StreetSmarts: Alive and Well, Thank You
Your report of StreetSmarts magazine's demise ("Riptide," April 22) is, as they say, greatly exaggerated. StreetSmarts will continue to publish. We must. Who else creates meaningful, dignified employment for South Florida's homeless and hard-core unemployed?
Only StreetSmarts takes anyone willing to work, trains them in basic life and business skills, then gives them their own business selling StreetSmarts magazine for a 233 percent profit. As an independent entrepreneur, the StreetSmarts vendor has a legitimate and dignified means of earning an income while she or he works toward self-sufficiency.
And although we no longer have office space at Camillus House, we currently have 78 vendors working out of two distribution points in Broward County. We actively seek donated office space in Miami-Dade County, space easily accessible to the poorest of us.
Contrary to the New Times report, I never said I couldn't meet with Dr. Joe Greer, medical director of Camillus Health Concern. We have been trying to meet with him to discuss new digs in Miami, but he is a very busy man. I must add that Dr. Greer is on StreetSmarts's advisory board and is a strong supporter of the magazine and its mission.
It is true that I'm leaving town for a few months. Frank Kaiser and I will be heading off for a five-week assignment from the U.S. government, traveling to Russia and Poland, teaching the art and science of marketing, advertising, and public relations to companies in those countries.
In our absence StreetSmarts's office manager and researcher John Zeller will be managing our temporary headquarters, with our Broward distribution centers handling our vendors. To ensure there is no break in vendor services, John can be reached at 305-654-1102 while we are away.
Rest assured that StreetSmarts is alive, well, and as audacious as ever. Our staff of homeless and hard-to-employ is hard at work on the next issue. We are hardly defunct.
Carolyn Blair, publisher and co-chair
StreetSmarts Coalition, Inc.
Owing to reporting errors, three facts were misstated in Jose Luis Jimenez's article "Out Damned Spa" (April 15). Spa developer Marc Siegel was not arrested in June 1995. Prosecutors did charge him with intentionally writing a bad check, but later decided not to pursue the case. Also Siegel did not personally visit area massage schools as reported. Instead he sent recruitment letters to several of those schools. Finally spa worker Sherry Parker has two daughters, not a daughter and a son as stated in the article. New Times regrets the errors.
You're in Good Handss at Churchill's
I was floored to read Brett Sokol's column "Kulchur" (April 8), in which he gave the impression that it was not safe to come to Churchill's Hideaway, the nightclub I own. That column was contrived to give advantage to a Broward County nightclub and should have caused you to make a better effort at presenting our case and providing a more balanced perspective.
Robert Gregory promoted a few shows here this past year. Early this year, on January 23, he had Kim Lenz and her Jaguars and did much better business than either he or I expected. Churchill's was wonderful, he said, and he extolled all its virtues: the PA system, the atmosphere, our staff, our cooperation, our customers. He was going to do most or all of his shows here, and proceeded to book more shows with us.
On March 12 he presented Billy Bacon and the Forbidden Pigs. Business was slow, which was our main topic of conversation. He at no time complained that he had been assaulted by some street person. I spoke with Gregory three or more times during and after the show, as did two people who work here. Not a mention or any appearance of discomfort was presented to us. I would have been particularly interested in knowing whether the supposed assailant was known to us or whether some unknown person was operating with a mission to make it difficult to present live music in Miami.
Many years ago I developed several clubs in pubs and hotels in England. Usually I would have to pay rent, provide a PA, sometimes a stage, often a piano, security, all advertising, and occasionally obtain and pay for performing-rights licenses. When I developed Churchill's as a live-music venue, we obtained performing-rights licenses (BMI and ASCAP). Over a period of time I put in a stage, modest lights, a good but simple PA system, and a digital recording system so groups could record their own performances. We also have paid for some advertising. But security, particularly door security, has always been the responsibility of the promoter.
With big events like the Dick Dale shows we promoted ourselves, we had six security people for one show and eight people for the other show. The recent, very successful Agent Orange show presented by Bob Slade had himself and a cashier at the door, two of his own security staff, plus two more we obtained for him. Aaron Kolius, who presented a series of very good shows here last year, including Ronnie Dawson, always staffed his events properly. Unfortunately he moved to Atlanta. I spoke with Ronnie Dawson and his wife for more than an hour before and after his excellent show. He was very enthusiastic about Churchill's and expressed a desire to return.
You may understand now how I feel duped. The show that was intended to be here has now been moved. In addition we lost another show we had declined because we were holding a date for Robert Gregory, which he then moved.
When Sokol phoned to get my views, I referred him to a number of people who work for New Times. They, along with the local police, have on a number of occasions told us: "Don't let anyone tell you this is a bad neighborhood." Members of the New Times staff have been here on hundreds of occasions in the course of their employment to pick up advertising copy and money. To the best of my knowledge they have had no problems here, though they have had many problems in other parts of town. Gregory's comments about being at the door with $1000 and getting killed are alarmist. (We have often held money for promoters and provided them with change.)
Sokol's suggestion of an off-duty police officer at $23 per hour may be well intentioned, but most hours of the week we don't even take in $23 per hour, and we still have our product, licenses, utilities, advertising, and more to pay for.
A couple of years ago I felt I was ready for a change. I thought Churchill's would be better for some new operators, perhaps a family (mother, father, and grown children), along the lines of many English pubs. Or perhaps two or three younger partners. But the city's local Neighborhood Enhancement Team office persuaded me to stay and cooperate with the city in a project that would have seen Churchill's much more secure and firing on more cylinders. Unfortunately the officer who persuaded me has left and the new one seems to have a different agenda.
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I had the impression that Miami's Upper Eastside was improving, boosted by the new downtown arena, the upcoming performing arts center, the Design District's turnaround, a new Walgreens across the street, and a new restaurant two blocks east of us. I had hoped we would all benefit.
Here we have an operation that has worked. Besides us, only Tobacco Road has found a formula for presenting live original local music for any length of time. Why try and kill it? Thousands of people have been here on hundreds of occasions and have concluded it is much safer to come to Churchill's than to go to many other places in town. And they are right.
I was here for the 1980 riots, which didn't have any particular effect on this neighborhood except the county closed all bars. I was also here for Hurricane Andrew, no electricity for a week, then curfews and other problems. Brett Sokol's article has probably done more damage than both of them. It could prove fatal.