"Without the Nights, the musical landscape of St. Louis would be drastically different." 

Week of February 15, 2007

Feature, January 25, 2007

Who's the Monster?

RFT's the monster: I was put off by Malcolm Gay's article "Monster Next Door?" and even more put off by the RFT for engaging in this FOX News-like sensationalism. Shame on you, RFT!

First, labels such as "monster," a pretty extreme pejorative, are probably a factor in Devlin's asocial behavior. Devlin obviously has been made fun of, bullied and insulted for most of his life, which likely made him feel alienated by others, which played a role in his loneliness — which also factored into him kidnapping two boys. We do not know yet know what went on in Devlin's life these past four years, including his motive for taking Hornbeck, how he treated Hornbeck, or whether he even molested Hornbeck or Ownby, yet Gay is quick to judge and create his own set of facts about the situation. When you call Devlin a monster without knowing the details of his life, you are acting no better than a playground bully. I thought Malcolm Gay was better than this, but obviously he is not. And I thought that RFT had a morsel of journalistic integrity to not stoop to the sensationalist tactics of other local and national media. I thought wrong.

Second, what in God's name was the RFT thinking by putting Devlin's face on the cover with the headline "Monster Next Door?" Doesn't RFT recognize that many of its readers are intelligent enough to form their own conclusions rather than having someone tell us what to think?

Malcolm Gay, maybe you are a monster that we should be wary of. Shame on you and RFT for stooping so low.
Courtney Baker, University City

It was the porn: "Monster Next Door?" raises some interesting questions. The authorities involved in this case reportedly found various sources of pornography, including child pornography, among Devlin's possessions. This discovery is certainly not surprising, since almost without exception a direct link to pornographic materials is par for the course in investigations dealing with crimes of sexual predation.

Pornography, like drugs or alcohol, can become a serious addiction, and similar to any addiction, the addict must progressively consume either a greater quantity or a stronger dose of the "drug" in order to achieve the same level of pleasure and/or satisfaction. For most people the notion of something such as child pornography is revolting and perverse — and rightfully so. What most people fail to understand is that no one, not even the most heinous sexual predators, started out receiving pleasure from such perversions.

The typical pattern is that these perversions, like any addiction, increase over time. First, it's just Playboy. Soon, Playboy doesn't "do it" any more, so it's off to Penthouse and Hustler. In time not even these satisfy the addiction, so it's off to something stronger, something more hardcore, something more violent. The pattern continues and the addiction grows. Given enough time, the person finds that their addiction cannot be satiated by even the most deviant pornography. This is when the addict becomes a real threat to society — particularly to vulnerable women and children.

Certainly the publisher and editor of the Riverfront Times are concerned about the victims of sexual predation, which raises a particularly difficult dilemma. The RFT prints numerous graphic advertisements for companies that promote and/or sell pornographic materials. In fact, it is one of the main components that distinguishes the RFT from other local newspapers. Does this practice not have the potential to be an enabling factor for pornography addicts and sexual predators in our community? Worse yet, the RFT is widely available in public places such as restaurants and grocery stores. Not only are vulnerable women and children at risk from the predators who are enabled by the ads in the RFT, but the children can easily pick up a copy and be exposed to the graphic advertisements themselves.

Will the RFT discontinue running these types of advertisements in an effort to help protect future victims of sexual predation, or is running these ads too lucrative an endeavor?
Frank Hogrebe, St. Louis

No, it was the Mountain Dew: The fact that Mr. Devlin consumed tons of Mountain Dew (drank it like water, according to the folks who knew him ) is pretty much all we need to know. All of the sugar and caffeine could not have been a positive influence.

If you don't publish this letter, I will understand. I presume that the Pepsi-Cola Company does advertise in your publication.
Earl Sigoloff, Creve Coeur

Keep talking: Malcolm Gay's article on the kidnappings was very enlightening as to who Michael Devlin is. Learning how he behaved in the world outside his apartment showed us that we should be more vigilant about what goes on around us. Will we learn more about Stockholm Syndrome? Will the media take this case and try to educate the public, or will they push it to the wayside when something else erupts? When the media has a chance to educate people about something, they seem to forget about the episode very quickly. Here is a chance to educate people about this syndrome and also help in alerting the public to stay vigilant, so maybe we can help prevent child abductions.

I'm not talking about sticking a microphone in the kids' faces; I'm talking about educating the public about what happens to these abducted kids and how someone can brainwash them. Don't let this die. Educate the public so we can save other kids.
Sherri Thompson, St. Louis



Music, January 25, 2007

Good Nights

Blood, sweat and tears: Thanks to Annie Zaleski for getting it right about Mississippi Nights' swan song ["The Final Jam"]! As a proud member of the Mississippi Nights family that was spoken of (although for too long estranged), I only hope it gets the place in history it deserves. Without the Nights, the musical landscape of St. Louis would be drastically different.

A large part of the story of Mississippi Nights was written in the blood, sweat and tears (often literally) of some people who fully committed themselves to assuring it succeeded. To those people the music meant more than anything — sometimes more than love, almost always more than money. As one of those people, I thank you for telling the story of "the last night" accurately. It was an amazingly special night, with many plots, subplots and perspectives. Your article painted the picture as well as possible.

I know how close the ties between the Nights and the RFT have been through the years. Hell, I played pinball on many an afternoon with Dick May and stood onstage with Ray Hartmann at the old Slammies.... But I digress. When the aforementioned history of Mississippi Nights is written, I hope the RFT, with input from those who were there, is holding the pen.

Forget burying the Nights; I have come to praise it. May Mississippi Nights receive half the good memories that it provided. For auld lang syne, indeed!
Ken Krueger, St. Louis

From a guy who knows a thing or two about rock & roll: WTF? I go on tour with my father in Europe and one of the coolest venues in St. Louis closes? Ridiculous! I saw so much live music there (Funkadelic, Johnny Winter, Iggy Pop, the Upright Animals, Public Enemy and my big sister Ingrid's band just to name a few). It's a real shame the place closed. Plenty of parking, a decent sound system, great sightlines and the broken glass bottles all over the place after the Johnny Winter show are memories I will never forget.

Some call the closing of Mississippi Nights progress. I call it yet another tragic loss for the entertainment scene. Club 54 is gone, so is the old Ambassador Theater (Christ, Mott the Hoople played there!) and the Kiel Opera House (I saw Jeff Beck, Cheap Trick, The Cars, J. Geils Band and the Rolling Stones). All I can say is, if the powers that be keep the crap up about trying to close Spruill's, straight lefts and rights will be in store for those thinking about "progress" before St. Louisans' craving for great and safe live music and entertainment will let it happen.

To Rich and Mary: Best wishes, and I hope you get another shot at the business. Please don't be too bitter; just remember you made one hell of a bunch of people really happy over the years. Thank God for Joe Edwards, the Roberts Brothers and Craig Spruill for keeping the funk alive!
Charles Berry Jr., Stockholm, Sweden



Stage, January 18, 2007

Baggage Handling

Stop the presses — Dennis got it right! Having seen Hana's Suitcase, I thought Dennis Brown's "Baggage Check" was beautifully written and truly captured and imparted the meaning to this play and how it is not a children's play but rather a play aimed at children.
Karin L. Schumacher, Ballwin

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