Letters for the week of August 6-12, 2003 

Troyce was key at Eli's; St. Clair bad, St. Clair good; the Iraqi Jewish struggle; and a hodgepodge of other stuff.

"Eli's Inspection Blues," Music, 7/16

Eli may have named it, but Troyce made it what it was
You committed a grave injustice -- surely unwittingly -- when you wrote about Eli's Mile Hi Club and said that "after Thornton's death the club cycled through various owners" without ever mentioning blues guitarist and longtime Eli's owner Troyce Key, the man who was as important to Eli's for many years as Eli himself.

No, Troyce didn't take one for the team by getting shot by a former lover -- unfortunately he died of cancer at the age of about 45 -- but he did run Eli's quite successfully as a local neighborhood institution for many happy years until his death.

I never knew Eli's in its '70s heyday, but when I discovered it sometime in the '80s, it was still going strong, not only bringing in nationally known acts and local groups, but featuring one hell of a house band, with Troyce himself on guitar and vocals, usually backed up by J.J. Malone and other noted local players. And the nice thing about it was that it was never a yuppie joint, as it became in its last, sad incarnation before Mr. Klein.

As a young -- and then not so young -- white man I always felt comfortable and at home there. But there was no mistaking the fact that even though Troyce was a white boy himself -- from Louisiana no less -- under his ownership and management, Eli's was a black club, a local club that attracted people from the neighborhood -- youngsters, middle-aged, grandmothers and grandfathers -- as well as blues fans from all over.

The club was always packed and always swinging right up until the time Troyce died. It was only after his death, and not Eli Thornton's, that it's fair to say the club "cycled through various owners and trends." Troyce Key kept it authentic and successful for many happy years after Eli's unfortunate passing, and should be remembered in any history of the club, no matter how cursory or informal. Anything less would be an injustice.
David Chodack, Berkeley

"Quit Your Church," Feature, 7/2

Camping's teachings have been mainstream for 2,000 years
I read with interest Ms. St. Clair's article concerning Bible teacher Harold Camping of Alameda. I was interviewed by Ms. St. Clair for over one hour for the article, and misquoted in it. She states of me "[he] runs an entity called Bible Ministries International." I do not "run" BMI, Inc., a Pennsylvania-registered, IRS-approved corporation, and I carefully explained this to Ms. St. Clair -- more than once. I am the treasurer of the board, and several folks were surprised to see your paper make such an overt, careless error. Your article, opening with a caricature of Harold Camping in a sort of circus hat, was deliberately slanted, full of untruths and half-truths. I can list many.

You state "Family Radio won't reveal how many listeners they have" [sic]. I carefully (tediously) TOLD Ms. St. Clair that Arbitron (the national Independent Radio Survey Agency) rated WFME-FM (the Family Radio NYC area station) at "1.7," or 1.7 million listeners in a seven-day period. I am certain that Family Radio and all US radio stations have no concrete idea how many are listening, except for these sort of independent phone surveys. There is no question their reach is very powerful and in every major metro area of the United States, to say nothing of overseas.

You quote one former disgruntled employee (they have 300 employees currently) with a seventeen-year tenure about some folks selling their possessions and giving to Family Radio. Knowing quite a bit about Family Radio, I doubt this is true, but before reporting such a charge, you might have done some actual homework (Ms. St. Clair had an extensive interview with the then-vice chairman of the board of Family Radio) and asked those that might truly know, not a disgruntled computer technician.

You quote Reverend Reg Wiggins' ex-wife, who is and was bitter against her husband and Family Radio. I spoke to Reggie (who lived near me in Philadelphia) almost daily for the year before he died. What you quote from his ex-wife is untrue. Rev. Wiggins worked as a desk clerk at a storage facility at near-minimum wage -- he had nothing to give away to anyone, even Family Radio, after paying for his daughter's support and paying for his room and car. I told this to Ms. St. Clair, yet she prints his bitter ex-wife's comments as if she is reporting the truth. I also told Ms. St. Clair that Rev. Wiggins' death had nothing to do with Harold Camping, and her proceeding to report this is slanderous and scandalous. I knew FAR more about Reg's life before he died than his ex-wife and tried to set the record straight, but Ms. St. Clair seems determined by untruths and half-truths to slander Harold Camping, even when she reliably knows better.

Ms. St. Clair quotes obscure sources about Harold Camping using numbers in the Bible as the basis for his thinking. She COULD have read a few of his books, and would immediately have seen that this charge is not true. Harold Camping's Bible teaching is perfectly in line with orthodox Reformed Christian teaching for 500-plus years. The fact that Ms. St. Clair doesn't comprehend that the Bible does not allow for divorce (still taught also in the Roman Catholic church) shows how very naive she is, and uninformed. It IS true that practically all churches have just recently changed their teaching and practices about divorce, but this doesn't make Harold Camping's teaching "offbeat philosophy" (it's "offbeat" only in the last fifty years). He is simply in the mainstream of 2,000-year-old faithful Bible teaching. A cursory review of his forty publications could show this.

In closing, some of the article is comical in its obscurity. Ms. St. Clair interviewed David Morrell, retired Vice President of Family Radio. She called him "a retired Philadelphia cop." While in a sense this is true, he was inspector of police in Philadelphia, head of Internal Affairs for a 6,000-person department, one of the largest in the United States. You report two recent minor-deficit years at Family Radio -- and every corporation has them -- but Family Radio publicly announced that they own, debt-free, over $650,000,000 in net, unencumbered assets. This would place them not only at the lead of many US charities but many US corporations as well. Ms. St. Clair seems determined, using weak and unreliable sources and half-truths, to undermine the credibility of Family Radio and Harold Camping. I hope Ms. St. Clair has higher aspirations for her career in journalism, else your paper and her writing will sink below the National Enquirer in credibility.
Thomas J. Holt, Sr., founding pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Yucaipa, CA

St. Clair survives the shift to newsier topics
Enjoyed your well-researched treatise on the Camping phenom. Your versatility as a writer comes through even as you are required to assume a more journalistic persona.

You evidence more than a novice's familiarity with cross-currents in the evangelical world. On the subject of Calvinism, I recommend you check out Dave Hunt's most recent critique of this teaching, entitled What Love Is This?

Keep up the good work.
Jim Haun, Nashville, TN

"Bush League," Film, 7/9

What would the Knights say?
James Robinson resurrected Starman, not Hawkman.
Amaha Kassa, Oakland

Kassa is right. We stand corrected.

"Impossible to Forget," Film, 7/16

Iraqi Jews have a sad story
I haven't yet seen Forget Baghdad: Jews and Arabs -- The Iraqi Connection, so I don't know exactly how much history it covers. However, since Kelly Vance describes Iraqi Jews only as being "sought" by Israel to boost the Jewish population of the new state, I'd like to fill in the apparent gaps in his knowledge of why they left a country they had lived in for thousands of years to take a chance on a small and struggling Jewish state.

In 1941, riots against the Jews of Baghdad killed 180 people, and subsequent violence continued throughout the 1940s. Between 1949 and 1951, almost 125,000 Jews left Iraq, many secretly. In 1952, Iraqi Jews were denied the right to leave the country. In 1963, all Jews remaining in the country were required to begin carrying yellow identity cards. After 1967, property was confiscated, businesses closed, and Jews were jailed on false charges, tortured, and executed. It was not until the early 1970s that most of the remaining Jews of Iraq were permitted to leave. In 1948, the Jewish population of Iraq was 150,000, with a history dating back to Biblical times. At present, it is less than fifty.

The story of the nearly 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab nations who settled in Israel and elsewhere during the second half of the twentieth century has too often been ignored, denied, and misunderstood. I'm pleased that the Jewish Film Festival is offering work on the complex experience of these communities.
Charlotte Honigman-Smith, San Francisco

"Exile in Whinerville," Music, 7/16

Help me, Gina, please
Just read your article on all the Liz Phair album criticisms. Amen. Amen. Amen. I wrote a record review for one of the local Los Angeles papers that was a mere fraction of what you said. You definitely said it much better than I. Congratulations. And thanks.
Chris DeLisle, Sterling Heights, MI

"Little Miss Murder," Feature, 7/9

Glad to see Katie get some hype of her own
You did an excellent job on the front page story of "Little Miss Murder." With all this hype about Laci Peterson, other pertinent news is virtually lost by the mass media's stampede to saturate us with the same tired story day in and day out.
P.A. Alvarez, Santa Rosa

"The Golden Fleece," Feature, 7/16

Some rules make sense
I find it incredibly stupid (and arrogant) that a lady would, after being told about and led to a treasure, say "I found it for you, here it is." I wonder if the United States would allow Ecuador to drill (for oil, treasures, or anything) off our coast and then just sail off into the sunset.
Chester Oby, Berkeley

"From Canada with Drugs," Cityside, 7/23

Physician, heal thyself
I was amused by the FDA's argument against importing drugs from Canada in that they cannot assure quality and safety of imported drugs. The fact is that they cannot assure the quality or safety of drugs in this country.

There is no drug-tracking system or requirement for such. Many pharmacies and pharmaceutical distributors are quite happy to buy drugs off the street, stolen from hospitals or other distributors. Sometimes the "drugs" are well-packaged fakes with little or no active ingredients.
Vincent Osman, Berkeley


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