Letters: Pluto, and a Cemetery

Correction Aug. 25, 2006

The reference to Hattie McDaniel should say that she is the first African American to win an Oscar.

Each Thursday we read from listeners' emails. Pluto's demotion from full-fledged planet to "dwarf planet" has brought in a lot of letters. We hear your creative suggestion of a new status for Pluto. Also, comments on a mixup in a cemetery, and new lyrics for the old musical "The Fantasticks".

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

The fate of poor Pluto has generated quite a bit of interest among our listeners, and it's Thursday so we'll read some of your comments. A number of you have written in to suggest that Pluto might be called a planette, as in dinette or kitchenette. Dwarf planet apparently isn't snappy enough for some.

Paul Sacket(ph) of Houston says he gave a loud cheer when he heard the news the other day that Pluto might lose its spot. He writes, “You see, all day I had been humming Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity, the fourth movement of Holst's The Planet Suite.”

(Soundbite of The Planet Suite)

Sacket continues, “While The Planets has been one of my all-time favorite pieces, it has always bothered me that it stopped with Neptune. Without Pluto, it always seemed incomplete, so unfinished. But now I can feel at east. Pluto is not a planet after all. Perhaps the great Holst knew all along that Pluto did not measure up to be a member of the exclusive club of eight.”

Listener Art Brewster of Los Angeles caught something on our air that in his words stuck out like a vandalized headstone in the cemetery. Our story about the movies shown at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery included a comment that Hattie MacDaniel is buried there. She was the first African-American to be nominated for an Oscar.

Art Brewster writes this, “The marker at Hollywood Forever is a cenotaph, a monument erected in honor of a person whose remains lie elsewhere. Even though it was the expressed wish of Ms. MacDaniel that she be buried at Hollywood Forever, the previous owner, Jules Roth, had a policy of not allowing burials of African Americans in the cemetery. Ms. MacDaniel was buried at the Angeles Rosedale Cemetery in 1952.”

Finally, quite a few of you wrote in about our story on the musical The Fantasticks and its use of the word rape in its original lyrics from 1960.

(Soundbite of The Rape Ballet/Happy Ending)

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (As character) (Singing) The comic rape. Perhaps it's just a trifle too unique. Romantic rape. Done while canoeing on a moonlit creek.

SIEGEL: The rape referred to there is a fake abduction. The lyricist, Tom Jones, told us that he has rewritten this song because of his growing discomfort with the word.

Listener Virginia Bristol(ph) writes, “Well, gosh darn, now I've heard everything. How sensitive of you to run this piece in your jokey-folksy way, so quaint and harmless, about a violent, terrifying, mind-numbing, soul-stealing act by men against women.”

And Nancy Yedland(ph) of New Haven, Connecticut writes, “Thank you, thank you for recognizing the importance of reporting this story and devoting such time to it. I first saw The Fantasticks in 1965, when I was 13, and I can still sing every word along with the soundtrack. When I took my own kids to see a production in 2001, I remembered my discomfort with the rape number and wondered if I would ever return despite my love of the play. Well kudos to the songwriter for making the changes. I'll be going to see it again.”

If we have offended you or charmed you, let us know. You can write to us at NPR.org. Click on Contact Us at the top of the page.

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