Week of February 18, 2004

Feb 18, 2004 at 4:00 am
Laughing Matters
Rock on! Thank you to Ben Westhoff for finally giving some focus to the black comedians in St. Louis ["What Are You Laughing At?", February 4]. I'm a comedian originally from St. Louis who left because there was little to no support for black comedians from the local comedy clubs in the area, because at that time the comedy-club bookers felt that the only effective comedians were primarily white males.

Thank you, Riverfront Times, for bringing out to everyone what all the comedians in St. Louis already knew: There is life in comedy, and it ain't necessarily at the Funny Bone! Rock on Arv and Jessie!
Carolyn Agnew
Houston, Texas

Holcim Values
A clean, green cement-making machine: With regard to Shelley Smithson's February 4 story "Go Blow," RFT readers may be interested to know some important facts about Holcim (US) Inc.'s plans to bring jobs to Missouri in an environmentally sound manner. State and federal environmental officials have spent years carefully examining our proposed cement plant in Ste. Genevieve County. Even after studies demonstrated that our plant will not significantly impact the St. Louis region's ability to meet current federal ozone standards, we agreed to steps that will further reduce emissions. In fact, during the peak ozone season, ozone-related emissions at the plant will be cut by almost 50 percent.

In contrast to claims made in Ms. Smithson's article, we are fully committed to installing and proving additional, innovative emission-control technology. The experience gained by using that technology at our plant will help to further environmental-protection efforts at plants throughout the U.S.

After all, we fully recognize the importance of the St. Louis region meeting federal ozone standards. We produce the cement that people use when they build roads and buildings. If there are additional limitations on an area's ability to grow, it's not only bad for the economy; it's bad for our business. Consequently, we have worked with regulators to make sure our plant is environmentally sound. The result of this process will be a plant that is among the most environmentally efficient and carefully regulated facilities in the world.
Nancy Tully, manager, public affairs
Holcim (US) Inc., Ste. Genevieve Plant

Verse-Case Scenario
Bards, raconteurs -- the whole nine poetry yards: Your short Unreal article on the demise of "Poetry Beat" on KDHX was somewhat informative but significantly incomplete ["Poetry's Beat," January 28]. The piece gave the impression that Michael Castro's program was tailored to and supported by primarily academics. That was not the case. Although "Poetry Beat" did often feature poets with strong academic credentials and renown, it gave voice to a large array of bards who would be considered street poets. They ranged from the plebian word slingers of Soulard to the best of the open-mic raconteurs throughout St. Louis and beyond.

The expansive, inclusive approach to poetry that has distinguished River Styx magazine was also the thrust of "Poetry Beat." It is exactly this kind of magnanimous open-door diversity that a true community radio station should embrace, not exclude.
Philip Gounis

Last Waltz
Ballroom blues: I just read Ben Westhoff's wonderful article about the Casa Loma Ballroom ["Dancing Fools," January 7]. I thought you captured the essence of the place perfectly. I am the regular piano player for the Ambassadors of Swing big band and have viewed firsthand the attendance fluctuations and other difficulties faced by the owners.

I was born in 1949, so the best years of the Casa Loma were already long gone before I started to hear stories about it from my parents. Somehow the echoes of that era remain every Friday night, but I have never had the confidence that the great music and dancing pleasure enjoyed by my parents would ever be re-established. At times I am encouraged by the young couples, but their numbers don't appear to be sufficient to sustain the music much longer. The article very accurately conveyed the hopeful, but I think ultimately poignant, feeling that hangs over a unique and wonderful part of our history.
Gene Fribis