On Why Herbert Muschamp Would Have Been Pained To Read Today’s Daily Dish

24Oct07

Here we take offense with Andrew Sullivan‘s unthinking assertion that “[f]or all his many faults, [Rudy Giuliani] turned a city around.”

Rather than rebut this ourselves, however, we turn to the infinitely more eloquent and compelling words of Herbert Muschamp, who sadly is no longer with us to tell the truth, which resonates in ways that we hope Sullivan — a gay intellectual, after all — might consider in the future:

“More than 80,000 New Yorkers have died of AIDS so far, according to city figures. That number represents more memory than a city can afford to lose. It stands for the collective memory of an audience – the seasoned gay audience, perhaps the most culturally receptive group any city has ever seen.

Early on in the AIDS crisis, the city registered the cultural impact caused by the loss of gay artists. The effect produced by the loss of the gay audience is more insidious, however. An audience retains the memory of a performance. What happens to that memory when the audience is gone?

Imagine the World Series without veteran sports fans. You could still fill the stadium. The crowd would still roar. But a certain resonance would have vanished, the vibrations of a social instrument devised for the precise purpose of detecting a historically outstanding performance. How could this instrument function without a data base of past scores?

Now imagine that the game is a great city. What happens to a city when it loses reliable points of comparison with exceptional moments in its past? A void occurs, and before long, the vacuum starts to fill up with myths of dubious worth. The fantasy that Rudolph W. Giuliani ‘saved’ New York becomes conventional wisdom. The corollary fable that the 1960’s and 70’s were the nadir of New York’s existence…”

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