Grace Note

Week of January 9, 2002

Grace Note
He's a true gentleman who deserves better: Thank you so much for your wonderful bio of my hero, Willie Akins [Jeannette Batz, "The Ballad of Willie Akins," Jan. 2]. I've been an admirer of his for over 30 years, and I'm elated that someone has finally "discovered" him in St. Louis. After hearing him the first time, at the old Moose Lounge, we knew he was a natural. It's a shame that he's virtually unknown locally outside local jazz circles. Hopefully your insightful piece will wake people up to the rich jazz history of St. Louis and get them out to hear it and support it.

I remember that time at the Moose Lounge, my friend and I were the only white folks in the house, and Willie immediately came over to our table on his first break and sat down to tell us how he appreciated us being there. My musician friend and I were in awe of hearing what was the closest our generation had come (at 22) to hearing real bebop played in a smoky, noisy bar. I'll never forget his grace and quiet articulation -- a true gentleman who deserves better. It really is a shame he couldn't have stayed in New York longer, because I'm sure he'd have made it sooner or later. Hopefully your piece will help him "make it" more so in St. Louis. He certainly deserves better.
Steve Knarr
via the Internet

Comic Relief
More daft than deft: Too often, journalists who write about comic books produce sloppy, condescending copy, and Byron Kerman did just that in his piece on local artist Rick Burchett and Burchett's work on Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure [ Sign of the Dimes," Jan. 2].

Although usually Kerman comments deftly on area events, he seemed less deft than daft in covering a recent signing by Burchett at the Ellisville Comics Universe, 15634 Manchester Rd. Kerman described Burchett's art on that one-shot as typified by the "muscle-bound-guys/boob-heavy-gals technique that comics have employed since day one"; that gibe not only generally mischaracterized Burchett's work but also suggested a profound ignorance of the medium -- no knowledgeable commentator would so describe the work of Bob Kane (Batman's creator) or most of his contemporaries in American comics during the late 1930s and 1940s, Kerman's "day one." (Let's pray Art Spiegelman never visits St. Louis, lest Kerman dismiss Maus, Spiegelman's Pulitzer-winning murine meditation on the Holocaust, as "Mickey Mouse with a bad attitude.") Moreover, in what appeared to be a nonsensical nod to overpricing, Kerman also dunned Burchett's Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure for costing such an "embarrassing" sum -- leaving one to wonder how little to value Kerman's own comments, which grace a publication that costs a dime less than the one-shot by Burchett.
Bryan A. Hollerbach
St. Louis

Keeping comic-book art alive: Rick Burchett should be commended for his efforts to restore faith in comic-book reading. Like so many young boys, when I was growing up in rural Missouri, comic-book stands were the first stop at any local store. I owe my artistic interest and drawing ability to comic books. I still read comic books when I can find them ... mostly at flea markets and antique malls. I remain a devoted subscriber to MAD magazine. And, most of all, I continue to love comic art and do some illustrating for free for local and state publications. Thank you, Rick Burchett, for keeping comic-book art alive.
Paul Cameron
Ste. Genevieve, Mo.

'Fess Up, Ray
You've been selling us worthless liberalism for years: Ray Hartmann's editorial regarding the heretofore unused prison facilities at Bonne Terre ["Taking No Prisoners," Dec. 26] covered a topic that has been discussed on most/all of the 10 p.m. news broadcasts in St. Louis. So it's not a new subject to most of us.

What is new is Ray's criticism of the goofs in Jefferson City, but his editorial would have packed a bigger bang had he named those legislators guilty of poor fiscal planning. We suspect that the reason he steered clear of this is because most of Jeff City is run by liberal Democrats, many of whom Ray has endorsed in past elections.

When will Ray finally break down and admit that he's been selling us a worthless piece of liberal goods for years? This situation could have been an ideal place for him to start.
Richard H. Gerding
Concord Village

Religious Sacrifices
How important is his faith? As a Christian who works at an auto factory, I fully sympathize with Talibdin El-Amin's dilemma at the Ford plant [Elizabeth Vega, "All Work and No Pray," Dec. 19]. At Chrysler, like Ford, deer season holds an unusual sway over most of our union membership and the life of the plant. As stated in the well-written article, seniority plays a very important role in shaping the lifestyle of an auto worker.

My seniority has prevented me from working days and has kept me on nights for the last six years. As many night workers can attest, this affects your metabolism and your "mental clock," so even when I don't work on a Saturday night, I find myself going to Mass only after a couple hours of sleep. This is also true on Easter and Christmas, and the older I get, the harder this becomes.

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