High school teacher Dawne Wesson's wistful letter longing for a cafe like Rick's in "Casablanca," where she could talk against a background of soft music, has brought several responses, pro and con.
Back in the 1940s and 1950s, she recalled, "a romantic, dimly lit and quiet bar seemed the best of all possible worlds." That world has been wiped out by loud music.
"I take issue with you," writes Virginia Taylor of Granada Hills, "when you say, 'I doubt that very much can be done.' I think something can be done. In most places you are not forced to breathe tobacco smoke any more. . . ."
"Why must everything be amplified?" asks Lee Soskin. "I clearly remember seeing Blanche Thebom in recital many years ago at the old Philharmonic Auditorium. This diminutive figure stood on the huge stage and filled the auditorium with her glorious voice, and there was no amplification other than the good acoustics."
Robert L. Otto says his ears "are ringing" from an otherwise pleasant wedding reception. "At our table for eight it was impossible to carry on any of the normal conversation that takes place on such occasions."
Otto said he was reminded of the 5-inch anti-aircraft guns he heard as a flier in World War II.
Helen Colton sends a sheaf of letters she has written to hotels, restaurants and stores complaining about loud noise. "We ought to be as angry and militant about the 'slipstream' effect of others' music as we are about the 'slipstream' effect of others' smoking," she says. "Both can shorten our lives."
Nann Miller, of Nann Miller Public Relations, says the conflict arises from a misconception of "what they want." She says she tried to persuade the Hyatt Regency (a client) to turn their Angel's Flight bar and restaurant into "a romantic room with dancing and soft music."
But she points out: "You sit at meetings and the managers who are in their 30s say, no one wants it. At the boring dinners you mention, those who arrange them hate the bands and music they choose. They are afraid that since the world seems to be tuned to this trash, they must provide it."
Alan Gilbert agrees with Ms. Wesson in condemning "the overwhelming noise she finds in places that were once havens offering brief respites from the world," but he is annoyed by her complaint about noisy "game shows hosted by inane morons and airhead-contestants. . . ."
"I've been writing and/or producing game shows since radio days (the original 'Break the Bank') to now ('Let's Make a Deal') and I haven't yet come across an inane moron who could emcee a show. Nor have I come across an air-headed contestant who was knowingly selected to appear on a show. . . ."
"Baron" Ron Herron of KIST, Santa Barbara, says I am both right and wrong. "You are right when you say most bands are too loud when they play at a banquet or social event. You are wrong to imply that they should leave their amplifiers at home, since to do so would mean you could hear nothing!
"We have 10 DJ's that go out every weekend, booked as entertainment at wedding receptions, class reunions, birthdays and private parties. Our standing rule is this: Play the music so it can be heard in the rear of the room, but not so loud that folks sitting near the speakers have to shout to carry on a conversation. . . ."
I certainly go along with that.
He goes on: "How often we have been hired to play at a private function, by someone approaching (or definitely entrenched in) senior citizen status, only to be told, once we got started, to 'Turn it down!' "
Herron says he has a theory about the tolerance of different age groups for decibels: " Everyone reaches the 'cut-off' stage . . . usually between 30 and 45 . . . when they don't like high or even moderate volume, and they also 'turn off' to all new music, whatever it may be. . . ."
Herron says he has tested his theory on a 70-year-old supervisor who admits that when he was young his parents used to yell, "Turn that Glenn Miller crap down!" "(To them) that big band stuff was just noise , unlike the great Steven Foster songs from years earlier. . . ."
Ah, when you and I were young, Maggie.