, hopeful of an enduring embargo based on twisted logic -- the embargo, though meaningless, is a sanction nonetheless, an American line in the sand that gives the Cuban people only one choice: armed insurrection and chaos, a precondition if our new Machado or Batista is to graciously step into the vacuum.

Oh, Miami, so close to Havana and so far from the likes of a Milan Kundera.

Antonio Gonzalez

Pembroke Pines

Exceptional Public Servants Take Risks

And they make big, fat, easy targets: As members of the Miami Beach Art in Public Places committee, we want to express our sadness at the loss of our city liaison, James Quinlan, as reported by Brett Sokol ("Rebel Without a Causeway," September 12). For several years James led us in our pursuit of world-class art for our beautiful city, in order to fulfill the goals mandated by the Art in Public Places ordinance. Under his leadership we completed several projects, started others, and developed a master plan that will guide our future accomplishments. James Quinlan was innovative, creative, and dogged in his relentless approach to acquire the best for our community. When there were no apparent funding sources, he helped us find them. When projects appeared too complex to move forward, James simplified them. There were no obstacles he could not help us overcome in his quest to assist us in our role as art advocates for the city.

James is missed by each and every one of us on the committee and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors. Anyone with whom he affiliates will be very lucky to work with such a dedicated, enthusiastic, and intelligent individual.

Pola Reydburd, chair

Miami Beach Art in Public Places

Merle Weiss, vice chair

James Clearwater, Ilija Mosscrop, Debra Scholl, Yolanda Sánchez, members

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