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Rag Bags Hacks' Fax
Local publication asks to be 'taken off'
Van Gogh-Gogh mailing list

LOS ANGELES--In a move that surprised many local media observers, Los Angeles-based publication City Scene terminated their status as member of a local comedy group's mailing list. The comedy group, the Van Gogh-Goghs, received no advance warning of the publication's decision, and are said to be "stunned" by the decision.

The Van Gogh-Goghs were first notified of the action by a telephone call to their World Headquarters. Jason Torchinsky, the Van Gogh-Gogh who fielded the call, said an unidentified female representative of the publication requested that City Scene be "taken off the list." He added that the caller cited the faxed press releases' tendency to "pile up" as the reason for her request.

"It happened on April 1, so at first, I assumed it was an April Fool's gag," Torchinsky said. "It's hard for me to even imagine that this has happened."

The Van Gogh-Goghs traditionally fax press releases to a cadre of local publications to alert the local media about area performances, according to VGG press liaison Alan Benson. Benson, who is responsible for sending the faxes, said City Scene had been a member of the press list in good standing since September 1997. Other publications on the list include the Los Angeles Times and The Clause, a student newspaper at Azusa Pacific University.

Torchinsky said the unidentified caller assured him that City Scene would keep a copy of a VGG press release on file, though attempts to interest the publication in future missives were rebuffed.

Upon questioning about the possibility of a future story about the Van Gogh-Goghs, the City Scene representative stated that, while the publication did not normally produce such stories, there was conceivably a slight possibility of some potential interest in the future.

UCLA journalism professor Reginald Manx, however, disagreed. "I don't feel City Scene has any intention whatsoever of doing a story on the Van Gogh-Goghs," Manx said. "I suspect the representative indicated her interest in future stories simply to get her out of what must have been a rather painful conversation with Mr. Torchinsky."

Manx added that he feared a "chilling effect" from the publication's action. "I imagine it will be much harder for local comedy groups to reach the readers of City Scene from now on," he said. "God help the First Amendment. God help us all."

Torchinsky, who was visibly shaken by the day's events, said it was pure luck that he had taken the call at all. He had returned to VGG HQ during a break from his day job of matching playful puppies and fluffy kittens with needy orphans. According to Torchinsky, he was so upset by the publication's action that he could not return to work.

City Scene's motivation for the abrupt decision is as yet unclear. There has been speculation that the publication's fax is of the thermal, rather than plain-paper variety. This could mean the cost of receiving any fax is proving too costly for the small organization to bear. There has been no evidence to support this claim as of yet, and there have been no efforts to reach the City Scene staff for comment.

This setback notwithstanding, the Van Gogh-Goghs have vowed to continue their attempt to provide the Southland with quality sketch comedy.

"We've just got to put it behind us and keep on performing, and faxing," said Van Gogh-Gogh Charles Rempel. "It's really all we can do."

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