A LETTER OF PROTEST

Introduction:

The Kooks Museum is a web site maintained by Donna Kossy in which biographies, photos, and documents relating to an assortment of kooky folks are archived. Kossy includes in her roster UFO believers, religious fanatics, race-hate mongers, schizophrenics, medical and scientific quacks, and millennial cultists -- as well as people who have built vernacular sacred sites. Several authors have contributed to Kossy's web site; their descriptive tones vary between light, cheerful smugness and sneering, mean-spirited snottiness, depending on what form of kookery is under consideration and who has written the piece. A short, highly innacurate (but illustrated) entry on the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia prompted my outraged response. (I have stolen both the illos -- of the Watts Towers and Simon Rodia -- to save you the trouble of having to go to the offensive web site itself.) This letter was sent to the arrogant author, "Dr. Ahmed Fishmonger," (with a copy to Kossy) on July 4th, 1996:

Dear "Doctor,"

I have very mixed feelings about the "Seven Wonders of Kookdom" page you wrote for The Kooks Museum web site. While it is nice to view photos of these places (and why no photo of Coral Castle or the Winchester House?), your tone of snide condescension interferes with my enjoyment at seeing these well-loved sites placed on the web.

You are so off the mark in your history of the Watts Towers -- and the motivation of the builder, Simon Rodia -- that i have grave doubts about your sincerity or capacity for factual research. Sure, the Watts Towers are unusual -- but they are not "hubcap- and bottle-studded radiomasts of the gods" by any means. The predominant surface decorations consist of broken tiles from Rodia's day job as a tile setter. Rodia envisioned no "radio mast" function for the Towers and saw no "gods" -- he erected them, he said, in grateful appreciation to the United States of America, to which he had emigrated from Italy. A "kook" he may have been, but a *pseudo-scientific religious* kook he was not. Also, he did not die "in obscurity" as you say. When he became too old to live alone, he moved to his daughter's home in northern California. Old age overtakes us all, but age did not find Simon Rodia lost to the world. He was interviewed several times while living at his daughter's and those interviews reveal him to be a self-aware man of limited education and high intelligence.

The Watts Towers are certainly wonderful -- but you do not make them any more so by imputing a false "obsession" to their builder. Rodia was an artist, and this was his art. Are you so wise that you know the inner, unspoken, never-revealed scientific-religious motivations of such a man despite what he himself had to say about his actual motivations? If so, YOU are the "kook."

Actually, i fear, you are not a true kook. You are simply a smug member of the white bourgoisie who thinks it the height of wit to lay low with self-congratulatory winks and nudges the aspirations of a poor Italian tile setter who would have, in a more just world, become an architect. "Isn't he kooky?" you say. "So quaint...and so...*obsessed*."

No, i do not think that every nut-case backyard builder was a Simon Rodia, but by lumping Rodia in with truly god-obsessed people like James Hampton, you abrogate any right to my respect, and you reveal yourself to be a class-conscious snob and a fabulizer.

I look forward to seeing some real information about the Watts Towers on the web soon. I hope you will be the person who writes it.

catherine yronwode

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