Noriega and the Bimbo Eruptions
I just finished Peter Eisner's riveting story about Gen. Manuel Noriega ("Uncertain Justice," March 26). He makes a convincing argument, articulating and documenting what I have long suspected: Noriega was transformed into a villain as part of a campaign prop.

In these days of bimbo eruptions, it is refreshing to read a story that reveals the truly dirty, vicious side of politics. Whether Noriega is guilty or innocent, the campaign against him resulted in the deaths of countless innocent Panamanians. Eisner's story is a reminder of the importance of serious journalism.

Jim Mulvaney, assistant managing editor
for investigations
New York Daily News
New York

Noriega and the Tinhorn Dictator Image
Peter Eisner's reporting on Latin America is balanced and informative. He casts doubts on received wisdom and does not fall prey to common prejudices. Manuel Noriega is now a caricature of a Latin American dictator. But behind the screen, Eisner is discovering who helped build this image and why.

Leiser Madanes
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Mad Mack's Deserved Demise
I am writing in response to Ted B. Kissell's article about Mack Emerman ("King of the Sound Board," February 26). As everyone knows, there are two sides to every story. Thank God for a free press.

Some of the people Mr. Kissell interviewed chose to gloss over details. For instance, the term "meticulous engineer" might more aptly have been "mad man." The reference to attitude was a bit shy. It was "my way or no way," and it was not limited to engineering; it applied to everything.

I am surprised to hear Mr. Emerman admit that he wasn't a good businessman. Truth be known, he wouldn't have had to be. He was surrounded by a great crew of loving, devoted, dedicated people who were determined to keep the business alive -- in spite of him. Had they been left to their jobs, the outcome might have been significantly different.

Some of the interviews in the article remind me of a psychoanalytical approach to a divorcing couple. The unpleasant things are too troubling to remember, so you concentrate on only the good. The troubling times disappear. Yet there are so many skeletons crammed in the closet. Skeletons like those who couldn't get a raise because of that sailboat anchored at the dock and that Maserati in the driveway. Skeletons like relentless screaming, hollering, and throwing things. Skeletons like wild accusations of theft. Skeletons like punches being thrown -- and on and on and on.

I'm sorry that asking permission to show Criteria to his grandchildren is humiliating, but I'm afraid that wandering through studios, walking in on clients, and pounding on doors muttering, "Let them throw me out" doesn't constitute "visiting" Criteria.

As for the terms like "regime" and "old Criteria hands," what are they? I don't know any more than approximately two or three "old Criteria hands" who even know the new owners. And I'm happy to say there is no "regime" here.

As Tom Dowd mentioned, it is indeed true that Joel Levy et al. brought the studio out of its slump. It is refreshing to work for someone who appreciates the talent that surrounds him and is open to ideas. Someone who works with you, not against you. Someone who doesn't ask for your opinion and then promptly advise you that you are wrong. You see, when talented people are left to their work, everyone benefits.

I am sure I could sign this letter "Anonymous," but I believe it would be a wasted effort. And why? People who lived through these things know it's all true. After almost 29 years, why lie?

Margie J. Curry, general manager
Criteria Recording Studios
North Miami

Criteria's Meat-Packing Vibe
I was one of the lucky few to have worked for Mack Emerman in the good old days. I must take credit for the phrase "Mack Lean," a.k.a. the "Emerman Slump." It would happen any time a piece of gear broke or a session was canceled. Mack would slump against the nearest wall and moan, "I don't know why I ever got into this business." It was funny to see and hear this because you knew that for Mack there simply was no other business.

In recent years, I've avoided driving by Criteria Studios. It hurts too much to see the place where I spent the best times of my life, knowing what has happened there. While Criteria Studios may be one of the most successful studios on the planet, it might as well be a meat-packing plant for the vibes there now.

The collective soul, thank God, is alive and well and doing just fine down the street and elsewhere.

Chuck Kirkpatrick
Cooper City


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