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The Year in Letters

December 27, 1987

1987 found Calendar's Letters Page continuing to do its little bit to support the First Amendment. Freedom of expressionists from Greece to San Pedro were afforded even more space than last year to comment and wonder and bark and snipe at and about everything from faulty Calendar covers to Robert Hilburn's pop musings.

Annexes overflowed. A Saturday Letters column made its debut. The Issues of the Week--national, parochial, great and trivial--were a parade of pros and cons.

Letter-writers wrote about "Amerika," a miniseries that ended up being argued about more than it was watched. About the death of KFAC's venerable chatty format. About the unholy birth of the yuppie Wave from the ashes of rocker KMET. The excesses of "Shock" radio. The ways of the Beastie Boys. Sam Kinison's humor. Paul Simon's use of South African musicians on "Graceland." Nike's use of Beatles music to sell shoes. Black radio's blacking out of black artists.

Other hot topics were casting workshops. John Cage's music. Andre Previn's conductorship. The State of L.A. Theater. The worthiness of Julian Schnable's art. Whole pages of letters were devoted to Hilburn's critique of professor Allan Bloom's attack on rock 'n' roll, Donna Rice's adventures in Hollywood and to a cultural trend we identified as "Neo-Nastiness."

Prolific popster Hilburn praised U2 and Springsteen, became less critical of the talents of Madonna and Billy Idol and risked death as a heretic by openly opining that the Beatles' "Sgt. Peppers" LP was not their best. It's easy to see why he continued his undisputed reign as Calendar's all-time career letter-generator.

But Hollywood pulled its weight too. Jane Fonda's public weeping after seeing "Platoon" elicited little sympathy. Was "Babysitting" racist? "Ishtar" took its lumps. So did Cineplex theaters--again and again and again. Actors and agents explained themselves and producers attcked auteurs.

Some major issues went on for weeks. Some died quick and merciful deaths. Sometimes they are ignited by a little thing like Zubin Mehta's recent aside about how the Polish people treated the Jews during World War II (an issue that continues still on Page xxx with a Dachau survivor's story of his experience in post-war Poland).

Noteworthy unsolicited artistic submissions of 1987 included regular contributor Arno Keks' anti-Hilburnian agitprop (above), Sonny Davis of Arcadia's precision sketch of a "compatible seating plan" for movie theaters that segregated crying babies and gum snappers from serious filmgoers and an nifty ode to the new TV season by Kellie Castruita.

The many strange letters included one by heavy-metal grandpa Kent Methmann, 60, who effused about Metalica's "Escape" and threatened the world with his 6-foot-5, guitar-slinging son. And a sharp-eyed writer tipped us to a genuine Getty Museum want ad that sought a researcher with the brain of Werner Von Braun and the muscles of Arnold Schwarzenneger for $15,500 a year.

There were the usual dashes of bad poetry and even a not-so-bad rap parody by J.S. Revo of Gahr High School. Plus celebrity letters from agitated Gary Franklin, light-hearted Josie Cotten, agent-touting Cybill Shepherd, clarifying Bud Cort and an acting-craft-defending Lynn Redgrave.

But you don't have to be a star to get your name in the paper. Just try to remember to keep letters brief and include full name, address and phone number. Mail to Calendar Letters, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

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