Unforgettable Lines Cap A Letter Editor's Farewell

TODAY'S column is the last I'll write as letters editor. After nearly four years in this position I'm moving to The Times' newsfeatures department, where I`ll be involved in editing the Food and Real Estate sections. In parting, I'd like to share excerpts from a few favorite letters. You may recall several of them as winners of our Letter of the Month contest.

That bad? Matt Ryan of Bremerton objected to a Colman McCarthy column about Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf. This isn't opinion, he said, but "libel so bad a fish would rot in minutes after being wrapped in The Times."

Bush - a racist? A number of readers objected to a Brian Basset cartoon depicting George Bush as a Southern racist served by a black man he called "boy." Joseph C. Pratt of Renton described Basset's style as "that of an amateur poker player who cannot understand why he has no money at night's end, despite having drawn one full house after another."

Veggie porn: A group of 12 and 13-year-olds from Skagit Valley who pick produce in the summers traveled to Olympia to protest a pending regulation that would have prevented them from working. Letter writer Jean Ashby of Mount Vernon reported that Rep. Margarita Prentice told the children their summer work was "the moral equivalent of child pornography because your bodies are being abused."

The bare facts: Tom R. Paur of Kirkland had a solution to the debate over women reporters in football locker rooms: "All reporters wishing to confront/interview NFL players while they are nude will simply be attired the same as the player - nude."

Blue Moon: Jim St. John of Kirkland took editorial page editor Mindy Cameron to task after she advocated demolishing the Blue Moon Tavern. He said what really irritated him was "the veiled class/sexism that blinds Ms. Upscale Big City Newspaper Editor to what working men like to do for fun. . . . For the Peugeot set, some sipping wine and smarty-pants repartee in an exclusive environment may be `community,' but working stiffs, old Bohemians and other rabble aren't comfortable at those venues."

Potty parity: Before she became Times reader advocate, Colleen Patrick wrote a letter decrying the inequality of women's public restrooms. "It's no wonder men still rule the world," she wrote. "While they're busy cutting deals at the negotiating tables, we are still waiting in line at the `ladies' room.' "

Sea-lion follies: Many letter writers have proposed methods of solving the sea-lion dilemma at the Ballard locks; Renton resident Marvin Parks' idea is as good as any: "Hire a couple of those gun-toting dolphins from the Navy. Then, simply station them at the point of sea-lion entry and voila - goodbye, sea lions."

World-class whiner: A Philadelphia reporter covering the Goodwill Games wrote a nasty piece about Seattle. Letter writer Jack Ward of Seattle observed: "What a remarkable performance! . . . Ron Reid has just captured the gold medal for whining, hands down. . . . In all of the categories the judges oversee - mouthiness, arrogance, prejudice, insults, poor manners, perverted logic, circuitous reasoning and an obvious lack of good breeding - Mr. Reid excelled."

Eating their words: After The Times editorialized against the refusal by Domino's Pizza to deliver to a home in the Central Area, Sam Clarke Jr. of Suquamish suggested editorial writers themselves "deliver Domino's Pizza to the Central Area. . . . Then they can write such editorials, meaningfully."

Ted Bundy execution: Seattleite Jeff Page used a pointed satirical touch with this topic: "Ah - it all feels so much kinder now, gentler. A new era has begun . . . and what better way to join together than with a public execution? Grab the kids, ma - ol' Sparky's gonna light tonight!"

Paying the price: Tom Camfield of Port Townsend describes the shame of being in the drunk tank after reading about Dale Ellis' drunk-driving charge: "A 53-year-old newspaper editor, I was totally unprepared for what came next - the same kind of strip search to which a drug dealer would have been subjected."

Rape victims: This isn't one specific letter; I want to applaud the courage of all victims of rape or child sexual abuse who have written letters to the editor, both those who requested anonymity and those who felt healed enough to reveal their names.

Tawdry 7-Eleven? In a column on the state lottery, Times columnist Herb Robinson referred to 7-Eleven stores, where many buy lottery tickets, as "typically tawdry." This prompted Joe and Karen Schweitzer of Kirkland, who run a 7-Eleven store, to remind us "where each day thousands of people buy The Seattle Times."

The top letters topics for the past nearly six weeks were: gay bonding/marriage, 66 letters; "Death with Dignity" initiative, 50 letters; parade to welcome home troops, 39 letters; abortion, 33 letters (17 opposed abortion, 14 favored it and 2 discussed other aspects); logging/owls, 22 letters; Clarence Thomas nomination, 18 letters; and Senate raise, 16 letters.

Kathy Bremner, a news copy editor with The Times, will become letters editor Aug. 12.