Exclusive: Pete Townshend's Thoughts on Pedophilia

Pete Townshend  | National Board of Review   | Record Sales Plummet | Newest Soprano's 

Exclusive: Pete Townshend's Thoughts on Pedophilia

The Who's Pete Townshend has been arrested in Britain for suspicion of making and possessing indecent images of children and of incitement to distribute indecent images of children, relating to research he claims to have been doing on the subject via the Internet.

The Fox 411 has obtained an impassioned letter Townshend wrote and posted to his own Web site a year ago — and since deleted — which may or may not demonstrate that he was doing what he said he was doing.

Titled "A Different Bomb," Townshend discusses his own difficult childhood at the hands of a domineering grandmother. He writes about the suicide of a friend who was the victim of child abuse, and then observes: "On the issue of child-abuse, the climate in the press, the police, and in Government in the U.K. at the moment is one of a witch-hunt."

"The world of which I speak is that of the abusive pedophile. The window of 'freedom' of entry to that world is of course the Internet. There is hardly a man I know who uses computers who will not admit to surfing casually sometimes to find pornography. I have done it. Certainly, one expects only to find what is available on the top shelf at the news agents."

Townshend, possibly to his own detriment, exhibits in this article a wide range of knowledge on this subject.

"This issue came to my attention when in 1997 a man who had briefly worked for me was arrested in the U.K. for downloading pedophilic pornography. Until then I was unaware of the scale of the problem. I was cautious of openly condemning him until he had been tried. He had performed in one of my musicals and was a popular figure in the soft-pop pantomime of the U.K. music scene. When he went to trial, the buzzword that the newspapers kept reprinting -- that he had allegedly used in his regular Internet searches — was 'lolita.'

"A few weeks into the trial The Guardian newspaper revealed that www.uksearchterms.com listed 'lolita' high on the list of the most searched words in the U.K. ('sex' is often No.1). It seemed to me that there was some hypocrisy going on.

"Who were all these people typing 'lolita' into their browsers? They were surely not all pedophiles. Perhaps they were simply curious of what they might find."

Townshend stated in this piece that he was after two things — one was eradicating child abuse and pedophilia. His other goal was to argue that innocent people could be harmed by a Big Brother attitude on the part of the police.

"Since 1997 I have been attempting to prepare some kind of document with respect to all this for wider publication," he wrote. "My feeling is that if Internet service providers (ISPs) can be enlisted by the police and other authorities to 'snoop' and provide information about customers downloading illegal pornography, they could just as easily filter search terms -- or better yet, practice combinations of such search terms on a regular basis and then block specific site names. Many ISPs do such work. It is part of their regular housekeeping. But pedophilic pornographers are fearless criminals. Banned sites are replicated, renamed and replaced in days."

Now the question is: Do we really know what goes on behind blue eyes? Has Pete Townshend, a rock legend, been maligned in a rush to judgement by an overeager Scotland Yard? Did he ominously predict his own fate? Or is there a kernel of truth to the allegations? For all of that, we will have to wait and see.

Far From 'Heaven': National Board of Review

As I've written before in this space, the National Board of Review is a strange and mislabeled group. They are a fee-based movie fan group which hands out awards to every movie studio and nearly every movie of merit released during the year. This is so their annual gala at Tavern on the Green will be well populated by stars. Tonight the group honors 36 movies from 2002. Not exactly exclusive. Indeed, it's the complete opposite of the venerable New York Film Critics, which gave out their handful of awards on Sunday night in New York.

The NBR is run by a trio of people who have little to no reason for giving out film awards. Lois Ballon, Carol Rapaport and Robert Policastro form an inner clique that makes the final decisions and pushes the group toward its final voting. Policastro's job history is not film reviewer or arts writer, but banquet manager at...Tavern on the Green. He is one of the 165 members who pay $400 a year to belong to the NBR, have meals with stars and see movies early.

In 2000, the NBR -- which claims tax free status -- said on its IRS filing that it spent $70,000 tax free to screen films. That was up a whopping $50,000 from the year before. There is no explanation for this huge increase. At the same time, the NBR says it took in $136,000 in public support in 2000, including $36,000 in membership fees. The balance, one would assume, comes from the Tavern gala. There is little other information on the mostly empty lines of the IRS filing, no breakdown of anything regarding the Tavern dinner, where the money is, or where it goes.

The group gave a paltry $3,700 in unspecified "student grants."

Why, you might wonder, does the movie business give the NBR the time of day? Even though their membership has nothing to do with actual film criticism, and the members are not actors or directors themselves, the NBR serves a particular function: They are first. Their awards are announced on Dec. 6, giving the studios a fancy sounding prize to trumpet in their Christmas advertising.

Ironically, the NBR is not, as its public relations firm claims, a bellwether for the Oscars, Golden Globes or anything else. Last year they chose Billy Bob Thornton, from the movie Bandits, as their Best Actor. Neither got Oscar nominations. They also chose Moulin Rouge as their Best Picture, which was not a serious contender for the Academy Award. They were on the money for two prizes: Halle Berry for Best Actress and Jim Broadbent for Best Supporting Actor.

This year, winners included Campbell Scott in Roger Dodger (good performance, no chance of any other awards). More importantly, though the group gave awards to three dozen movies. They totally snubbed Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. They nearly cut out AOL Time Warner's New Line Cinema. (They did give that studio's About Schmidt one award -- to Kathy Bates, Best Supporting Actress.)

This must have been a problem when they realized it since the studios are forced to pay $4,000 for tables for the Tavern gala. So they're giving an AOL Time Warner employee, Sheila Nevins, a "Humanitarian of the Year." Nevins is the head of documentary producing at HBO, which is not a movie studio and is still considered a cable TV company. But it's close enough, and now HBO will have a couple of tables at the dinner. And that's what it's all about.

Record Biz Crisis: Sales Plummet, Beatles Return 

Even the announcement of the Grammy nominations did nothing to help record sales over the weekend.

The top-selling album this week will be Norah Jones's debut CD, but it will hold the No.1 spot with fewer than 150,000 copies sold.

Runner up Jennifer Lopez will be around 115,000 copies when all is said and done.

Since the Christmas holiday ended, record sales have plummeted. Record companies are busy counting returns in massive quantities of much-hyped but ignored CDs by big name artists.

What's happening? A combination of things has caught up with the industry: the downloading and CD burning is bad. But also, there are no new acts of mainstream appeal, no repeat acts after first albums go through the roof, no promotion for "classic" acts like The Pretenders, George Harrison, or R.E.M., fractionalized radio play, and continued sanctioning of explicit, un-melodic music by convicted felons.

And, just to make things weirder after a whole season of Elvis Presley's greatest hits selling and selling -- the Beatles' 1 album of 27 greatest hits apparently sold about 25,000 copies last week and landed in the top 50. Beatles, Elvis. And none of the geniuses who run record companies get it. It's amazing, isn't it?

Newest Sopranos Are Opera Babes

Soprano Rebecca Knight and mezzo-soprano Karen England are not related to Tony, Carmela and Meadow. They are young, gorgeous British singers who are releasing their first album today in the U.S. It's called Beyond Imagination, and the ladies are beyond talented. I saw them perform last fall at the Carlyle Hotel here in New York -- in the same room as Bobby Short and all the great cabaret acts perform in.

These girls have a leg up (or four) since they give a little pulchritudinous zip to a genre already milked by The Three Tenors, Russell Watkins and Josh Groban. It was about time, wasn't it? The Opera Babes were street buskers in London's Covent Garden when they were discovered, and now they're on Sony Classical records. I predict they will be the Spice Girls of opera in a short time! And here's an idea: Adam Sandler could do a whole movie based on his "Opera Man" character with Knight and England has his back up group!