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November 8-15, 2006

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Letters to the Editor


PROMOTER MEMORIES AND NIGHTMARES

I ENJOYED YOUR "Book 'Em" cover story ("Five Veteran Santa Cruz Promoters Sit Down for a Candid Round-Table Interrogation," Oct. 18). I was manager for a rock and roll band, The Modesties. I started booking VFW halls, the fairgrounds and Cocoanut Grove in the 1960s. I had to have my mother sign for me for a business permit because I wasn't old enough.

After high school, I decided to promote shows and go to college. We had many outdoor shows on stages we built ourselves. In the early '70s, Santa Cruz County banned outdoor dancing, and at the concert we held in the Santa Cruz Mountains, sheriffs flew over in a plane to see hundreds of asses mooning them.

At one concert at the Monterey Fairgrounds, I had the Chamber Bros., Boz Scaggs and Snail play. The Chamber Bros. ran up a bill for over $5,000 in rent and phone bills at Pajaro Dunes. I made a deal with the owner of Pajaro Dunes to let the Bros work off the bill by having a concert for them to headline. I had Blue Cheer and Ike and Tina Turner lined up for a show at the Fairgrounds, then the Watsonville City Council feared a riot and talked the fair board into not allowing the show to go on--that still hurts me today.

Most shows were not profitable after the insurance required, the law enforcement costs and the advertising. I remember the relief I felt when the ticket holder that was the break-even point walked in the door.

I retired after my Pinto Lake concert (that made Playboy). We had built our stage on the edge of the lake--nude swimmers, warm day, and good vibes until a motorcycle gang from San Jose crashed the gate. They jumped on the stage and grabbed the microphone as Commander Cody was setting up. Fights broke out, the film tower was knocked over when the surfers rolled cars down the slope towards bikers looking like Custer's infantry ducking behind their fallen Harleys. Then the Molotov cocktails started flying and the field was on fire.

Then the stabbing began--one biker killed, a couple in the hospital. Finally the Sheriffs and the CHP arrived to escort the gang out of town. At the road there was a javelin-throwing contest to flip the cycles by jamming the front spokes. I don't think there has been a problem with gangs crashing any events in Santa Cruz County since. The man that rented the property lost his lease. They tried to sue me for property damage to the apple orchard and I got out of concert promotions forever. It left me with many memories and nightmares.

Greg Dean, Freedom

REST OF THE STORY

IN A RECENT LETTER to the editor (Letters, Oct. 25) Cheryl Potter made some unfortunate comments with "notable omissions and errors" regarding vegetarian dining at O'mei. Her tone and statement that "... it's hard to believe them anymore" require a response.

O'mei has never been or claimed to be a "vegetarian" restaurant. We cook Chinese Cuisine, and offer a variety of poultry, meat, seafood, tofu and vegetable dishes. Our cooking techniques are traditional, and the "standard" versions of our dishes DO use meat stocks and DO use oil which has come into contact with meat. These stocks, oils and fats are an IMPORTANT part of the flavor. That said, we ALSO do whatever possible to accommodate diners whose diet requires we NOT use meat stock and/or oils which have contacted meat.

In Santa Cruz, the word "vegetarian" can mean many DIFFERENT things. Some vegetarians eat fish and/or chicken. Some don't mind the use of meat stock or oil which has touched meat. Some eat eggs, some don't. Some vegetarians won't eat food cooked in a pot which has EVER cooked meat; yet we know of a "vegetarian" who occasionally eats bacon! The point here is that the word "vegetarian" is ambiguous if not meaningless. At O'mei we respond to specific dietary requests. If a guest wants something cooked without stock, we'll do it. If a guest wants something cooked with "virgin" oil, we'll do it when possible or inform the guest that it's not possible. Since the cooks at O'mei cannot read minds, it's up to the guest to be clear about what he or she wants. It's also up to the waiter to be honest and forthright in communicating this to the cooks and/or notifying the guest about what's possible.

Ms. Potter is probably correct that her server assured her that her food was "vegetarian food without meat broth," and her food was made without broth if the server ordered it that way. But she is NOT correct about the service staff being "completely unaware" that standard versions of our dishes are cooked using oil which has "touched meat." They are aware of this, and they are also aware that many dishes can be cooked in other ways to satisfy vegetarians. Her waiter either misinformed her about this, or didn't communicate her needs correctly to the kitchen.

Did Ms. Potter tell you that I visited her table to apologize for the confusion caused by server miscommunication? Did Ms. Potter tell you that I personally cooked her another dish which met her specifications? Did she tell you she said she was very happy with that dish? Did Ms. Potter say that I explained our standard cooking methods in order to help her better understand how to specify her needs in the future? Did Ms. Potter mention my telling her about purely vegan banquets we've done, using special ingredients, and that we would be happy to arrange that for her and her vegan friends?

No, Ms. Potter didn't tell you these things. She told you only enough to create a distorted image of how O'mei treats vegetarian diners. I don't know if it was her INTENT to spread harmful half-truths, but I am pleased to offer "the rest of the story" to the dining public. For more information on vegetarian food at O'mei, please visit www.omeifood.com.

Roger Grigsby, Chef/Owner, O'mei Restaurant


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