Review Food, Not Character

I do not consider myself an "activist" and typically would never write a letter to the editor of a publication. However, as a businessman, Houston Press advertiser and reader, I feel it important to bring to your attention the unprofessional image one of your writers is giving the Houston Press.

I am a 25-year veteran of the restaurant and hospitality industry and am accustomed to reading both good and negative restaurant reviews. I know the quality assessment of a restaurant is a subjective issue and I have never held any resentment toward any food editor for printing a negative review of one of my restaurants. Negative articles "keep us on our toes" and remind us that there is always room for improvement. Of course, we are always appreciative of good reviews.

In your issue dated December 15-21, 1994, your staff writer, Alison Cook, printed a critique on Marco's Restaurants in her "Hot Plate" article ["Marco's Rampant"]. Unfortunately, Ms. Cook took it upon herself to not only critique the food, but also to attack the integrity of a very successful, respected businessman, Mr. Ghulam Bombaywala. Ms. Cook's article was a display of arrogance and unprofessionalism.

Mr. Bombaywala, who worked his way up from a busboy position, is one of Houston's most respected restaurateurs, and gives much of himself back to this city -- the city that Ms. Cook says he would give a bad name. I wonder if Ms. Cook has any idea what Bombaywala does for the city of Houston? He has received several awards for his kindness and has national recognition for his achievements. He has appeared on Oprah Winfrey's TV program to help motivate people to work and achieve their goals and has served as a guest speaker at the nationally recognized Anthony Robbins seminars. I personally cannot think of anyone that I would rather have represent this city!

Ms. Cook's article was extremely unprofessional. A food critic's responsibility is to critique the food and service of a restaurant, not the restaurant owner.

Angelo Pitillo
Marco's Restaurants

Editor's note: As it happens, Alison Cook has long been an admirer of Mr. Bombaywala's. That does not, however, prevent her from carrying out her duties, which is to critique food and service -- and which is exactly what she did, and all she did, in "Marco's Rampant." The review was thoroughly professional.

Unfair to Jerry Jeff?
Did, at some point in the distant past, Jerry Jeff Walker kick Edith Sorenson's dog?

That is the only conclusion we at Jerry Jeff's label, Tried & True Music, can arrive at after perusing Ms. Sorenson's mean-spirited diatribe [Critic's Choice, "Two Shots of Jerry Jeff," December 22].

Between factual inaccuracies and venomous, uninformed assessments of her subject's life and times, Ms. Sorenson has raised the poison pen letter to new heights. But which to address first, the errors of fact or the unwarranted character assassination?

As to the former:
* Mr. Bojangles, which Walker authored, has nothing whatsoever to do with dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, as even a cursory listen to the song will reveal.

* On the other hand, Walker did not (contrary to what Ms. Sorenson assessed) write "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother." That honor goes to Ray Wylie Hubbard.

* Viva Luckenbach!, which Ms. Sorenson cites as Jerry Jeff's "latest" album, is, in fact, not. A holiday album, Christmas Gonzo Style, was released in October.

And as to the latter:
* Jerry Jeff's New York origins are well-documented. He has lived in Texas for a quarter-century and has every bit as much right to recreate himself via the West of the imagination (as "a genuine cowboy star" as Ms. Sorenson phrases it) as Hank Williams, Frederic Remington or Tom Mix (all of whom were born east of the Mississippi).

* Billy Joe Shaver (and Ms. Sorenson) are entitled to dismiss Jerry Jeff as a "one song son of a bitch" if they wish. However, Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett and other composers have cited him as a substantial influence on their own careers. And the average two-and-a-half hour length of the six (count 'em) full-house shows which Jerry Jeff performed at Rockefeller's in December suggests that he has more than "one song" at his command.

Ms. Sorenson's confusion over Texas Monthly's celebration of Viva Luckenbach! is understandable, since she gives no evidence of having heard it, and is in any case evidently unwilling to concede that its creator is capable of crafting anything beyond redneck anthems for knuckle-walking bubbas.

Midway through her screed, Ms. Sorenson dismisses the spirit of community and camaraderie that Viva Luckenbach! seeks to evoke as "crap and hooey." In this specific instance, we are unwilling to quarrel with her expert opinion. Judging by the content and tone of her column, crap and hooey are two subjects with which Ms. Sorenson has an intimate familiarity.

John T. Davis
Publicist, Tried & True Music

Light Up and Die
My late grandmother used to call money from crime "blood money" and she warned me never to accept it. Tobacco money is blood money. [News, "Hard Habit to Break," by D.J. Wilson, December 1.] The problem with accepting tobacco money for research is, plain and simple, that its propaganda value to the tobacco industry will create more tobacco victims. And, even if you were a scientist, it would be difficult to say no to your source of funding if your source begins to offer suggestions about your research -- or its direction.

Tobacco and slavery together gave economic impetus to the development of the South. It took a war to eliminate slavery. It may take the equivalent to eliminate tobacco. First we have to understand that we are waging war. We need to send in federal troops and raze all the tobacco fields, here and abroad, then confiscate all tobacco stocks. Then we shoot on sight anyone selling the drug. Our descendants will marvel at how we suddenly acquired wisdom.

George A. Butel

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