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Comments: Week of March 20, 2017

1. David Marchese’s interview with David Letterman on everything from the old late-night wars to the man he calls “Trumpy” (“In Conversation: David Letterman,” March 6–19) was just the prompt many readers needed to convey how much they miss him. “I would pay good money for an app that I could turn on at any time and listen to Dave endlessly rant,” wrote commenter Fritzo. “Dave, whether you accept it or not, you are an American treasure!” added DanteB1. “Please, please, please find a media outlet — a podcast, a once-a-week show, or anything in between.” Not everyone remembered Letterman so fondly, though. “I stopped watching Letterman years ago after he made crude jokes about Sarah Palin’s daughter being ‘knocked up’ by A-Rod on his show … Denigrating a woman on national TV is beyond the pale,” wrote Bill Somers (Letterman apologized for these comments at the time). The interview was accompanied by Mark Harris’s essay on how the 45th president is a gift for late-night hosts (“How Much to Laugh at Trump,” March 6–19). However, Jody Baumgartner, author of Politics Is a Joke! How TV Comedians Are Remaking Political Life, argued that late-night hosts should try to be less political: “The articles join a host of others critical of Jimmy Fallon for not being harder on Donald Trump during his appearance on The Tonight Show last fall. In fact, Harris claims that Fallon’s entertainment-based comedic approach no longer works, suggesting that ‘willfully forgoing a point of view isn’t fun these days.’ Really? Says who? When Crossfire’s Tucker Carlson took Jon Stewart to task for not being harder on presidential candidate John Kerry, Stewart laughed at the notion that we should be looking to comics to do the job of journalists. Many of us are watching Fallon precisely because he is not engaging in political activism cloaked in comedy. Perhaps we should remind ourselves that a court jester is in the first instance a jester.”

2. Eric Konigsberg offered an inside look at the Carbone team’s sumptuous plans for the old Four Seasons space (“What Have They Done to The Four Seasons?,” March 6–19). “This is good reading,” wrote Raphael Brion. “It’s got everything: Mimi Sheraton, Drew Nieporent, Viennese dessert carts.” Food writer Charlotte Druckman was not as sated: “The year 2000 just faxed. It wants its big-time fancy-restaurant story back. If only we could return/bury it there.” George Lois, the adman who did several campaigns for the original Four Seasons and consulted on the revamp, felt the new ownership spurned the history of the iconic restaurant. “Aby Rosen, the owner of the Seagram Building who scuttled The Four Seasons, insultingly thinks the Major Food Group will turn the Seasons into ‘an actual food destination’! Understand that from Day 1, impresario Joe Baum and James Beard, a champion of American cuisine who mentored generations of great chefs, offered over 250 recipes to great acclaim … No, I will never step foot in the ill-branded Landmark Rooms at the Seagram Building, now basically owned by a real-estate tycoon who replaced a Picasso ballet curtain with a gigantic bank of withering philodendrons.” And Rosen’s former tenants took exception to how their restaurant was portrayed. “If our food was so bad, why were we so successful?” Julian Niccolini asked Avenue magazine. “We’re reopening because we believe in New York City and its people and they believe in us. My God! I go out to lunch and dinner … and every day, everyone wants to know when.”

3. Camille Paglia has proved to be surprisingly prescient about our contemporary moment, Molly Fischer observed in her profile of the ’90s firebrand (“Camille Paglia Predicted 2017,” March 6–19). Hearst’s chief content officer Joanna Coles tweeted, “Brilliant provocateur, excellent academic, generous friend and mentor — if you haven’t read this, do.” And Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute credited Paglia with saving feminism once — and hoped she might be able to do it again. “In the early ’90s,” she wrote, “Camille Paglia helped bring feminism back from the brink. At that time, a group of male-averse reformers — led by Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin — persuaded vast numbers of free and opportunity-rich young women that they were captive to a violent patriarchy. Paglia rejected this hallucination. She offered instead a libertarian feminism centered on strength, dignity, and responsibility. Glamour, sexual adventure — even humor — were permitted.” But Paglia will never win everyone over. As commenter berniebro wrote, “I’m sure her contrarian nature is probably really entertaining in an adolescent but is incredibly tiring in a political debate with any sort of stakes.” And sdecay wrote, “I often disagree with Paglia but it’s good exercise to strenuously disagree with someone so smart.” A former college classmate of Paglia’s, bronxboy182, added some trivia: “For what it’s worth, while she mentions an affinity for heroic male figures, at that time she included Amelia Earhart in her pantheon of heroes and posed for a photo that appeared in the campus newspaper wearing a flyer’s helmet in homage to that aviatrix.” Paglia says she still has that photo somewhere.