Austin: A Goethe Wanna-be
After reading Tom Austin's final "Swelter" column (March 7), I was reminded of the absolute relief I felt when I sold the Island Club and closed the doors for the last time.
I had a wonderful and loyal staff, a good clientele, and a host of friends A all a direct result of a great moment called the Island Club. Yet for those with a critical mass of brain cells, working the night beat exacts a horrendous toll.

I read Tom Austin for Tom Austin, one great writer who, in another life, might have been Dante or Goethe or even Socrates (his death in ancient Greece mirrors the spiritual death of those who drink too deeply the hemlock Tom dubbed "Swelter"). His flowery prose evoked ancient myths and sacred rituals gone astray in these decadent times. At what price to coax such lines from a mortal?

I salute his effort, his weariness. Many a night I'd see Tom trudge the path of dark deeds as he plunged deeper still into the abyss, a wilted blond moppet sagging under the unbearable weight of those who would sell their souls for the price of admission. Lock your doors, bar your windows, erect all such contrivances to ward off the evil spirits that occupy the night, lest the sirens lure Tom Austin again to their fatal shores.

In the February 29 "Swelter," Tom made a brilliant statement: "In the end Miami is nothing but a collection of great moments, wrenched from the arena of possibility." So, too, is life. Thanks to Tom Austin for bringing me some great literary moments to savor exquisitely in the silence of my truth.

Tom Bellucci
Miami Beach

Austin: Obnoxious and Rude
Tom Austin's goodbye "Swelter" column paints a true picture of him. We first met when I was a promoter at Le Loft (now Liquid). I found him to be obnoxious and rude. At another meeting at the Forge, I was holding a wrap party for the movie Streets of Darkness. This time he proved to me how much he misquoted people after he interviewed them. My last unfortunate meeting was with him and his entourage at the Ocean Drive third anniversary party several months ago, when he obnoxiously and rudely interrupted my conversation with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

I wasn't quite sure what Austin's problem was, but then he explained it in his last pompous, egocentric column, which he dedicated to himself. "I've had a long enough run, God knows, . . . almost five years of booze and drugs. . . . Recently, for instance, I shared a joint, the first in years, with Oliver Stone at one club or another." He could have been talking about himself when he added, "Those were the days, the ballyhooed pioneer era, although a lot of it had to do with people who were fabulous for no good reason, save for their capacity to snare drink tickets."

Miami Beach needs people who are down-to-earth, honest, and able to pass a drug test. Goodbye and good luck, Tom Austin. I can say I'm glad to see you go.

Jerry Babij
Miami Beach

Joe Natoli Really Sticks by His Friends
As a regular reader of New Times, I usually find the articles interesting and insightful. I take exception, however, to Jim DeFede's portrayal of Joe Natoli, president of the Miami Herald Publishing Company ("BrandsMart, Herald Stupid," March 7). The implication, if not outright statement, is that Mr. Natoli would do something improper, sacrificing his principles, in order to protect an advertising source for the Herald. It is quite clear that Jim DeFede does not know Mr. Natoli, as nothing could be further from the truth.

Joe Natoli is one of the most ethical individuals I have the honor of knowing. His position as president of the Miami Herald does not require him to abandon his friends because public opinion, or New Times, demands that he do so. It is still okay in this country to remain friends with individuals who have made mistakes. It is, in fact, refreshing to see Mr. Natoli continue to support a friend when, all too often, friendships are abandoned just when they are needed the most.

Mr. Natoli remains a private citizen in Dade County, one who is allowed to present his personal opinions as he desires. It is not only inappropriate for New Times writers to make a judgment about his moral character, it is wrong to do so without knowing the caliber of the individual about whom they are writing. And if New Times did, in fact, know Joe Natoli's character and convictions and still published the article, shame on you for your need to sensationalize a minor story and, in doing so, impugn an outstanding individual's character.

Lawrence A. Suran


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