The Last Word

Editor’s note: “The Hooterization of Manchester,” Jack Kenny’s “Last Word” opinion piece, which appeared in the April 29-May 12 New Hampshire Business Review, provoked an unprecedented response from readers and others who took part in the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce dinner that was discussed in the article. All of it was critical of the article, the headline and the accompanying illustration.

Among those responding were Robin Comstock, president of the Manchester chamber, and Heidi Sullivan-Laroche, choreographer for the Manchester Wolves Dance Team, some of whom performed at the dinner. Both of their responses are printed here.

A disappointing misrepresentation

To the editor:

I am writing in response to “The Last Word” opinion editorial by Jack Kenny regarding the annual Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce dinner. I write this on behalf of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, its leadership, volunteers, financial and charitable contributors, the Citizen of the Year award winner, and most importantly, the dancers, their parents and their coach.

We believe the article was a misrepresentation of a tasteful and exciting event. In particular, the article’s title and cartoon imply inappropriate dress standards of the dancers when, in fact, they wore costumes that accurately represented each decade – from the ankle-length poodle skirts and rolled-up denim jeans of the ‘50s and ‘60s to sequined outfits of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

This misrepresentation not only trivializes the dancers and their athletic abilities, but it does a disservice to the people and businesses that made significant commitments through hundreds of volunteer hours and financial contributions to make this event possible.

The annual dinner is a charitable fund-raising event for the chamber. We are an organization that serves our community in a multitude of ways by encouraging economic development through initiatives such as downtown revitalization, collaboration and advocacy at the state and local levels, development of infrastructure and technology, enhancement of our public schools and the promotion of our region as a tourist destination.

Many businesses and community leaders work unflaggingly everyday on chamber committees and events in order to meet the organization’s goals and objectives. New Hampshire Business Review is one of these businesses and is an important partner of the chamber. As such, we are disappointed by what we view as a misrepresentation of our dinner and the disservice it did to the volunteers who worked tirelessly on this event.

Robin Comstock
Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Writer’s perception was not reality

Dear Mr. Kenny:

A recently published article in the Business Review has been brought to my attention by a parent of one of my students. I must say that I have never read anything so damaging and untrue as the likes of your vision of a few young women who were asked to perform as entertainment at a Chamber of Commerce meeting held at the Center of New Hampshire in April of this year.

First of all, we were asked to dance to music from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and today’s sounds. Though these young women did not wear business suits, they did in fact wear appropriate attire depicting the decades in dance.

What alarms me most, sir, is your perception of seeing these women in a garter belt and fishnet stockings as they were in reality wearing skirts (below the knee), pants, tops and jeans (rolled up). It takes an individual such as yourself to imagine the likes of the caricatured picture which you displayed along with your description of flesh and the Hooters connection.

The young women who performed were indeed affiliated with the Manchester Wolves organization – and, by the way, have done more charity events than you could imagine. In their lives, one of them works for the Webster House, another as a medical assistant for a prominent local doctor, a third works in special education for the Crotched Mountain School, and even another at a respected law firm in Manchester.

Sir, you have no right to link these women to the Hooters establishments, nor do you have the right to undress them in presenting your version of what you think you saw at the affair.

Further, it is one individual’s perception and should not be portrayed as the stance of an entire publication. Any respectable publication would clearly and evidently caveat such an exaggerated opinion as that of an individual and not of their own. The responsibility of the paper should be to report factual happenings and not be a soapbox for tasteless individuals such as yourself to seek out their 15 minutes of fame at the expense of these young women, who have displayed far more integrity, compassion for the community, and willingness to help any and all charities that have come knocking, than you could even imagine.

I have been in business for 15 years and take pride in what I do as a dance teacher in classical ballet, jazz and tap. I work hard and take offense when someone’s performance is so blatantly misrepresented, as you sir, have chosen to do. I have been a contributing member of the Manchester Kiwanis Club for more than 10 years and strive to be an asset to the community. I have choreographed performances for various projects, fund-raisers, non-profit organizations, schools and nursing homes (to name a few) and always without pay.

An article such as yours can bring a negative light to my school and myself, one I don’t deserve and one to which I take great offense. I am extremely offended by your column and your misplaced opinions. You have a responsibility as a reporter to be true to your readership and you have let them down in this instance.

You have let your perception stand in the way of reality and should be ashamed of yourself. The attacks you have made on young women who have dedicated so much time to their community are unfounded, inaccurate, damaging and slanderous. I can only pray to God that you feel a sense of remorse and extend us the apology we so rightly deserve. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you, as I would love to hear any semblance of justification for the unfounded attack that you have brought against us.

Heidi Sullivan-Laroche
Manchester Wolves Dance Team

Response to last issue’s “The Last Word” article also included letters from 22 members of the Manchester Wolves Dance Team. While space limitations will not allow us to publish all of them, here are excerpts from the dancers’ reactions.

‘People loved our performance’

“The only ‘objectification’ the team has had to endure, objectification being defined as reducing somebody, or something that is complex and multifaceted, to the status of a simple object, is in this article. Mr. Kenny knows nothing about the dancers, yet he has reduced us to stereotypically stigmatized orange T-shirts. In reality, we are professionals and students, mothers and volunteers. We are all talented dancers and hard workers. None of us, however, is a Hooters girl.” – Kara Laing

“Mr. Kenny continues his tirade against us by describing to the readers how we are dressed like Hooters girls. His description continues by describing our costumes as revealing ‘yards and yards of flesh’ and how we concealed ‘only the essentials.’ This fabulously misleading description was hardly the case. For example, one of the costumes that we wore was a poodle skirt that went below the knees. In another number we wore rolled-up jeans. I hardly find this to be a public display of ‘near nudity’ and I fail to see how anyone could be offended by a poodle skirt.” — Amber Gamache

“…to say that my teammates were nearly nude, and that people should learn to expect it from this generation, is extremely offending. … Mr. Kenny’s ‘cartoon’ depicted us as prostitutes and was very distasteful. It should not have been published. To come to the conclusion that ‘many found the show tasteless and were too polite to say so,’ I’m sorry, but there were no complaints made to the Manchester Wolves organization. If people were that offended, something would have been brought up to the organization itself.” — Jessica-Lynn Eisman

“The members of the Manchester Wolves Dance Team are professionally trained dancers who volunteer endless hours of their time to practice and perform because of their love for the art of dance. What is so wonderful about the Wolves organization is it provides a means for these dancers to not only perform, but to also volunteer at charitable community activities. A quick browse through will clearly show the various community service events the dancers volunteer their time to. This group of fine women is, in fact, quite socially conscious.” – Jennifer Catino

“We, as dance team members, would not like to be known throughout the city of Manchester as scantily dressed, provocative dancers. We are all women who have wonderful talent; we have worked our entire lives for careers in which we are able to express that talent. We all share a passion for performing, as well as being professional about it. We actively participate in our community and support other organizations that are involved as well. The opportunities the Manchester Wolves have given us are endless; they are helping us to further our careers, form self-confidence, entertain and give back to those who support us.” – Brooke Bowlin

“The woman who organized the entire evening has revealed to us that she has received many letters and phone calls from people who attended the event stating how they loved the show, especially the way the dances and dancers were very appropriate and tasteful. This feedback came from both men and women. So, contrary to Mr. Kenny’s belief, I am very proud to say more people loved our performance than were offended by it. I am sure that if there were male dancers that performed that evening, Mr. Kenny would have had plenty to say to insult and demoralize them as well.” – Debra A. Molloy

Categories: News