W Is for Wrathful

News Real, March 2, 2006

Grudge? Us? What exactly is Ellis Conklin's "56 in Webster Groves" about? What is its newsworthiness and timeliness? Why does it seem that the RFT writes pointless cover stories simply because the art director had some clever design idea?

From the antagonistic title on the cover, the reader would assume the article addressed Webster residents' obsession with the documentary. That in 2006, 40 years later, they're all still walking around shaking their heads and talking about how shady Charles Kuralt is. But no. Of the 37 paragraphs in the story, the first 26 are dedicated to summarizing the documentary. The remaining 11 deal with Webster's supposed inability to, as the tease on your cover puts it, "get over it." This grudge Conklin purports still exists seems to derive from a single quote from Webster University film professor Kathy Corley, and a baseless assertion put forth by Conklin that "[i]nexplicably, the passage of time has done little to diminish the anger and embarrassment."

Fair enough. Then how? Conklin never tells us. He sought out reaction to the film from a local author, a few Webster alums and two veteran teachers. Well, duh. If you ask me if I was pissed that my bike was stolen in fifth grade I'll tell you, "Hell yeah, that burned me up." But it's not like I still go around talking about it to this day. So what in the hell? What is this article about and why was it written? Why should people continue to read the RFT if you continue to run pointless, lackluster journalism?
Patrick Hunt, St. Louis (Webster Groves High Class of 2000)

And we had Julie pegged as a socie: What's that I smell? Could it be bad business or irresponsible reporting? Maybe it's a couple whiffs of both! I love the RFT, but I have to question the objectivity and well-roundedness of "56 in Webster Groves."

Apparently people who live or grow up in Webster Groves aren't human beings. They don't have needs, desires, fantasies, deeds, dreams, aspirations, motivations or creeds similar to people anywhere else in the U.S. Oh, wait a minute, that's right, Webster was representing the U.S. Yet had this study been reproduced in Kirkwood, University City, St. Louis or any other city in America in 1966, the results would have been almost identical.

This article celebrates the crappiest documentary ever made in terms of validity and honesty concerning social "deviance" in all its many forms. It should be noted that the U.S. is the most restrictive nation in the world when it comes to sexuality alone, even today. In 1966 it would've been almost impossible to get honest answers out of American people (no matter what area of what state they were from) about personal social deviance, in confidential private interviews, let alone on videotape. Almost none of these young subjects would've been honest about their true dirty little deeds on national television, especially during a time so shaded by the lingering cultural reverberations of the "clean, pristine" 1950s. My parents actually have a friend that was in "Sixteen," and I was told that the documentary absolutely did not capture reality.

What bothers me is that the tone of the article seems to be covertly promoting prejudice against the people of Webster Groves. Generalizations of this nature — that people living or growing up in Webster are snobbish, empty, fake, conformative, self-centered, sheltered or interested in social climbing, among other things — are highly inaccurate and lead to false, illogical reasoning. "Websterism" is one of the many forms of uneducated prejudice that, sadly, still exists today! I've seen the power of these prejudices in various people I've come across around St. Louis (e.g., "Juicy Julie Jones? She's just a Webster slut!"). As human beings, let's all ask ourselves: "Does having good silverware make me feel good?" Damn right it does!
Julie A. Jones, St. Louis

Don't look back: As an escapee from Webster Groves, I get a good laugh every time I remember the impact that documentary had on self-satisfied residents. As you can guess, I never fit in and once I discovered that there was a world west of Kirkwood, I never went back.

It may be true that those who loved Webster and never wanted to leave felt misrepresented by the documentary. But those of us on the fringes found a lot in that documentary that rang true. It was a vision of Webster that allowed us to see the community in a objective light and let go of any lingering regret that we could not fit into that rigid society presented to us as the only portal to a successful life.

I'll never go back.
Sue Lindholm Barker, Jamestown, Rhode Island

A to Z, March 2, 2006


Don't forget to thank the Academy: A note of thanks for all the support you've given to Frederick's Music Lounge over the past six years. When my best friend Fred Boettcher Sr. died in the spring of 2000, we weren't sure what would happen next at his property on Chippewa. None of us had operated a music venue prior to that time, though a few of us had spent many, many years performing and imbibing in such establishments. We began the process of creating the lounge's new identity by making lists of what we disliked about other venues. It turned out to be a very long, very helpful list of how not to run a music lounge.

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