February 23, 2004

Mob Scene
Murder is always a horrible thing, and my heart truly goes out to the families, owners, and patrons who were present on that tragic night at Rao’s [“Louie Lump Lump’s Bad Night at Rao’s,” by Steve Fishman, January 19–26]. Proprietor and actor Frank Pellegrino may have witnessed life imitating art with that Sopranos-like scene at his famous restaurant. Perhaps it’s sour grapes on my part, since I’ve never been granted a table at Rao’s, but I’m satisfied now merely to buy the bottled sauces and cookbooks from our neighborhood store.
—Weda M. Mosellie, Phillipsburg, N.J.

Dolce Vita
A year and a half ago, a friend whose attorney had a regular table at Rao’s invited my husband and me for dinner. As we drove down the FDR and exited at 116th Street, I thought, “Whaddya, crazy? Where are we going to park the Jaguar? Someone will steal it!” Instead, luxury cars were triple-parked in front of the restaurant, with the keys left in them. They were still there three hours later when we returned. In Great Neck or Southampton, I’d have gotten a ticket within minutes after the meter expired. Would someone please invite me back?
—Bonnie Lyons Salkind, Great Neck, N.Y.

Waste Removal
Anyone who has ever enjoyed a genuine Sunday Italian dinner knows that it doesn’t cost anywhere near $1,000 to feed eight people. It sounds like the city’s infamous “mob tax” is padding the tab at Rao’s.
—Frank Nunziata, Astoria

Block Busta
For the past ten years, the Hasidim of Williamsburg have been wholeheartedly welcoming trendy twentysomethings into the buildings they own [“Intelligencer: Hasidim vs. Hipsters,” by Steven I. Weiss and Zackary Sholem Berger, January 19–26]. In fact, they have been active participants in the gentrification of the neighborhood and have only themselves to blame for the higher property values. If they truly gathered across from the Gretsch Building to protest exorbitant real-estate prices and protect their right to affordable housing, then where were they to defend the rights of the former residents when they had no heat or electricity for months? The real issue here may be that the Hasidim wish they were on the financial receiving end of artists like Busta Rhymes and his million-dollar mortgage.
—Arielle Orenstein, Brooklyn

Naked Truth
John Simon’s “Shawn ’Nuff” [“Theater,” January 19–26] points out the deficiencies of Aunt Dan and Lemon and its writer, Wallace Shawn, by referring to (1) Shawn’s father, who happens to be a former editor of The New Yorker, (2) Shawn’s physical appearance, and (3) “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” In response: (1) Should Wallace Shawn not have been born to his father? (2) Would a female actor– playwright’s looks be as negatively critiqued? (3) When did John Simon become the emperor?
—Ann Beattie, Key West, Fla.

While I agree with John Simon’s criticism of the play Aunt Dan and Lemon, I find it disturbing that he would feel the need to attack Wallace Shawn based on his physical appearance. I don’t know what his looks have to do with the success or failure of this particular piece of work, or of any other that he has written. I would think a man who is inclined to use words like derisory wouldn’t need to stoop so low. I’ve seen Mr. Simon at the theater and, well, he ain’t no Johnny Depp. I hope in future reviews Mr. Simon will continue to enlighten us without having to insult the writers, actors, directors, and others who have the courage to make theater, based on their perceived physical faults.
—Leslie Bramm, Manhattan

Like Minds
Thank god for john simon’s review of Aunt Dan and Lemon. Reading other critics’ reviews made me think I was nuts.
—Marion Pearce, Manhattan

High-Note Worthy
Peter G. Davis’s comments about the late Franco Corelli [“Classical Music: Old at Heart,” January 19–26] in his review of Werther were very satisfying to this longtime fan of the great tenor. My only question concerns his statement that “the opera world moves on, but we now have few tenors like Corelli.” I would be curious to know who among the present-day tenors Mr. Davis thinks even approaches his league.
—John Rogers, Jersey City, N.J.

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February 23, 2004